Every time one of those posts makes the rounds on Facebook about how you have to share it or else Facebook will start charging you for your account, it gets shot down as an urban legend and Facebook responds with its trademark slogan: “It’s free (and always will be).”
But that may not be totally true.
Facebook has started introducing a “pay to play” feature for users and businesses alike. Here’s how it works:
You post a status update. It should appear in your friends’ news feeds. If you have a business page, it should appear in the feed of everyone who “likes” you.
However, Facebook now uses an algorithm for posts that determine your closeness, the number of likes your posts get, and so on – meaning that only a portion of your friends or fans ever see your posts, even if they have subscribed to you or chosen to prioritize your posts.
Some estimates say that as few as 12 percent of your friends or followers will see your posts.
Now Facebook is offering a highlighted or sponsored post feature. You pay a couple of bucks – anywhere from $1 to $10 – and your post gets put right on the top of your connections’ news feeds and stays there for a few days.
Not exactly free.
We’re not sure why the average Joe would want to highlight his status update about the epic concert he attended over the weekend, but if you are a business, you have good reasons to get your posts in front of as many people as possible. So should you pay to highlight your posts on Facebook? Here are some pros and cons:
First, let’s start with some of the reasons why you should pay to highlight posts on Facebook.
You’ll be sure that more of your friends and followers will see your posts. Highlighted posts are placed right at the top of the newsfeed, and they stay there for up to three days. If you have a special sale or other promotion, this is a great way to get more exposure for it.
The more followers who see your post, the more likely you are to get comments and “likes”, thereby increasing the number of friends of friends who see your post and the potential for it to go viral.
You will ensure that your posts are seen on mobile devices, where the user experience is even more limited and even fewer posts may appear in the feed. With more customers accessing data through mobile devices, this will become even more important.
It’s cheap. For only a couple of bucks, you can be sure that more of your followers see important content.
Sure you may reach more of your followers with sponsored posts, but how many more? On one page, the only option for promoting posts was $5 for an estimated reach of 20 additional people. Twenty people isn’t much, and if Facebook lets you pay for each set of 20, that is going to add up fast if you have a lot of fans.
When you pay to promote your posts, they will move to the top of your fans’ news feeds, but they will also be labelled “Sponsored Post.”
When your fans see this day after day – multiplied by however many other businesses they like who are also promoting posts – it will start to clutter the newsfeed. Your promotional efforts may seem aggressive and start to annoy your fans, causing you to lose them.
Paying for posts may end up having a cyclical effect. Eventually, if enough businesses start paying for posts, will it cause your non-sponsored posts to get even less exposure?
Finally, while the cost is currently low, the service is still in a test phase. Facebook has tried varying price points up from $1 to $10. If the service proves to be popular, it’s possible that the price may increase or that Facebook may start charging for other services.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there seem to be more cons (or potential cons) than there are benefits to the practice of highlighting posts on Facebook. What are your thoughts? Will you be paying to sponsor your posts? Share your ideas in the comments!