Facebook has been working overtime on a variety of initiatives aimed at increasing revenue growth, from new strategies for targeting advertising to the recently announced gifts program, which lets users buy stuff animals, gift cards or other presents for their friends.
Now the giant social network is offering to let individuals pay a small fee – currently $7 – to increase the chance that friends see their latest post.
Facebook uses an algorithm to determine where posts from friends appear in a user’s news feed, based on how frequently they use the service or interact on the site. The company says it emphasizes posts that are most interesting or relevant to each user. But that means some posts may get buried under a pile of other updates, or may not be seen at all.
Under the new program, when you pay to promote a post, “you bump it higher in the news feed so your friends and subscribers are more likely to notice it,” the company said in an announcement, which suggested people might want to use the service for important news, such as a wedding engagement or a garage sale.
Businesses can already pay Facebook to insert messages or “sponsored stories” into news feeds. But the new program represents the first time the company has charged individuals to share information with their friends. The company has been testing the program in New Zealand and 20 other countries, and is making it available to U.S. users starting Wednesday.
Facebook has long touted the fact that it’s a free service for individual users, while describing its advertising programs as the primary way it’s able to offer that service. When asked if the company is moving to a model that relies more on charging users for services, a spokeswoman said Wednesday that while Facebook has sold various products over the years – including ads and virtual goods – the social networking service itself “still remains free.”