What first started as a thoughtful gesture amongst friends on social networks is quickly becoming a big business. Sure, virtual gifts didn't really cost anything at first, and sending a link to a jpeg only took a couple of seconds but it was the thought that counted and at least nobody was exploiting it. Not anymore though; two years after the Facebook Gift Shop opened, Britney Spears has launched a set of virtual badges to the delight of her adoring fans.
“International Icon, Britney Spears, will launch an exclusive line of virtual gifts on Facebook®. This marks the first time that a global recording artist has offered virtual gifts specific to their likeness on Facebook. […] The gifts, all signed by Spears herself, include Britney themed cakes and balloons for birthdays, limited edition images of memorable Britney moments and exclusive "Circus" tour related gifts.”
The first set of virtual gifts from the pop star is made up of six badges created by Susan Kare, the well-known designer famous for creating the original Macintosh icons. The badges range from birthday cakes to Britney performing with a boa constrictor and are designed as a promotional tool for the ongoing Circus tour.
The gifts go for 20 credits, that's $2 in real-life money, twice as much as regular gifts, and could actually generate quite a bit of revenue. The pop star has over 2 million fans on Facebook at the moment and, even with a small percentage of them buying one of the badges, it could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars with a close to zero investment.
This latest move does spark several discussions and should be interesting to see how it plays out. For one, it could give a real answer to the question of how much Facebook, or any other social network, fans are worth to celebrities or brands and, secondly, it could prove a valuable revenue source for the social network itself. At the moment though it's unclear whether Facebook will get a cut of the sales.