What if instead, you could inspire your friends and family to do something more meaningful for your youngsters' celebrations: to pitch in and grow their nest eggs, help them improve the world and spur them to explore the cooler sides of money.
The explosion of social gifting is changing the way we celebrate special occasions, big and small. The good news: Your kids are less likely to return gifts or toss them aside with a roll of the eyes. The bad news: Adults have to ensure that kids are “gifting” responsibly. Here’s a primer on all sorts of social gifting options.
I’ve been coasting on iTunes cards for a while now. With a crew of 16 nieces and nephews and zero time to cruise the mall, it’s become my go-to gift for the litany of birthdays, graduations, holiday parties and special events that involve presents. It’s tired, lazy, and, well, lame. ‘Here kid, go get yourself an app,’ doesn’t really convey the love and affection I have for these wonderful children in my life. I had to do better. After some research, I discovered that thoughtful, meaningful gifting can be about apps—you just have to find the right ones.
Today’s slew of social gifting sites and apps offer help matching people with presents without complex spreadsheets or hours of shopping. So I broke out my newfound e-skills at my family’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I owed my 15-year-old niece a birthday gift, and after I overheard her say she’d been pining for this way-expensive lash enhancer, I opened the social gifting app I had downloaded, selected her from my array of Facebook friends, wrote a clever personalized message and posted a Sephora gift card to her Facebook wall. In seconds she was thanking me for the “epic” gift and bam, I went from ho-hum aunt to hip.
Social gifting, with its ease of use, has become the latest big buzzword in e-commerce. Facebook Gifts upped the wattage on using social media as a convenient means of giving friends and loved ones a present when it launched just before the 2012 holiday season. Now most Facebook users are familiar with the birthday reminders and the nudge to gift your friend a Starbucks card for her special day. But an explosion of players in the space has opened a ton of social gifting options. By tapping into your connections on social networks (primarily Facebook at this point) and getting prompts to give gifts to friends and family for loads of occasions, social gifting is making it far easier to deliver gifts loved ones will actually like and enjoy.
In short, we can tap into our social networks to celebrate moments, big (a wedding) and small (a promotion) through services that cull information such as what music a friend has “liked,” products they’ve put on online “wish lists” or have flat out told their social networks they want. Conveniences abound as companies offer deeply varied, personalized, sometimes free choices.
Lots of financial analysts agree that this nascent business model might indeed transform the way we exchange gifts. “The unexploited potential of e-gifting will allow gift carding to reach deeper into day-to-day transactions and replace ways that we pay for casual transactions—everything ranging from gifts to family members to how we pay the babysitter or gardener,” says CEB TowerGroup analyst Brian Riley. “Social gifting has plenty of room to grow and you will be certain to see strong growth through the decade.”
Last year, social gifting ballooned into a cool $1 billion business out of the $100 billion gift card industry. And Wrapp, one the larger players, revealed in February that it grew to 1+ million users in just 14 months.
Retailers are also putting stock in social gifting. Starbucks, for instance, has reported that it expects social gifting to account for as much as 20 percent of its business in the near future.
So what does all this mean for our kids? As gift recipients, they’ll be more likely to get gifts they actually want. And as gift givers, with your credit /debit card and of course your permission, they’ll be able to give gifts that are more meaningful and adored. But here’s the flipside: All the reminders and offers to send lots of gifts for lots of special occasions can confuse kids who are new to social media. We want our children to have big, generous hearts, but we can’t afford to send every kid in the class a $30, five-pound gummy bear for his or her birthday.
“Teen’s specifically are at a stage in their life where they lack impulse control,” says Josh Shipp, teen behavior expert. “Without guidelines, supervision and instruction [social gifting offers] are putting them up against something they can’t defeat.” The key is education and supervision, he says. “There is a great service called Zabra that notifies you of what your teen is up to online (without spying) and educates you about how to help your teen use social media responsibly. You’ve seen what your teen can do with a cell phone and texting, the last thing you want is a bill for two hundred dollars for some virtual gifts.”
To help you and your children navigate this new method of celebrating and giving, you’ll need a roadmap of the players, the offers, the pitfalls and the opportunities. The social gifting sites and apps primarily tap social data on Facebook—which means this applies to kids 13 and older (the minimum age for kids to “legitimately” have Facebook accounts). Here’s a snapshot of what’s available at the moment:
Gift Matchmakers: These are the social gifting sites that primarily aim to help you match a person with a present.
Amazon Friends and Family Gifting Link your Amazon and Facebook accounts and this service uses Facebook profile data to remind you of special occasions and suggest the perfect presents for your social network. Gift suggestions land on the recommendations pages of Amazon based on a friend’s Facebook profile—such as music and movie likes—and also their Amazon wish list. So when it’s your cousin’s birthday you’ll know he’s into biking and that he’s hoping for a new helmet.
Etsy If you prefer to give homemade, vintage and one-of-a kind gifts, this is for you. Link your Facebook account to Etsy and get gift ideas based on your friends’ likes. One bonus: you can filter by price.
Facebook Gifts For the moment, this is one of the social gifting options that deliver physical gifts to the recipient. You see that one of your “friends” has a birthday, anniversary, new baby and pick out a present from its growing list of partners. Your friend gets a notice, enters his own address and can tweak the present (different size or flavor) before it ships.
Givvy This one doesn’t recommend gifts by specific social media friend, but rather, the Facebook app narrows gift suggestions by type of person. What’s cool is how the apps’ gift curators make some fantastic suggestions.
