Facebook Collections Lets Retailers Augment Posts With “Want/Collect” Buttons That Save Products To Pinteresque Profile Sections

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Facebook has just begun testing “Collections” — a new feature it says is “unrelated” to Pinterest but could be a competitor. It allows retailers to add “Want” or “Collect” buttons to news feed posts about products. These save and share products to a “Wishlist” on user profiles that host a “Buy” button that can be clicked through to make purchases offsite.

Seven retail partners including Pottery Barn and Fab can now share Collections posts to their fans.

Collections could help retailers score viral click-throughs to their product pages by making things their fans are interested in more discoverable to friends. Facebook isn’t earning affiliate fees on Collections click throughs, but it could get brands to buy ads to get more fans.

To try out Collections, Like the Pottery Barn Page then visit this link to its first Collections post. You’ll then be able to add products to your Collections and see the product pages complete with Buy buttons.

Facebook told us this about the product:

“We’ve seen that businesses often use Pages to share information about their products through photo albums. Today, we are beginning a small test in which a few select businesses will be able to share information about their products through a feature called Collections.  Collections can be discovered in News Feed, and people will be able to engage with these collections and share things they are interested in with their friends. People can click through and buy these items off of  Facebook.”

Facebook is currently testing a few different versions of Collections, which has now rolled out to 100% of users. Fans of the seven partners — Pottery Barn, Wayfair, Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Smith Optics, and Fab.com — may see one of three designs for the button overlaid on photos these Pages post to the news feed.

The “Want” button adds a product to a Timeline section called “Wishlist” visible to friends of friends, the “Collect” button saves to to a Collection called “Products” that’s visible to friends only, and a special version of the “Like” button will also add to “Products” but that’s visible to friends of friends.

Facebook is showing each version to a third of users, and will be watching to see which generates the most traction and satisfaction. Note that this is all different from the “Want” button social plugin for external sites that we think Facebook is working on.

Retailers aren’t charged to share Collections posts instead of standard photos or status updates, and Facebook will not collect affiliate fees or a revenue share on purchases from Collections clicks. Still, the feature could earn it money.

Collections posts only go to a Page’s fans. That means if Pages want more people Collecting, resharing, and clicking through to purchase sites, they’ll need to be building a fan base. Facebook sells ads specifically designed to get brands more Likes for their Pages, and those ads might become a lot more valuable to retailers because of Collections. Notably, these Page Like ad units are a core part of Facebook’s mobile advertising offering.

Beyond earning money indirectly, Collections could also challenge Pinterest. If users can Collect and share products on Facebook where they and their friends already spend time, they might have less need to join Pinterest. Collections certainly isn’t robust enough to dissuade hardcore Pinners, but it could evolve to become sufficient for casual curators who don’t want to start a profile on another social network. This good-enough strategy is similar to how Facebook’s Subscribe feature limits the mainstream growth potential of Twitter.

While Facebook Timeline does a good job of letting you tell the story of your entire life, it still doesn’t offer strong enough curation for highlighting your favorite things. Personally, I’d love the ability to show off the links, photos, and status updates I love most in a sort of collage. Collections might bring us one step closer to that, even if it it has a decidedly consumerist focus for now.