Gifts of Giving from Facebook and Google

It’s the time of year when all sorts of packages show up at the office. Gourmet popcorns, fruit baskets, Godiva chocolates if you’re lucky.  Unfortunately, more often than not the corrugated containers reveal some stupid tchotchke buried beneath environmentally offensive turds of foam core.

Not trying to be a Scrooge, but really, what are people thinking?

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened a box from Facebook. It had been sitting on the floor of my office for a week, relegated to a to-be-recycled pile of magazines and stuff. I guess curiosity finally won out.

Here’s what I found. A double-walled porcelain cup, BPA free and microwave safe. True, that qualifies as a branded tchotchke. But at least it’s a useful one. There was also a pocket envelope with the single word “Please” printed on it.  The card inside also displayed one word. “Share.” A request that was hard to ignore when you realize you’re also holding a $75.00 gift card redeemable at

Five minutes later I’d passed the money on to two different projects, one in need of books for a lower school’s girls’ reading group.  Another for an inner city middle school class requesting funds for classroom technology.

Good idea, Facebook. Made me think better of you and did exactly what any marketer should be doing these days – marketing with, not to, its community. It let me participate, introduced me to a worthwhile organization, and inspired me to tell other people about it.  I’ll even forgive you for the styrofoam popcorn kernels.

However, Google may have one-upped Facebook when it comes to giving. Between December 15 – 19, the search giant will donate money to a good cause for every tab you open in its Chrome browser, up to 250 tabs a day.  You can buy vaccinations, books, clean water, shelter and trees.  Open a tab and you’re “contributing” to The Nature Conservancy, Charity: Water, Doctors Without Borders, Un Techo para mi Pais, and Room to Read.

OK, in both these cases Facebook and Google have millions of dollars they can donate to charity. And obviously they were going to give the money away anyway.  But as I’ve said here many times, why would any brand do that in the age of social media when you can allocate your money to your community, give them a say, allow them to be part of the experience and encourage them to feel good about themselves as well as your brand.

Congratulations to Facebook and Google, rivals in the market, but allies in the season of social giving.


Both of these giving ideas were brilliant. The packaging of the Facebook gift was as good as the gift itself, and Google's method of letting you choose where to donate your tab earnings to is also great. It also lets users put their tab addictions to good use. I don't use Chrome, but I shared it on Twitter for my fellow tab addicts.


Reading your experience was almost as powerful as receiving the facebook gift myself. Great reflection on the simplicity of social.