Watch out, Pinterest: Facebook tests Collections tool

Social network runs test that includes want, like and collection options

Watch out, Pinterest. Facebook is testing a new feature called Collections, which is designed to give businesses a venue where they can showcase and sell their products.

Pottery Barn ad
Pottery Barn is one of the businesses participating in Facebook's test of a new tool called Collections.

The new tool gives users three buttons to click when viewing a business's Collection: Want, Like and Collect. The Collections, which can be seen in Facebook's News Feed, are set up so users can check out the collections and share things that interest them with their friends, according to Gwendolyn Belomy, a Facebook spokeswoman.

The tool also is designed to let users click through and buy items in the collections on the retailers' websites.

"We've seen that businesses often use Pages to share information about their products through photo albums," said Belomy. "Yesterday, we began a small test in which a few select businesses will be able to share information about their products through a feature called Collections."

Facebook appears to be taking a page from Pinterest's playbook.

Pinterest, a social pinboard site, has gained momentum in the social networking world. Users, especially women, have flocked to the site to use what basically is a shareable scrapbook. Users are able to create different pages of interest by pulling in images from around the Web.

If someone spots an image -- of a cute puppy, shoes, an inspiring quote or an interesting recipe -- she can use a plug-in to grab it and add it to her board. Then people who follow that person can see her pinboards, repin their favorite images and comment on them.

"Facebook is definitely making a move toward Pinterest, while also finding a way to engage more businesses," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "To me, they're looking to take some of the Pinterest mojo and see if they can mold it into something that will result in more business-friendly activity and get them more advertising dollars."

Olds said Facebook may have two motives. "The first, and most important, is to show business users that Facebook is a valuable resource and their best value in online advertising," he said. The company's other motive, he added, may be "to blunt Pinterest's growth before it becomes a real challenge to Facebook's business community ambitions."

One of the first things Facebook did with this test was to recruit businesses to help it gauge the effectiveness of Collections.

The company did not specify how many users are involved in the test, or how long it will run. However, Belomy noted that participants include retailers Pottery Barn, Wayfair.com, Victoria's Secret, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Smith Optics and Fab.com.

As part of the test, users will be able to "like," "collect" or "want" the products in the collections. If a user clicks one of those buttons, the information will appear on his Timeline and can be made available to his friends.

Images within the collections, according to Belomy, also will have a "Buy" button that will send users to the business's website, where they can purchase the product.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin and on Google+, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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