As it continues to face post-IPO monetisation challenges, Facebook has now taken the step to allow ordinary users the opportunity of paying to promote their own posts on the social networking site.
Similar to a scheme launched in May that only extended to users representing businesses, the feature, which is currently being tested only in the US, will enable absolutely anyone to create promoted personal posts that will appear higher up their friends' news lists.
"Every day, news feed delivers your posts to your friends," says a statement on Facebook's website. "Sometimes a particular friend might not notice your post, especially if a lot of their friends have been posting recently and your story isn't near the top of their feed.
"When you promote a post – whether it's wedding photos, a garage sale, or big news – you bump it higher in news feed so your friends and subscribers are more likely to notice it," the statement continues.
Personal post promotion has been available in other countries, such as New Zealand, since May, but its launch across the US is being seen as a statement of intent by Facebook to keep the system in place for a global user base.
The current price for promoting a post on Facebook has, according to a Facebook spokesman, been set at $7 (£4.30) per post.
On-site advertising, which accounted for 84 per cent of Facebook's revenue in Q2, is a monetisation strategy of dwindling effectiveness for the site as it moves into mobile markets.
Since going public in May 2012, Facebook's share value has fluctuated, but currently stands at $21.83 (£13.54) – just over half its IPO value of $38 (£23.60) per share.
As paid promoting went live in the US, concerns have also begun to be raised that Facebook may potentially be selling user data to its advertising partners behind the scenes.
The site has recently announced its Facebook Exchange and Custom Audiences schemes. While the former simply allows advertisers to bid for faster ad delivery to Facebook's 900 million users, Custom Audiences allows advertisers to make connections to Facebook users on whom they already hold information.
"This means that in addition to targeting the types of people you want to reach among the Facebook population, you can now also reach segments of specific people based on information you have about your own, offline audiences," explains a statement on Facebook's website.
The implication seems to be that Facebook is charging its advertisers for access to information that allows them to cross-reference their own data and target those with a previous affiliation to their products and services.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg defended the company when challenged on Custom Audiences by Advertising Week on Tuesday, saying, "We won't sell it to you, we won't sell it to anyone." But the question remains as to how Facebook can otherwise monetise Custom Audiences.
In 2011, after a number of privacy disputes in court, Facebook agreed to regular privacy audits.
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