• 12/21/2012
    10:56 AM
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Facebook Testing Pay-for-Placement Messages

You soon may be able to pay $1 to have your message sent to a non-friend's inbox.
Facebook's 2012 Highs And Lows
Facebook's 2012 Highs And Lows
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
First you could pay $7 to promote a Facebook post. Soon you may be able to pay $1 to send a message to someone with whom you are not Facebook friends.

You can actually send a message now to a non-Facebook friend, but it will go into that person’s Other folder, rather than his or her inbox. But Facebook announced in a blog post yesterday that it is starting an experiment to test the usefulness of “economic signals” to determine message relevance. For a fee of $1, Facebook users can pay to have a message deposited in any user’s Inbox--friends or not.

Facebook is presenting the option as a way to more effectively filter messages. “Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful,” states the Facebook blog post. “This test is designed to address situations where neither social nor algorithmic signals are sufficient.”

The feature will be available only for messages between individuals. This prevents, it would seem, a major brand from spamming multiple users’ mailboxes. Spam is in the eye of the beholder, however, and one message from an unknown entity may be one message too many for Facebook users.

Facebook has recently made several changes to its messaging system, including new filtering mechanisms announced last month. Users can choose Basic Filtering, which shows mostly messages from friends and friends of friends, or Strict Filtering, which allows only messages from friends in users’ inboxes.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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re: Facebook Testing Pay-for-Placement Messages

This reminds me a little of the logic behind LinkedIn's InMail, where one of the reasons people pay for an upgraded account is for the privilege of being able to send more messages through the LI messaging system. Putting an economic cost on the messages is one way of preventing spam and making people consider the messages they send more carefully.

Facebook's approach is different in that you're paying for more prominent display of the message, rather than paying for the right to send it (you can still send messages for free, but they go into that obscure "Other" notifications folder if you're not an FB friend with the recipient).

re: Facebook Testing Pay-for-Placement Messages

I could swear when I logged into Facebook the other day it said always free, I guess I missed the small print about the pricing for messaging underneath it. I like the idea to eliminate spamming but this is going to be bust before it even takes off.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor

re: Facebook Testing Pay-for-Placement Messages

I feel like the $1 is really meant more as a cheap barrier to entry and less as a spam-stopper. Just think about all of the people who would gladly pay $1 to find another avenue to reach, say, a journalist or a politician or even someone who is selling a house.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard

re: Facebook Testing Pay-for-Placement Messages

The little advertisement squares sucking up space on the right side of my screen are bad enough... now Facebook is going to rake in more money to let just anyone throw stuff at my wall to see if it sticks?

If a Macy's store advertisement can appear on my wall like an "approved friend" someone ought to pay me, not Facebook. Test campaign or not.

Let's just call it what it is... a creative new way to sell advertising on Facebook.