Wantful Unlike many of its competitors, Wantful has a foot in the both virtual and physical worlds. Hop on the site, answer a few questions such as where your friend would like to spend her free time and what kind of home she lives in; browse through eclectic offerings and create a collection of 12 choices based on the curated list Wantful assembles for you. Wantful then sends your friend a beautiful gift book featuring your choices and she selects the one she wants most.
Giftivo A “recommendation engine,” Giftivo’s recommendation algorithm helps you pinpoint the right present based on the giftee’s “shopping activity” and info you provide on the friend, along with the usual Facebook data.
GiveEmThis This site analyzes your friends’ social media habits to come up with gift suggestions. But it also takes into account that person’s gender and age, and applies their Twitter handle. Voila, a selection of presents for you to choose from.
PresentBee This app lets you ask mutual friends for their opinions on gifts for your friends, while also searching your Facebook friends’ interests for gift suggestions. Does Lilly really want the Ped Egg for her birthday?
Freebies: These gifting options entice you into giving friends a free gift card voucher worth, say $5, in the hope that you will add to the free offer; that they’ll acquire new customers; and/or that the recipient will spend more in the store when redeeming their free gift card.
Wrapp This is the major player in the space at the moment. It lets friends give, receive and redeem digital gift cards using mobile devices, and allows friends to contribute to gifts given by mutual friends. So what starts out as a free $5 gift voucher to the Gap can add up to $50 when it makes the social media rounds via Facebook.
Boomerang It too uses Facebook info to send reminders of important events. You can choose from free and paid gifts, personalize the message and send recipient a gift voucher. But, also check your inbox often for free offers just for you. Pass on the free offer and you can add to the gratis dollar amount of your own gift. In other words, here’s $5 to spend at this online jewelry store, but pass the offer on to three friends and you’ll grow it to a $10 voucher instead.
Make it Personal: Add video, photos, personal messages and more to these eGift cards.
GiftDish Send a friend an electronic gift card instantly or chose to send it on a date you specify. The site lets you schedule the delivery of Old Navy e-cards for all your nieces’ birthdays in one fell swoop and then sit back and relax for the rest of the year. Plus, recipients can redeem them online, print them, or present them right on their mobile device.
DropGifts and YouGift Link to Facebook, get reminders of important dates, select a virtual gift and it gets posted to your friend’s wall with your personalized message, photo or video. Mutual friends can choose to chip in to increase the value of the gift card.
Spontaneous Giving – Unlike other sites that prompt you to send a gift for a special occasion, these encourage you to send a present “just because.”
Giftly Let your creative juices flow using this app. Send someone anything from a cupcake, to a sailboat lesson, to a day in Tuscany. You pick the place and the dollar amount, customize the gift with a photo and hit send. The freedom here is that when the recipients go to redeem their gifts, they pay themselves, but Giftly will reimburse them that amount through their credit card. See a friend “check into” a frozen yogurt spot you frequent and you can “buy” her a double. Because credit cards are involved, this is geared towards adults more than kids.
Treater With this app, users can send and redeem gifts, share photos, access contact info from their address books and receive push notifications when they get a gift or a message related to a gift they have given. Gifts include a drink at a restaurant, tickets to a movie or a trip to the spa and can be redeemed from a link sent to the recipient via email, text or Facebook post. Plus, Treater gifts tend to be a little cheaper than gifts on other platforms. So if you know that your teen just sat through grueling SATs, you can send her an e-card for a burger to say “thank goodness it’s over.”
GiftHit This app lets you send fun gifts like late night wings, mani-pedis, and concert tickets to your friends by Facebook wall post, email, or text. It’s a nice way to say, ‘thinking about you,’ ‘great job on that test today’ or ‘sorry that idiot dumped you.’
Crowdfunding Gifts: Looking to give a teen something totally “wow” that’s way beyond your budget? These sites are for you. They let friends and loved ones pool their dollars for more extravagant (or thoughtful) gift-giving.
Aggregift Choose a friend from Facebook and a gift from the site’s hand-picked recommendations or other products on Amazon.com. Share the gift on Facebook and Twitter so friends can pitch in. People can contribute as much as they’d like—the site never tells how much anyone gave and much like Kickstarter you can see the progress of the goal dollar amount. New $500 golf clubs for Uncle Ari? You’re 85 percent of the way there. Sharagift and Let’s Gift It offer very similar approaches.
From A Birdie Sometimes, what people want most are things that can’t be bought. This site lets you give them what you can’t put a price on by inviting people to write letters to a shared friend or family member. The group collectively uploads memories, well-wishes and photos, which are finally compiled into an “Album of Letters.” Specify a day for delivery and your recipient gets the Web address to her very own website featuring all the love and memories one could possible want.
Here’s What I Want A number of social gifting sites help take the guess work out of giving by allowing you to tell those you love exactly what it is you’re craving for your special occasion. It’s like registering—but for your birthday or graduation. It’s similar to crowd sourcing but you or your child tell everyone what you’d like.
GiftSimple Register for the gift(s) you want and tap into your social network to pool contributions from friends. The money is yours to use on whatever you like, whenever you like, and wherever you like. Ziftit, Gift Drop and Lottay use similar approaches.
eBay Group Gift You create wishlists and send them to your friends and family via email. Recipients can choose to contribute money toward your wishes using PayPal.
DreamBank Rather than trafficking in eCards or gift recommendations, this site promotes experiences. Use it to post your dream vacation, a First Communion party or a down payment on a house. Then invite friends to make your dream a reality.
Do you think social gifting is something you’d let your child use? Tell us why on our Facebook page.