Not satisfied with the response to your brilliant latest status update? Now Facebook is offering narcissistic users the option of paying to “highlight” their posts so that they reach more friends.
The new feature, currently being tested in New Zealand, invites users to pay $2 so they can “Highlight an Important Post: Make sure your friends see this.”
The “highlight” option, which pops up beside the “Like” button, guarantees that a promoted post will appear higher in news feeds, stay visible for longer and appear to more friends.
Response to the “pay-for-popularity” offer, which comes days before Facebook's Wall Street flotation, expected to value the social network at up to $96 billion, was mixed.
Users feared that it could undermine the site’s news feed’s sorting algorithm, designed to spread posts from friends that have received genuine “likes” and “comments”. Promoted posts could result in a deluge of unwanted commercial spam messages.
A Facebook spokesman said: “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.”
A range of charges could be levied to make posts more visible, ranging from 25p to £1.25 ($2). Payments could be made via credit card or PayPal.
A man from Whangarei, New Zealand, said that a pop-up gave him the option of paying to highlight status updates and picture posts with a yellow background when he logged on. Other means of highlighting posts, beyond a colour differential, were being considered, Facebook said.
Analysts said Facebook would have to pursue new ways of generating income from users following the flotation. This week Facebook warned investors that the rapid growth of its mobile apps is threatening its long-term financial prospects as users migrate from desktop PCs.
The Tech Crunch blog said: “Facebook is playing with fire. The service has always been free for users, and a pay-for-popularity feature could be a huge turn off, especially to its younger and less financially equipped users who couldn’t afford such narcissism.”
The SF Weekly website summed up the initial reaction to the move: “Paying to promote your Facebook status might be more embarrassing than paying for porn.”