Turning 'social goods' into 'social good' is a new paradigm and one that Facebook would like to add to its resume. When Facebook launched its online currency called Facebook Credits, it was received with mixed reviews, namely because it appeared that the social network was not only broadening its power base but was also tapping into a new revenue source based on an online obsession - namely, social gaming.
With the charitable organization 'Stand Up To Cancer' (SU2C) fresh on our minds as result of their telethon broadcasted on all major networks September 10, over 350,000 users have already signed up for the charity's fan page on Facebook. This is a first for the social network that originally developed their new currency for such frivolous transactions as purchasing 'virtual goods' when playing online social games.
With donations of $5, $15 or $25, 100 percent of the donations raised will go toward the charity, as an alternative method of donating to the cause. Normally Facebook takes a 30 percent commission on all Facebook Credit transactions. By waiving their fees, founder Mark Zuckerberg establishes himself as a charitable entrepreneur following in the footsteps of one of his idols - Bill Gates.
Graphic NovelWith a lot of negativity associated with the young CEO as result of privacy infringements and a not-so-favorable movie and graphic novel about to be released, I would assume Facebook's public relations machine has been working overtime to counter this critical press. This charible endeavor is certainly a step in the right direction. Promoting Facebook's credit program beyond gaming was a wise bet. Whether it will sustain itself over the long haul however should be determined over the course of the next year.
In 2008, Stand Up To Cancer's telethon raised more than a $100 million dollars. It will be interesting to see how many of Facebook's 500+ million members will choose this alternative means of donating to a worthy cause. Donors who select this method can also share their donations through their Facebook wall posts and newstreams, providing another means of spreading the word via social media channels.
However, it has been made clear in Facebook's terms that users who previously received free credits through one of Facebook's promotions won't count. In fact, in their TOS, one of the conditions of receiving 'free' credits indicates that Facebook can expire them at any time.
As Facebook Credits becomes more of a driver within the social network's ecosystem and the outside world, it yet to be seen if the Stand Up To Cancer charity model will be used for other fund-raisers. It certainly will help in rehabilitating Zuckerberg's image, at a time when 'privacy' issues still are of a great concern to a good number of its 500 million.