Facebook Paid Status Updates Being Tested in New ZealandBy: Drew Bowling - May 14, 2012
How important is to you that all of your Facebook friends see your status updates? Have you noticed that sometimes you miss a friend’s update or maybe they missed yours? It’s a mild annoyance, but an annoyance all the same. But is it so vexing that you’d pay Facebook in order to make sure all of your friends saw update? According to CNET, that may be a possibility coming to the social networking site as the company recently tested out a service in New Zealand that permitted users to promote their status updates to a little more prominence in exchange for a small fee.
Similar to how Facebook offers premium ads to businesses so that their status update remains in a user’s news feed, Facebook users in New Zealand were offered a chance to promote their update for about $1.80 New Zealand dollars (or roughly $1.42 U.S. dollars). If such a business model were widely embraced, Facebook could certainly chip away at that loss of profit due to mobile app use of Facebook but… really, nobody wants to pay to send messages on Facebook. We already do that: it’s called texting.
As the site continues to swell with users – it’s likely to reach 1 billion users later this year – the more friends you have the more likely people’s updates are going to sink to the bottom of your news feed. Add to that the integration of the many, many Facebook apps that clutter up news feeds these days, anything from posts about what people are reading to what games people are playing to what they’re listening to with Spotify, and it’s become too easy for actual updates to fall out of view. In that respect, giving some posts priority in exchange for a small fee makes a little bit of sense.
Sometimes, though, the problem of missed status updates isn’t even related to the deluge of content in a news feed – sometimes the updates simply don’t show up. Facebook’s sorting algorithm sometimes weeds out updates from your feed because and no matter how many times you change this feature, for reasons unknown, the sorting option seems to eventually always default to “Top Stories” instead of “Most Recent.”
There might be the occasions that you sometimes want to highlight a status update so everybody sees it, such as news that you’ll be moving soon or that you’re having a yard sale. Those are things you may want as many people as possible to know about, and that might not be a bad $1.50 spent. Still, the fact that Facebook hasn’t figured out how to successfully manage the sheer size of its users isn’t encouraging and poorly conceived ideas that cause consumers to pay for solutions that fix bad decisions made by Facebook will only motivate more speculation that there will be a Facebook bubble.
Facebook could do well to encourage users to adopt some of the features currently available to users that will help them mitigate the flow of information in their news feeds, such as making features like lists and groups more widely known, instead of selectively sorting out updates from news feeds. Personally, I don’t need Facebook to help me weed out my news feed or tell me what’s a “top story” and what’s not – I can do that just fine. Facebook’s even made it possible to avoid people on the site without unfriending them, too, either by unsubscribing to their updates or creating lists that only include/exclude certain people.
I’d pay Facebook for more privacy before I’d pay for more exposure on the site but that’s something the company doesn’t seem to understand. Facebook’s leadership already has a fatalistic fascination for making people less obscure and more publicized and, currently, that comes with no up-front fee from users. So why would anybody want to pay to be more public on Facebook?
That’s not a solution for missed status updates; it’s a lazy bid to doubly profit from users.