Facebook tests 'pay to promote' tool

Toby Talbot/AP/PA

Facebook is trialling a new system that lets users pay to promote their own posts.

By paying a small fee users can make information they post on the social network more visible to friends, family and colleagues. So is this any true benefit to users or simply an attempt to claw in further profits for Facebook?

The system trial is being carried out among Facebook users in New Zealand, with the aim to discover if members are interested in paying to give certain posts more prominence.

The trial of 'pay to promote' was discovered by a Facebook user in Whangarei who first thought the offer was a scam, according to New Zealand's news magazine Stuff.

However, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to the BBC the offer was genuine, saying: "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."

Pay to promote
It is reported that different methods of highlighting posts are being tested with a range of charging structures which are payable by credit card or PayPal. Comments on the tests suggest the highest price being charged was £1.25 ($2) while others cost 25p or 50p.

The spokesperson told the BBC that some of the methods it was trying out would incur a charge but others would highlight a post for free.

Benefit to users
As Facebook has grown, it has struggled to make significant posts stand out and it's current system promotes updates that attract the most comments or 'likes'.

While the 'pay to promote' system on trial offers obvious benefits to small businesses and charity organisations that use Facebook commercially to promote products, services and events, it is less clear how regular users will benefit from it.

It could help members who take part in charity fundraising activities or post classified ads, for example, but there appears little advantage to purely social users who just post status updates, interesting links and photos.

Boost profits
Despite rapid growth in revenue, recent growth in Facebook profits has slowed. With the social network preparing to public on the stockmarket it is unsurprisingly now looking for a range of new ways to earn money.

If the trial proves that there is interest in 'pay to promote' it could trigger the start of further fee levies for add-ons, both new apps and existing ones that are currently free.

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