Ah, Facebook. No other company so exemplifies the adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Back in May, Facebook rolled out an option to promote your own posts for around $7 or so, depending on geographic area and reach. I can see the point of this – if you’re raising money for a charity or have a lost puppy, you want more people to see that post. Of course, you can also use it to promote your more inane posts, such as “Decided to buy a different brand of toothpaste” or some such thing.
Now Facebook is upping the ante. According to TechCrunch, soon you’ll be able to pay to promote your friends’ posts, and you don’t even need their permission. Once again, this is great for the well meaning amongst us. If Joe is running in a marathon to raise money for cancer, I can promote his post to help support and publicize his cause to a larger number of people (his friends + possibly my friends). If Mary lost her puppy, I can promote that post so that possibly more people can be on the lookout for Rover.
TechCrunch cites stats that say only around 16% of people see any given status update or post on Facebook. Basically, if you’re not looking at Facebook when someone posts a new tidbit, chances are you’ll probably miss it all together. Promoted posts push selected posts to the top, guaranteeing more people will see them.
Promoting a friend’s post will still adhere to privacy standards. Sort of. For instance, if Joe posted his marathon information to just his friends, and I promote that post, it is still see by only Joe’s friends. Hopefully just more than 16% of them.
If Mary posted that Rover was missing and the post was public, I could promote that and the post is still public – my friends, her friends, and anyone else could look at that post.
This sounds great in theory, but I can see where it could go horribly wrong. Not too long ago I wrote a private blog post. However, my blog software automatically shared it out to Facebook and Twitter, where I had to scramble to delete it (and modify those blog settings). Someone with less than good intentions at heart could have grabbed that post and promoted it. Ouch. Don’t want that to happen. Aside from that, people are cross-posting from other sites to Facebook all the time. In a lot of cases, people might not even be aware their FourSquare status is on Facebook. Maybe they don’t want that information promoted.
As far as I can tell, there’s no label on the promoted post saying “promoted by friend”, also giving the post the possibility to look rather self aggrandizing.
I’m not sure about this new feature. Hopefully it will just fall by the wayside as one of Facebook’s more risky ideas. If not, I guess we’re about to welcome in the era of promoting posts for someone else.