Is Instagram's upcoming donation sticker just a way to lure credit card numbers?

Obstacles

Last February, Facebook announced that it will release a donation sticker feature on Instagram, giving its users the possibility to support charitable organizations through Instagram Stories.

The move is part of Facebook conglomerate’s increasing interest in philanthropy. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably already come across a fundraiser from a friend, asking you to donate to a charitable cause. Or maybe, you set one up yourself for your birthday. This Charitable Giving feature on Facebook raised over $ 1 billion as of November 2018.

It seems that Zuckerberg’s plan is to transform his social media into the go-to virtual place for charitable donations. The endeavor appears nothing but noble and laudable.

On Facebook, donors enjoy a smooth experience that allows them to donate to their favorite organizations in a matter of seconds and to share their philanthropic efforts with friends and followers. Moreover, Facebook does all of this for free, having abolished its transaction fee in November 2017. There are no reasons to suspect that Instagram’s upcoming donation sticker will be anything but another sleek and convenient feature of the Facebook family.

However, over the years, we have learned that when Facebook says “it’s free”, it might mean you’re paying in currencies different than a direct monetary transaction.

Again, there are no reasons to suspect that it will be any different when it comes to Instagram’s new donation sticker.

Will Instagram become the world's biggest fashion store?

To explain my point, let’s look at the bigger picture and consider the general direction Instagram is going towards. Last March, the social network rolled out a new feature called “Checkout”, which enables users to buy directly from select brands on the platform.

Users can shop for items on their favorite brands’ Instagram profiles and head to an in-app payment screen to order them, paying with the credit card information they have stored on the platform.

The aim is evidently to transform Instagram into an e-commerce app, adding another revenue stream next to the ad dollars.

Soon after Facebook announced the “Checkout on Instagram” feature, Deutsche Bank wrote a note to investors highlighting how the move could enable an “incremental $10 billion of revenue in 2021”.

Wondering if the average user would be willing to hand payment data to Instagram, the Deutsche bank memo fconcluded that many people already use Facebook for charitable donations through the app’s giving tools, and might be willing to extend that to shopping.

Is philanthropy just a lubricant oil for Facebook's for-profit gears?

From this perspective, the upcoming Instagram donation sticker would certainly facilitate the acquisition of users’ credit card information. After all, you’re much more inclined to give up your payment data if a trusted friend asks you to support a human rights organization rather than if you have to buy the umpteenth pair of sneakers from a large, anonymous corporation. But, of course, once your credit card number is stored in the app that alluring pair of sneakers becomes literally just a click away...

In a way, it seems that Facebook will use philanthropy as a lubricant oil to ease its transition from a social media platform to an e-commerce one.

I’m not saying that this is the only reason Instagram is adding a donation sticker to its deck (they also just like to monopolize your digital life) or that the donations made through it will be tainted. This is just an invitation to reflect on the way social media are reshaping the world of philanthropy and whether we like it or not. Full disclosure: one of the reasons I've been thinking about this is that also here at Kinder we're trying to build some digital tools to make donations to charities more convenient and rewarding.

Obviously, we don't have Facebook's firepower so I hope that Facebook's donation tools will continue raising generous amounts of money. It's just that they're also part of the company's bigger expansion plans. Since philanthropy really is a noble undertaking, it would just be better if the donation tools were clearly separated from Facebook’s more commercial functionalities.

But Instagram’s donation sticker has yet to be implemented on the platform, so there’s still plenty of time to fully remedy the situation.

Credit header image: Wikipedia

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