Facebook may allow you to buy friends

Oct 4 2012 - 10:00am

Images

This undated image provided by Facebook shows the new feature Facebook announced Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, that lets users pay to promote their posts to friends, just as advertisers do. 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. Facebook says promoting a post will bump it higher in your friends' news feeds. (AP Photo/Facebook)
This undated image provided by Facebook shows the new feature Facebook announced Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, that lets users pay to promote their posts to friends, just as advertisers do. 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. Facebook says promoting a post will bump it higher in your friends' news feeds. (AP Photo/Facebook)

Would you pay to give your latest wedding photos, say, or garage-sale announcement a better chance of appearing on your friends' Facebook pages? That's the question the social network is testing.

On Wednesday, the company introduced a feature that allows U.S. users with fewer than 5,000 friends to promote their updates - for a fee. The users' posts would gain prime placement on their friends news feeds.

"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," Facebook software engineer Abhishek Doshi wrote in a company blog post.

Those currently testing the feature are paying $7 per posting for the service. But a Facebook spokesman said the company hasn't made a final decision on the price.

Facebook has been allowing companies to pay to promote their posts to U.S. users since May. In other countries, including New Zealand, users have been able to pay to promote their individual musings to friends for months, and now the concept is being tested in the United States.

It's unclear whether everyday users will warm to the idea of paying Facebook for such a core part of the site, said Arvind Bhatia, a technology analyst for Sterne Agee.

"I know it's just a test, but it doesn't send the right message," Bhatia said. "Charging for something so generic doesn't make sense."

Since going public in May, the social network has been searching for ways to increase its advertising revenue to please investors clamoring for a more sustainable business model. Last month, the company launched a new advertising system that allows marketers to closely target Facebook users, even when they're not on the social network. Last week, Facebook announced that users could buy gifts for their friends through the site.

"Facebook has to manage the balance between the users' experience and the ability to monetize," Bhatia said. "If there are no users, there's no monetization."

 

 

 

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