Rec.fm: Using Social Media for Product Recommendations and Philanthropy
Much of our time spent utilizing social media is spent discussing, recommending, rating, (and sometimes hating) the various products and services we utilize in our daily lives. Rec.fm is startup that hopes to channel these recommendations for the benefit of charity. Rec.fm allows you to share product recommendations -- recommendations on music, literature, gadgets, movies and so on -- with your friends, while simultaneously supporting the charity of your choice.
To make a recommendation, you look up the product on the Rec.fm site and then write a short "rec" about what you think makes it special. The major social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter, are integrated into the service, as are shopping sites like Amazon. Recommendations are searchable via the site and easily shareable via social networks.
Rec.fm gives 51% of its earnings to charity. These earnings are based on the referral fee that merchants typically pay when a referral results in a purchase. This figure, according to Rec.fm, is around 3% to 5% of a product's value. As Rec.fm maintains the recommendations on their site, it's conceivable that a good recommendation from accrue quite well over time. According to Laura Benack of Grassroots.org, "Grassroots.org is so excited to become a part of Rec.fm as a charity partner. As a nonprofit, we are constantly looking for a dynamic way to raise funds to support our mission. Being featured on Rec.fm will allow our supporters to help Grassroots.org without having to write a check. What's more, simply by sharing recommendations with their friends and social networks, our supporters will help grow our public profile and introduce us to new audiences."
In a 2007 TED Talk, Katherine Fulton argues that the future of philanthropy will be one of mass collaboration. Arguably Internet technologies are facilitating just this sort of response, and no longer will philanthropy be associated with the wealthy. Rather, "regular people" will be able to pool their resources -- even when money is scarce -- and come together to make a big difference. Rec.fm sees itself along these lines: its mission is "to simply do our part to facilitate one-on-one people helping people to the benefit of some great causes."
One of the interesting technical features of Rec.fm is its use of a proprietary technology that makes sure "trusted" products are prioritized, effectively allowing searchers to weigh the reliability of the recommendations and the products and services that are found on the site. Rec.fm was a 2010 SXSW Web Award finalist and is one of many new startups that are combining social media technologies with the commitment to "do good."