Chirpify opens up Facebook's News Feed for business

Users can now make purchases on the site directly from the News Feed

Facebook's News Feed is a popular landing page for photos and updates from friends, but now it can also function as a digital storefront of sorts, through a partnership with e-commerce startup Chirpify.

People on the social network can now make purchases without leaving the site by commenting on listings from brands and merchants that appear in the News Feed.

The one-step checkout process is designed to provide "frictionless commerce," according to Chirpify, which is based in Portland, Oregon. Adidas, the Portland Trailblazers, the bands Owl City and Neon Trees, and the record label Victory Records are some of the service's initial partners. The company also supports person-to-person payments and donations to nonprofits and political campaigns.

Here's how it works: Consumers or businesses first must create an account with Chirpify using a major credit card or PayPal. It's free to join and use, but Chirpify takes a 5 percent fee from the merchant for each transaction.

Consumers will only see product listings or offers from groups that they already have liked, or that friends have shared with them.

Then, when Chirpify consumer members want to buy something, donate a set amount of money or enter a giveaway on Facebook, all they have to do is comment to the News Feed listing with the word "buy," "donate" or "gimme."

Brands can list both digital and physical items for sale using the platform. A secure download of content, or a receipt for a product, is sent via email after each purchase. Promotional codes, giveaway drawings and integration into merchants' existing e-commerce platforms are also built into Chirpify.

The social commerce platform is not based on a formal partnership between Facebook and Chirpify, though the social network "is supportive of what we are doing," said Sarah Schroeder, Chirpify's account manager. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook already offers its own integrated e-commerce platform, called Gifts.

Chirpify's services have been available to Twitter and Instagram users for the past year, but its expansion to Facebook makes it the only in-stream, social commerce platform enabling businesses to list and distribute their products across the three major social media sites, said Chirpify CEO Chris Teso.

There are other players in the growing e-commerce space within social networks. American Express, for example, launched a new service last month specifically on Twitter to let card holders make purchases through tweets.

Separate from Chirpify, Facebook also offers the "Facebook Card," a new physical gift card that people can use to make purchases in brick-and-mortar stores.

But Chirpify's e-commerce services could be a sensitive issue for Facebook users. The News Feed has been criticized by some users for emphasizing advertisements and not displaying updates from certain friends. Facebook recently addressed some of these concerns by rolling out new customization features and visual enhancements to the News Feed.

But Chirpify describes its service as social commerce, as opposed to social ads, and stresses that its listings come either from brands people already like or from their friends.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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