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Do e-gift cards sent on social media make good holiday gifts? Not always

Over the last couple of decades, gift cards have become the gift of choice for many. It’s not hard to see why: They are convenient to give, and recipients often enjoy them more than a gift you’d pick out for them, since it allows them to get what they want.

Gift giving is even easier now, thanks to the fact that it’s possible to send e-gift cards through social media. Over the summer I sent an Amazon gift card to my brother-in-law via Facebook. It was a huge hit, since he loves shopping on Amazon, and we keep up with each other through Facebook. It was the perfect way to send him a birthday gift he could use. But Facebook isn’t the only social media gift source. Now Twitter has gotten into the act, allowing users to send Starbucks e-gift cards to other Twitter users.

But what do e-gift cards mean for etiquette? Do we run the risk of alienating friends and family by sending gifts through Facebook and Twitter?

The etiquette of giving gift cards via social media

“The process of giving the gift is becoming easier and easier,” says Daniel Post Senning, spokesman for the Emily Post Institute and Emily Post’s great-great grandson. “How do you keep the expression of the thought?”

Senning says that, at it’s heart, gift-giving is still as traditional as ever.

“It sounds cliche,” he says, “but it really is the thought that matters. Any time you give a gift, no matter how you give it, the etiquette is in the spirit of your giving.”

It’s still possible to add a personal touch, even when you are giving an electronic gift card.

“You can find a way to personalize the gift,” says Senning. “Include a personal note, even if it’s part of the post when you give over social media.”

Above all, it’s important to give thought to who will be receiving the card and try to tailor it to them as much as possible, Senning says.

“Choose a gift card or a Facebook gift that you know the recipient will appreciate. It’s about giving something a little personal, no matter the delivery method,” he says.

Of course, part of the etiquette of giving an e-gift is paying attention to who will be receiving the gift.

“If your grandma doesn’t use social media, it doesn’t make sense to send her something that way,” Senning says. “Once again, it goes back to thoughtfulness and understanding the recipient.”

He also says that it makes sense to make sure the gift went through.

“When you’re choosing new mediums and new media, make sure it works,” Senning says. “If you are sending a gift card to someone over email or social media for the first time, you want to make sure they get it. Follow up with a personal call or a text.”

Many people, especially young people, appreciate the flexibility that comes with receiving gift cards. And, because so many young people use social media, it makes sense to accommodate them by giving in this way. If everyone’s happy, then the arrangement is beneficial.

Senning thinks that it’s important to move forward with changing times, but that, at the same time, we should remember that, at the heart of gift-giving, is the generous thought.

“We live in an amazing world and there are so many options when it comes to gift-giving,” he says. “Keep in mind the spirit of giving, and pay attention to the type of e-gift you choose to send. Connect the gift to the recipient in a way that matters to them. Make that much of an effort.”

(Photo: Flickr user Judson Dunn)