Get ready to click “Like” or demand Facebook add an “Unlike” button, depending on how you feel about paying the social networking giant to propel your posts to the top of all your friends’ news feeds. Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is currently test driving an option for users here in the U.S. to pay $7 for any status update, photo or event to take a more prominent place in all of that user’s friends’ news feed. The question is, will it work? Looking for ways to boost revenue, along with its many advertisers, this test pilot isn’t likely to get the jump start the company is hoping for. People are struggling to recover from a recession. Making sure all his friends know he’s no longer engaged to Miss Wonderful probably isn’t at the top of the priority chain for the average Joe – especially if he’s going to have to pay interest on the credit card charge.
The program began on Wednesday and was rolled out to a limited number of American Facebook users. The promoted posts keeps a comment or any other important post at the top of the news feed of anyone who’s friended the paying Facebook user. There are couple of questions though – and apparently finding the answers to those questions isn’t coming easy for many.
From a purely psychological stance, why would anyone pay $7 for a post when most of us are texting and instant chatting anyway? Have we become so needy that we’re willing to whip out our Discover card to feed our narcissistic personalities these days? And what happens if a friend, suddenly none too happy that someone else is dictating what they see in their news feed, decides to unfriend the big spender? These are important questions. Taking it a step further – what if it fails?
Imagine posting “That idiot I married is a total jerk” and then paying to keep it prominently displayed, only to have no one else comment – or not even so much as a Facebook like? And besides, whatever happened to that message on our sign in pages that reads something like, “Join Today! Facebook is free and always will be”? Is this the first step in forcing monthly fees?
If you’re on Facebook for any length of time, you know well the frustration of a cluttered news feed – whether it’s from that needy girl from grade school who needs to be the center of attention or a series of ads that are eerily similar to that conversation you had with your best friend via Facebook’s email feature. While we all have those friends who are always no more than three minutes away from their most recent status update, most of us aren’t going to break the big news on Facebook regarding our families, new houses or even declarations of becoming debt free. Still, Zuckerberg is banking on enough of us to ensure is revenue picks up.
For now, at least, the test is limited to people with fewer than 5,000 friends or subscribers (does anyone truly have 500 friends?). Don’t worry if you didn’t receive your invitation – depending on how successful this latest campaign is, there’s a very good chance we’ll all begin seeing policy changes associated with our Facebook pages. Keep in mind, though, Facebook controls the algorithm for what ultimately shows up in our News Feeds. As frustrating as it is at times, those ads should be popping up according to whatever it is we’re talking about on Facebook; now though, those advertisers could be competing with anyone who feels strongly about top billing.
Freemium. Time will tell how well this really goes over; of course, we’re convinced folks simply aren’t going to shell out $7 – it makes little sense, frankly and perhaps the most interesting dynamic will be the sudden influx of posts that aren’t paid for, but include moms and dads whose credit cards were used by Little Mary to announce “Frankie is the cutest boy in the whole sixth grade”. It’s sure to generate some interesting buzz, even if it doesn’t generate revenue for Zuckerberg & Co.
Remember, though, Facebook is, at least now, free to use. Pegged as a “freemium” model, the hope for Facebook is that users will use the free service with the occasional bought post with the goal of maximum exposure. Currently, Facebook is considering a variety of prices should this new paid feature actually get somewhere. Then again, people do pay to play Farmville and Angry Birds, so it could be we’ll be hearing about Aunt Mary’s cat’s lasik surgery before it’s said and done – whether we want to or not.
It’s your turn to speak – will you be willing to shell out money for things like this? What if, say, your church was planning a yard sale – would that justify charging seven bucks on your credit card? What about Amber Alerts for a missing child in your community? These scenarios are certainly worth it, it’s just that we’re not convinced it has the kind of steam to really find an audience.