Facebook introduces first private content-sharing tool with ‘Send’ button

The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post added a “Send” button to their sites today, enabling users to privately send stories to their Facebook friends, Facebook Groups or to an individual email address.

They’re among a few dozen websites that are using the new plugin, which is Facebook’s first private content sharing tool. In many ways, it’s like a personalized form of email. And it’s different from Facebook’s  “Like” and “Recommend” buttons, which are public. (The “Like” and Recommend buttons function the same as one another, but some news sites preferred “Recommend” over “Like,” said Facebook spokeswoman Malorie Lucich.)

“We’re encouraging sites to use both and see this as something that’s complementary to the ‘Like’ button,” Lucich said. “It’s different types of sharing and different types of conversation.”

The button was designed to be added next to the Like/Recommend buttons, but can also be a standalone feature. The Washington Post, which still features the “Recommend” button, features the “Send” button next to the “Tweet” button. And when users click on the Facebook icon on the site, they’re given the option of sharing the story publicly or sending it as a private message. The plugin fits with the goal of the Post’s redesign, which was to give users more ways to engage with the site’s content.

Because the plugin doesn’t add content to a person’s profile, advertisers can’t target against it.

“It’s not really a matter of Facebook collecting information,” Lucich said. “Our systems see that sharing is happening, but no information is collected.” Facebook benefits from the plugin, she said, by being one of the main vehicles through which people are sharing information online.

Facebook spokeswoman Johanna Peace said she hopes the plugin will drive traffic to news sites — and perhaps time on site –  by making it easier for people to send links directly to friends without leaving the news site.

“We already know that plugins help drive engagement and traffic,” she said. “Through the Send button, people can target specific friends and add context to the content they share and, as a result, be encouraged to share more.” Since Facebook launched social plugins, she said, the average media site that uses them has seen a 300 percent increase in traffic from Facebook.

It’s too soon to tell whether Facebook’s new plugin will replace the traditional “email this story” feature on news sites, but there is something to be said for the plugin’s ease of use. When readers use the “Send” button, they don’t have to fill out any forms and they don’t have to remember friends’ email addresses, which Facebook automatically recognizes when readers type in a friend’s name.

Lucich said news sites seemed interested when Facebook first showed them the plugin. Moving forward, she hopes others will add it.

“We saw such wide adoption with the ‘Like’ button, and I think this will be something users will enjoy using as well,” Lucich said. “It might encourage them to share things that they wouldn’t share otherwise.”

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