Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Facebook Wants You to Pay to Be Popular

You might be thinking, "Say what? I thought Facebook was free forever! They can't have my money!" Right on.

Don't worry, you only have to pay if you want to. Facebook recently revealed that it will be testing a service that allows ordinary Facebook users to pay $7.00 to make their friends more likely to see their personal posts and updates. Does this mean I have to pay money for people to know about my life? If I don't pay, will my online presence become non-existent?

Image Source: UAB, IEM

And why would Facebook offer such a service? Two possible reasons (according to the article I read):
1) The homepage News Feed of users has become increasingly cluttered with status updates and paid ads. Posts from friends can get lost in the mix, or
2) Facebook is feeling the pressure to make money.

I can understand both of these reasons -  for instance, what if you have a huge announcement to make, such as a need of consultation from friends about current job offerings, or you lost your beloved puppy and need help finding him. How can you guarantee that people will see your post and be able to help you? Just pay $7.00 and your message will be heard.

As far as the second reason is concerned, Facebook's homepage promises: "It's free and always will be." The very popular social network's revenue relies mostly on marketers and paid advertisements with Facebook Ads. But maybe that's not enough, and the company needs to start making money off of its members, too. If this is the case, they are being kind of clever about it.

But what if those reasons don't apply to you? Why else would anyone want to pay to be popular? I can only think of two reasons why someone would want to do this:
1) He or she wants to make sure everyone knows everything about his or her life at every moment, or
2) He or she owns a business and heavily relies on social media to promote his or her services online.

The second reason makes more sense to me. If you're trying to use Facebook as a marketing tool, it's understandable that you would want to find a way besides Facebook Ads to get your message out there - especially if you're competing with other companies and friends on the News Feed - and compared to all of the expenses involved in marketing, $7.00 doesn't seem like a bad deal.

Now I have a few questions about implications from Facebook's decision:
1) How will this affect the user experience?
2) How many non-business owners will actually take advantage of this offer?
3) Will paid exposure cause non-paying users to become virtually non-existent in the News Feed?
4) Will Facebook find more reasons to charge its users?

Facebook already rolled out the initiative in New Zealand - all we can do is wait to see how it pans out there...

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