Facebook Testing Pay-Based Status Update Promotion Tool
May 12, 2012

Facebook Testing Pay-Based Status Update Promotion Tool

Members of one of the Internet's most popular social media websites may soon be able to pay in order to have their status updates more visible to their fellow users, Stuff's Tom Pullar-Strecker wrote on Friday.

According to Pullar-Strecker, Facebook is currently test-marketing a feature that would allow subscribers to spend $2 in order to "Highlight" important posts that will make the content featured more prominently across the social network. He said that the program was accidentally discovered by a Facebook user who initially believed that it might be a scam, but a Facebook executive confirmed its validity to Stuff.

"We're constantly testing new features across the site. This particular test is simply to gauge people's interest in this method of sharing with their friends," spokeswoman Mia Garlick told Pullar-Strecker. She added that they were also experimenting with various prices for the service, meaning that during the trial, users could be asked to pay any amount of money in order to take advantage of the promotion.

Josh Constine of TechCrunch said that the move demonstrates Facebook's willingness to be more proactive in terms of brining in additional income, which should certainly attract the attention of potential investors. However, he added that the company "is playing with fire here," potentially rubbing subscribers the wrong way by making some features of the website pay-to-use for the first time, especially to "younger and less financially equipped users who couldn´t afford such narcissism."

In an update to his original report, the TechCrunch writer elaborated on his position.

"I understand what Facebook was going for with this. Sometimes you have a post you really need people to see, like 'I need a kidney donor', 'I'm renting out my apartment', or 'I'm moving to New York, come say goodbye tonight.'" Constine said. "If Facebook wants to give people the option to boost the visibility of the occasional post, it should let people Highlight one post a month, or apply some other frequency cap. But if people can pay to Highlight posts as often as they want, it could do more harm than good."

"The problem is the potential for Highlighted updates to reduce the general relevance of the news feed," he added. "Facebook´s news feed sorting algorithm is designed to show you posts by your closest friends or that have received a lot of Likes and comments. Highlight distorts this, and will encourage news feed spamming club promoters, musicians, small businesses, or anyone else with something to gain from more clicks."

Likewise, Gizmodo reporter Jamie Condliffe wrote, "Whether Highlight will ever turn into a fully-blown feature is difficult to tell. Given how much people enjoy talking about themselves, it's certainly not impossible to imagine that the feature could generate a steady trickle of cash for the Big Blue. It's even easier, however, to imagine how irritating it could become."