What does money sound like online? Plink, the latest arrow in the quiver of digital behemoth Facebook.
Plink, a social media-based loyalty program, leverages Facebook Credits to reward members for dining and shopping at their favorite restaurants and offline retailers. Plink’s inaugural partners include 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, Quiznos, Red Robin, and Taco Bell.
“Facebook Credits is the missing ingredient that’s been needed to connect social media to offline sales,” stated Peter Vogel, co-founder of Plink, in a press release. “Now with the ‘glue’ of Facebook Credits our national restaurant and offline retailer partners have a way to tap into the nearly 800 million users on Facebook, motivate them to become loyal customers, and reward them.”
Consumer appetite for Facebook Credits has grown steadily since a test launch in 2009, then cited as “the safe and easy way to buy things on Facebook.” $5 from a credit card or Paypal account turned into 50 Facebook Credits, but purchase options were trivial — virtual bouquets for posting to friends’ walls or digital goods in CityVille or Sims Social. Next came sneak previews of films like The Dark Knight or Harry Potter (30 Credits each), downloading music and watching TV episodes.
Plink lets members create an account through Facebook Connect, register a credit or debit card and earn Credits by using the card at participating restaurants and retailers. The POS integration is seamless and easy for consumers and businesses; no coupons, discounts, or loyalty cards involved, just a percentage of sales generated by Plink members paid to FB. Participating merchants get 70 cents on the dollar, with 30% going to FB, a sweeter deal than traditional credit card transaction fees in the 2-5% range.
Vogel’s background is specializing in performance-based marketing, media buying and monetization of social media as co-founder of Memolink.com, and co-founder Matthew Lord has managed technical innovations for Netflix, Discover Card and Disney.
Revenues from Facebook Credits are expected to reach $470 million for 2011, up from $140 million in 2010 according to eMarketer.
Facebook CEO “Mark Zuckerberg isn’t usually mentioned in the same breath as Ben Bernanke, the 58-year-old head of the Federal Reserve," writes Forbes. "But Facebook’s early adventures in the money-creating business are going well enough that the central-bank comparison gets tempting.”
Forbes quotes Edward Castronova, a telecommunications professor at Indiana University, who is intrigued by growing “wildcat currencies,” like Facebook Credits. “Right now, he calculates, the Facebook Credits ecosystem can’t be any bigger than Barbados’s economy and might be significantly smaller,” but “could be the start of something big…there’s a dynamic here that the Federal Reserve ought to look at.”
And now that Facebook Timeline is becoming compulsory, one wonders what Zuckerberg and team are thinking of next.