On average, only 16 percent of your friends see your Facebook posts. However, with promoted posts, one of Facebook’s newest features, more of your friends will be likely to see your posts than ever before, as it will allow users to pay to promote their friends’ posts.
Facebook hopes that quality content that’s supported by you and your friends will be featured at the top of your newsfeed as a result of this new feature. Some users have already received the new feature, but the gradual rollout will continue among Facebook users with fewer than 5,000 total friends and subscribers.
Facebook’s new service could be described as a paid version of Reddit, a free website for which users vote other users’ submissions “up” or “down” based on whether they liked them or not. The challenge for Facebook is that with free -- and immensely popular -- alternatives like Reddit, many users may not want to pay to promote their friends’ posts.
Facebook began testing the concept of users promoting their own posts last May, and it officially rolled out the feature to the public in October. Promoted posts usually cost about $7 or so -- and the price varies based on location and how many people the post can potentially reach. However, the feature allows users to promote others' promoted posts, which will help users reach a wider audience than they would without the service -- and potentially help Facebook’s bottom line as well.
However, the new promoted posts service could increase the potential for cyberbullying.
This potential problem could occur when someone posts, say, a photo on Facebook, and then that user’s friend decides to promote that photo. The problem is that the friend doesn’t need the original user’s explicit permission to promote the photo.
This could be a problem, for example, if one of your friends from college decides to promote an old embarrassing photo of you -- you won’t be able to prevent the picture from getting to the top of the News Feed for a large percentage of your friends.
This could lead to public shaming, which is considered a form of cyberbullying.
It’s a problem that Facebook has addressed in the past. The site has been proactively teaching users about cyberbullying, and it partnered with several anti-bullying organizations after a user named Amanda Todd committed suicide after being bullied on Facebook, which reignited the charge that Facebook facilitates cyber-bullying happened more than other social networks.
However, promoted posts might offer another way for cyberbullies to pick on their victims: By paying to promote embarrassing or personal content to show up at the top of the News Feed, Facebook could encourage users to embarrass other users for a small fee.
In addition, there’s no way to determine who promoted a post, so, as TechCrunch notes, a friend promoting an article written by you could be perceived as a shameless plug by you to get more of your friends to check out your article -- even if you had nothing to with the promoted post.
However, Facebook is quick to point out that there are a lot of benefits to the service. A Facebook spokesperson released a statement to AllFacebook on Friday, describing the feature thusly:
“If your friend is running a marathon for charity and has posted that information publicly, you can help that friend by promoting their post to all of your friends,” the post said. “Or if your friend is renting their apartment out and she tells her friends on Facebook, you can share the post with the people you and your friend have in common so that it shows up higher in news feed and more people notice it.”
Facebook will likely monitor this new feature to see how it’s used. It has the potential to be make Facebook into a more Reddit-like site, where popular posts dominate the front page on a merit basis -- but it could be used maliciously to embarrass or play pranks on friends -- only time will tell.
Facebook is planning to emphasize its mobile platform in 2013, and it will be interesting to see if the Promoted Posts feature will be included in its mobile plans. In the company’s most recent earnings report, Facebook said mobile ad revenue accounts for 23 percent of its total ad revenue.
International Business Times contacted Facebook to ask if any safeguards will be put in place to prevent cyberbullying through the new service-- and how the site plans to address potential complaints about it -- but it didn’t get back to us by the time this article was published.