We heard recently that Facebook was testing the concept of charging business users to post but I didn't expect the real thing to arrive in the States so soon.
Facebook has launched a "Promote Your Page" feature in which it's asking members with business pages to pay extra to have their posts reach more of their fans. As Facebook writes:
"When you promote a post, it will be shown in the news feeds of more of the people who like your Page than you would reach normally. Friends of the people who have interacted with your post will also be more likely to see the story in their news feeds for up to 3 days from when the post was first created."
Pricing for this feature appears to be all over the map, with variations according to the number of fans you have, want to reach, when, where and in what language.
In our case with The Bakersfield Californian's fan page, on Tuesday night Facebook was asking us to pay $5 for every 1,100 fans we wanted to reach with a "promoted" post. This morning, that fee had changed to $5 for only 500 fans (up to $30 and 3,000 fans, or half of our fan base). On the Bakersfield Mom fan page, which has slightly more than 1,000 fans, Facebook's pricing this morning was $5 for 900 and $10 for 1,500.
For businesses wanting to share coupons with fans, this surcharge could get pretty pricey. Go too high and you'll drive business to the competition.
Granted one can continue to post without charge. There's just no guarantee many of your fans will see it.
"Nothing has changed about how your posts are shared with the people who like your Page.
"A lot of activity happens on Facebook and most people only see some of it in their news feeds. They may miss things when they’re not on Facebook, or they may have a lot of friends and Pages, which results in too much activity to show all of it in their news feed.
"If you don’t promote your post, many of the people connected to your Page may still see it. However, by promoting a post, you’re increasing its potential reach so an even larger percentage of your Page audience and the friends of those interacting with your post will see it."
I knew Facebook would be experimenting with this kind of stuff in light of its recent IPO, which has been a staggering disappointment so far (down 25% in less than two weeks). Facebook, after all, now has to make real money to pay off its new investors. Whether it's charging every user a subscription fee (say, $12 per year) or more polished pay-to-post concepts, you can expect to see more of these experiments. And I suspect some serious pushback from its millions of fans and business users.