Facebook – is it worth paying for popularity?

There’s no denying that Facebook holds a distinct presence in social networking, which is more than likely due to it’s constant reinvention and steady stream of new features. These new features serve a purpose. They help keep it fresh, newsworthy and at the forefront of our minds – which is exactly what a social networking site should strive to be.

But with constant change also comes constant upheaval (and occasional backlash). The 2011 introduction of the timeline, for example, was the cause of many a disgruntled outburst from dis-satisfied users who immediately missed the familiarity and comfort of the tried and true, old-school “wall”. Outraged that a free service had changed without consulting them first, presumably.

Since founding the site in 2004, Zuckerberg and his team have reportedly built up it’s worth to over $1 billion, and their increasing efforts to monetise have become less and less subtle. In many ways, this is a necessary evil – as companies like Facebook grow, they need more and more finance to be able to maintain and “feed the monster”. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said that the company is looking to sell ‘premium services for business’.

Cue the ‘promotion’ feature – fresh out the metaphorical box and already met with very mixed feelings. This new feature allows users (and pages) with less than 5,000 friends or subscribers to ‘promote’ their updates for a fee of $7 per post. Essentially, guaranteeing that Facebook will not omit their updates from other’s feeds. In essence, $7 to broaden their reach.

Seem like a bit of a double edged sword? For those who visit the site for personal use only, it does appear to be a feature for those with more money than sense. It allows you to pay to brag to your friends – and annoy everyone else. Just another way of ensuring the world sees your baby photos and knows what type of sandwich you had for lunch. But for starting (and small) businesses, it makes more sense. It offers the chance to widen your reach to potential customers without having to rely on purely viral or organic means.

There are some pitfalls with this, too, of course. A few extra likes and views here and there may look impressive at first glance, but how many of these will really benefit your business? Is that one extra click from a school kid really going to mean that you sell more? Probably not. But first impressions do definitely count when it comes to online marketing.

That being said, there is a real danger looming. Facebook could quite easily become over-saturated with promoted posts, sponsored stories, and personalised ads and leave the content that most visit the site for behind.

Here at The Studio 4, we feel that the more companies like Facebook begin to monetise their features, the less opportunity we will have to offer our expertise in marketing to clients. If social media and other free online services adopt a ‘pay to be heard’ policy, then SEO and other online marketing strategies will be rendered obsolete and start-up companies will be ousted by those who are bigger and have more money to spend. So, do you have an opinion on the new promotion feature? Is it an innovation in advertising, or another stepping stone towards Facebook sacrificing it’s quality user-generated content for more money?

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