Do you know how many friends can actually see your status updates? Facebook algorithms work in a way that on an average only 12% to 16% of your friends can see your status updates. Facebook is currently trying to test an option called “Highlight”. This feature lets an average user (not pages or businesses – for which separate options exist) to select any post they deem ‘important’ and pay a small amount to be sure that a maximum number of users view it. A very small percentage of users (as selected by Facebook) may already be seeing this ‘Highlight’ option in their profile. A free version of ‘Highlight’ is also being tested simultaneously to check whether users are actually interested in this feature at all.
The only sect of people who are really going to be happy about this is the group of potential investors in Facebook when it launches its IPO sometime later this year. Any willingness by Facebook to make some extra money by features like ‘Highlight’ is sure going to delight them as they get ready to invest.
The big question that arises is that… is Facebook playing dangerously? The services of Facebook have always been free and aggressively marketed to be free. That’s what the tag line says when a user is about to log in. A “Pay to popularize your updates” feature in the midst of an otherwise free environment could be a big dampener as well. Especially since the user base of Facebook cuts across the financial status barriers in the society. The less financially equipped users may actually feel left out in an otherwise level playing field.
This is the official statement issued by Facebook on this subject:
“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.”
There are serious doubts in the success of this feature because it totally depends on the positive feedback from its users which is highly unlikely BUT, just in case it clicks… it could turn out to be one of the biggest money bags for Facebook and it couldn’t come at a better time than, when the company is preparing to launch its IPO. The interest of potential investors is bound to be created as the interest of the company in finding newer avenues of revenue is revealed. This confidence of investors is especially as more and more users have started to access social sites through their smart phones, which does not display all the ads. This new feature could offset the notional losses that may occur due to this.
One very strong negative aspect of this new feature could be the loss of relevance of your timeline. Currently the news feed sorting algorithm of Facebook is designed in a way that it shows you the posts by your closest friends, or with whom you have recently interacted, or the posts of friends that receive a lot of likes and comments. In short, the most relevant content is shown on your news feed. The ‘Highlight’ can seriously distort this relevance of your timeline, where unimportant and unwanted updates may be stuffed down your throat. Though users will always have the option to block the feeds but how much and till when. It could be a goldmine opportunity for spammers to flood your timeline.
How Highlight Will Work
If you belong to the test group and post a status update, you’ll see the “Highlight” option next to the Like and comment buttons below it. If you click on it, you will be shown the prompt for payment as you can see in the image shown below. Depending on what version of the test you might be seeing you will either get a free Highlight, or have to pay a dollar or two for the extra news feed prevalence.
The posts thus highlighted will appear in a higher order in the news feed, they will stay visible for a longer period of time and will appear to a many more friends and subscribers than ordinary updates. These ‘highlighted’ posts will NOT literally be ‘highlighted’, in the sense they will NOT be colored differently to make them stand out. They will remain to look normal and gel in with the other posts, just increase their visibility.
One important clarification: Facebook Highlight is designed for the end user, NOT for businesses as in the case of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets.
The tests have been started in countries like New Zealand (as the test news was initially leaked by a user in New Zealand) which are small but fully developed. Have an English speaking population and most importantly too many people don’t come to know about it.
TechNutty View: Facebook should retain the original flavor that it came with. The priority to posts should be accorded in view of their popularity and interesting content, not by the depth of the users pockets.