Just as Facebook is announcing its 1 billion active users per month milestone, it is also unrolling a new feature in the U.S. that allows users to work as advertisers do by paying to promote their own posts.
Why might the average Facebook user pay for more people to see their posts?
"Every day, news feed delivers your posts to your friends. Sometimes a particular friend might not notice your post, especially if a lot of their friends have been posting recently and your story isn't near the top of their feed," wrote Abhishek Doshi, a software engineer at Facebook, on Facebook's news site.
It could be useful for things like as announcing a garage sale, charity drive or big news like an engagement. Paying to promote these posts will bump them higher on your friends' news feeds.
But some consider this feature a bit unfair. Matt Silverman who wrote an op-ed about the promoted posts on Mashable, think this is Facebook's way of "rigging the game and then asking users to pay to level the playing field." Silverman explains that Facebook uses an algorithm to post items in your news feed in order of how you might best enjoy them, not necessarily chronological order. Here's what he writes:
If you want to see everything that your Facebook friends and brand pages have posted in chronological order, you always have the option.
Facebook doesn’t call much attention to this wonderful feature because it makes promoted posts less valuable. If everything is visible in chronological order, why would I pay for an algorithm to put me first?
Again, I see nothing wrong with purchasing a promoted post if that means it’s pushed to the top of the feed in a very transparent manner — the way Google ads appear at the top of search results, or promoted posts appear at the top of the Tumblr dash. That’s advertising — a way for brands to cut through the noise of the web and deliver a paid message. Facebook’s move is more like pay-to-play radio. It already controls the noise, and makes you pay on top of it. That’s editorially unsound.
How much a promoted post will cost depends on the "budget" you set. For example, in Facebook's help center for promoted posts, it states a $10 budget will garner a user about 3,500 views for their post. The amount of people that could be potentially reached for a given budget though depends on the number or friends or likes you have for a page to target. Geographic location also factors into the cost, according to Facebook.
There are restrictions for what you can promote as well. According to Facebook, only profile posts shared within the last 6 hours can be promoted. Users with more than 5,000 friends also cannot promote posts, but rather would need to create a Facebook page (instead of profile) and promote posts through that medium. The catch for Facebook pages to promote posts is they must have a minimum of 400 likes.
Users too will be able to tell if a post they're looking at in their news feed has been paid for or not. This will be indicated by the word "Sponsored" under the post.
Facebook has been testing the service in New Zealand, where it tries out a lot of new features, and has gradually introduced it in more than 20 other countries.
Would you ever pay to promote your own posts on Facebook? Let us know in the comments below.
The Associated Pres contributed to this report.