Facebook Tests Paid “Highlighting” Of Users’ PostsBy: Josh Wolford - May 11, 2012
We already know that world of Facebook in some way mirrors the offline world – especially for kids. On Facebook, you can still get that daily dose of embarrassment, rejection, isolation, and inane bickering that has been a part of offline life for hundreds of years. Now, Facebook is testing a new feature that would make it conform to another standard truism of high school clique-dom: The one that says the rich kids are usually more popular.
The feature is called “Highlight,” and it allows users to highlight “important posts” in order to make sure more friends see it.
Although similar in functionality to Facebook’s Sponsored Stories program for brands (where companies can pay to promote already-existing stories for increased visibility), the new Highlight feature isn’t for brand pages – it’s for you, the average user. Not seeing enough likes on one of your witty statuses? Highlight it. Have an important announcement to make and want the right people to comment on it? Highlight it. Fishing for compliments through copious amounts of vaguebooking? Highlight that sucker.
Stuff first spotted the test, (which is currently going out to a small percentage of users in New Zealand). They said that users were being prompted with the box you see above to highlight statuses and photo uploads with a yellow background. Josh Constine at TechCrunch later said that the highlighted posts are not actually yellow-backed.
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.
As you can see from the fun little credit card icons in the above image, “highlighting” your witty status probably won’t be free. Test users are seeing credit cards and PayPal as options for payment, but not Facebook credits. Apparently, there is a free version of Highlight floating around out there – which is allowing Facebook to gauge interest in the possible feature.
From a business standpoint, Highlight is just another way to monetize Facebook. Does it play on people’s inherent narcissism? Sure. Is it rewarding the rich while taking from the poor? Absolutely! Could it be successful? Possibly.
Let’s be honest, there could be a backlash. Although most users know that not all of their friends are seeing all of their posts (about 12%, in fact), people feel that when they update their status, they have just as much of a chance of getting seen as anyone else. Facebook’s algorithm shows you posts in your news feed based on who your best friends are and how much action those posts are getting (likes, comments, etc.). But when you post a cool status, in theory, it’s on the same level (at least at the beginning) as everyone else’s. Highlight throws fairness out the window in a way. Want to piss people off? Make them feel like they’re not getting a fair shake.
But then again, enough of the Facebook population is self-absorbed enough to love this feature (I mean they’re on Facebook, right?). If you think a newly-engaged girl wouldn’t pay two bucks to make sure all of her girlfriends see that obligatory bling-ring photo, you’re crazy.
So, what do you guys think? Let us know in the comments.