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Amazon, Facebook and the Social Gifting Two-Step

Amazon Adds Facebook Mashup for Easy Wish List Sharing

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Amazon and Facebook have more in common than you might think, especially when it comes to social gifting and the Amazon wish list.

Amazon took a step toward becoming more like a social network by creating a "Friends and Family Gifting" service that allows users to integrate it with their Facebook accounts so they can more easily share wish list information with pals.

Amazon's Friends and Family gifting service, announced in December 2012, is basically a personalized organizer that helps people figure out when and what to buy as gifts for friends and family members.

It's not limited to sharing through Facebook, although the world's largest social network likely will play a big role in the sharing component just because so many people have amassed large lists of contacts there. People can also add their friends' names manually, though, or by using their email addresses, in addition to integrating their Facebook and Amazon accounts.

One of the gifting center's most useful features is that it's designed to provide people with access to their friends' personalized Amazon wish lists, provided those people have created wish lists on Amazon and that their account is set to allow Amazon sharing with their Facebook friends. That's what the Amazon Facebook integration accomplishes in the background if people choose to link their accounts on the two services.

Other Social Gift Services

Amazon is hardly the first website to ramp up its social gifting services. There's been a wave of social gifting services online in the past year or two, as social commerce heats up.

In fact, the move comes shortly after Facebook itself rolled out a social gifting service. Called Facebook Gifts, it allows users to buy or order gifts for their friends and represents a major move into ecommerce for the world's largest social network. Facebook Gifts, however, is aimed more at facilitating purchases, which means just as Amazon is taking baby steps to copy Facebook, so too is Facebook taking steps to copy Amazon.

Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, launched a gifting recommendation app called Shopycat on Facebook in 2011. The app basically makes suggestions for what to buy friends based on their Facebook profiles and related information. While the app at first ran mainly on Facebook, in 2012 Walmrt added the Shopcat functionality to its own website, including a Twitter link-up too, and called it Walmart Gifts.

Lots of other retailers online also have integrated their gifting apps with Facebook so their users also can communicate their gifting wants to their Facebook friends. Etsy, the marketplace for handmade goods, is just one example of another website that has integrated its gift recommendations with people's friends on Facebook.

Amazon - Facebook Integration

The gifting center is not Amazon's first integration between Amazon and Facebook user accounts. In 2010, Amazon did a mashup with Facebook that was designed to let shoppers get personalized shopping recommendations based on the products their Facebook friends were looking at and buying on Amazon.com.

That 2010 mashup was a much lighter version of the Amazon-Facebook user account integration announced in late 2012. The 2010 version also allowed users to see upcoming birthdays for their Facebook friends and search and more easily find their Amazon wish lists, but only if the friends had made their wish lists public.

Gift-information sharing wasn't the main purpose back then, either. Rather, it was more about personalization--granting Amazon to access your Facebook profile and those of your friends in order to attempt to offer you more personalized shopping recommendations based on the profiles and interests of your friends on Facebook.

It was basically an early experiment in social shopping from the largest online retailer.

The Social Networking of Amazon: Pages and Posts

The Amazon Facebook two-step also was evident in another move that Amazon made in November 2012, which was to allow businesses to create something called Amazon Pages and Amazon Posts. They are basically for brand promotion and mimic the functionality of Facebook Pages for businesses.

Amazon Pages, introduced as part of Amazon's marketing services, allow business entities to create a special page on the giant retailers website that other users can "like" or "follow" through integration with Facebook and Twitter. Brands can choose from several different templates, most of which are image-heavy and have a big horizontal image across the top similar to Facebook's Timeline.

Amazon describes these features this way in its FAQ page: "An Amazon Page is a brand-specific web page at Amazon.com that functions as a custom landing page where you can drive traffic. You compose Amazon Posts that appear on either your Amazon Page or your Facebook page or both. ">

The main social network-like feature that Amazon added to these brand pages is called Amazon Posts, and -- you guessed it--they're like tweets or status updates. The new Amazon posts can contain up to 140 characters, like tweets, and brands can connect their pages to their Facebook accounts so anything posted to the Amazon page also gets zapped out on Facebook.

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