Facebook caught the world's attention when it announced the privacy issues-laden Graph Search earlier this year, but another feature from the social networking giant is likely to cause a stir when it hits our shores en masse.
ASB social media and community strategist Simone McCallum tweeted this screenshot last week, which shows the option to pay $9.95 to send a message directly to Prime Minister John Key's inbox.
Who else gets the option to pay $9.95 to Facebook Message the Prime Minister? twitter.com/simonemccallum…— Simone McCallum (@simonemccallum) February 28, 2013
The feature has rolled out to this reporter also, although I don't have anything witty to say to the PM (nor $10 to spare).
(It seems the price to message John Key has inflated by 1c since last week)
Previously (or currently if your profile hasn't updated) messages sent to Facebookers who aren't at the least a friend of a friend, go directly to that user's 'Other' inbox tray. The Other tray is a digital aether, it doesn't activate notifications and is ignored by most people. By paying Facebook a fee, you guarantee the message gets sent to the user's main inbox – making it more likely to be read by them.
Facebook is experimenting with the amounts it asks for to grant this favour. The average joe might only cost a few cents to message, the Prime Minister of a small island nation a few dollars, and the founder of a billion dollar tech company is worth $100.
Paid-preference seems to be designed as a spam-filter rather than a revenue generator. Paying to send a message, even a nominal amount, acts as a deterrent. Although, the other side of the coin is if the Other box is so ignored, why is it no longer sufficient?
The feature could be used to compete with LinkedIn, which has a similar feature with its InMail, allowing employers to send messages directly to potential employees on Facebook.
Tomorrow Facebook is launching its new user feed design. According to Techcrunch this includes some loving for advertisers with more ad options in news streams and the use of larger images in ad boxes.