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Grumbling Begins Over Facebook's Promoted Post Scheme

Grumbling Begins Over Facebook's Promoted Post Scheme

Facebook is tapping a new revenue stream: paid personal posts, but the idea could backfire. "I don't think the average user will pay to have a post promoted unless it was in some way related to business or advertising. When asking our fans if they would be willing to pay, the general response was a flat-out 'no,'" said Lauren Formalarie of SayItSocial.

By Rachelle Dragani
10/04/12 10:06 AM PT

Facebook has a new offer for users with US$7 in their pocket -- they can use that cash to pay to promote their own posts on the social network.

The social network already uses a complex algorithm to determine which posts appear on any given News Feed. With Facebook's new feature, though, users can pay $7 to ensure the posts they consider most newsworthy, such as news about a charity, big announcement or significant life event, will get more eyeballs.

Facebook has been experimenting with the feature outside of the U.S. since May, when it rolled out the service in New Zealand. It has since tried it out in more than 20 countries and made its domestic debut on Wednesday.

It will only be available to users with fewer than 5,000 friends or subscribers, separating it from the feature on Facebook that allows businesses to pay to promote their posts. That makes the initiative the first time that Facebook is reaching out to its individual users to boost its revenue stream by sharing information.

Along with promoting the post, Facebook will provide the user with analytics on their investment, letting users know what higher percentage of people saw their post.

The social network did not respond to our request for comment.

Digging Deeper

Even before Facebook's botched IPO in May and subsequent decline on the public market, investors expressed concern over whether the social network could maintain growth and profitability in the ever-evolving online landscape. Since then, the company has sparked several initiatives aimed at promoting advertising growth, particularly in the mobile market.

The company already has business "Sponsored Stories" where larger companies can pay for posts to appear more prominently, or "Sponsored Results," where advertisers can pay for their company to show up in Facebook's search results under certain keywords.

This new initiative is one of Facebook's only attempts at earning from its average consumer, though, and it might be a flop, said Lauren Formalarie, account manager at SayItSocial.

"I don't think the average user will pay to have a post promoted unless it was in some way related to business or advertising," she told TechNewsWorld. "When asking our fans if they would be willing to pay, the general response was a flat-out 'no.'"

That's largely because Facebook's algorithms, although they can make some posts irrelevant, actually do a good job of pushing forward the more newsworthy content, said Renay San Miguel, chief content officer for Splash Media, a social media marketing firm based in Dallas.

"Promoting parties, events or causes is one thing, but I believe Facebook already does a good job of allowing people to publicize those," he told TechNewsWorld. "Many a high school reunion has been organized because Facebook is a more effective and cheaper Classmates.com than Classmates.com ever was."

Worth It?

It remains to be seen if the feature will catch on with users, but at just $7 per post, it might be more advantageous for Facebook to concentrate on more large-scale sources of revenue, said Formalarie

"I personally think Facebook should spend more of its efforts on advertising," she said. "People are always looking for ways to leverage Facebook for business, and there are so many quirks with the advertising platform already, they should direct their attention more at what is bringing them cash flow already and how they can improve on it."

What's more, said San Miguel, Facebook users might be turned off by Facebook's efforts to take money out of their pockets. CEO Mark Zuckerberg's repeated claims that Facebook's mission is to connect people worldwide rather than use them as a revenue stream might be phony, or not what investors want to hear, but it is an aspect of the social network that many customers value. Altering that perception could be a deal-breaker, said San Miguel.

"This will add to the growing perception that Facebook -- now officially at 1 billion global members - is viewing those members more as currency rather than valued, content-sharing customers," he said.


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