Roughly 1 in 30 Facebook users tells someone Happy Birthday each day, showing Facebook’s first major emergent behavior is still going strong. Now Facebook is equipping the 45 million people sending birthday wishes each day with some new features.
Now instead of just posting a soulless “HBD” or “Happy Birthday!” on someone’s wall with no personal message, photo, memory, or anything that makes it feel sincere, you can post one of Facebook’s auto-generated, personalized birthday videos. Similar to the ones it shows on your friendversary with different people, the birthday video will show photos of you and the birthday boy/girl with stylized transitions.
These videos could make it just as easy to send something that shows you and a friend’s unique journey through life together as it does to send a generic string of text. That could make sending birthday wishes feel more authentic and valuable, and less like a boring chore. Facebook launched birthday message recap videos last year to aggregate text wall posts from all your friends into something more visual, but now each friend can send a happy birthday video.
And now when it’s your birthday, you can easily dedicate it to a charity. Two weeks before your birthday, you’ll get a prompt to choose from one of 750,000 eligible non-profits vetted by Facebook. Friends will get a notification about your fundraiser, and be able to donate on your behalf as a birthday gift.
Facebook launched the donate button in 2013, and last year let people easily set up personal fundraisers. Facebook has received some flack for charging a 6.9% + $0.30 fee, but that covers processing, security, fraud, and vetting to ensure people are giving to real charities. Facebook has told me this is not a revenue generator, and in fact its fees are lower than what other donation platforms like GoFundMe charge.
Last year Facebook said 100 million birthday wishes per day total. Birthday fundraisers could let people leverage the social obligation some users feel about sending birthday wishes, and turn that sentiment into actual good. It’s nice to see Facebook realize it’s created the “HBD” behavioral norm that wasn’t necessarily delivering much positive outcome or emotional resonance, and turn it into something more beneficial and nostalgia-inducing.