If you open the Facebook login page, the first thing you see is the statement “Free. And Always Will Be” clearly below the spaces for your email and password. The catchphrase was meant to denounce rumors of Facebook creating a gold membership status for users who would be willing to pay for “extra” features in their social media experience. But now it’s seen as a broken promise to users who argue Facebook has done them wrong by monetizing pages outreach.
It’s not unheard of that companies will bend rules in order to loosely fit mottos they’ve committed to. Facebook is no exception. Now that rumors of paid Facebook subscriptions have been debunked, the company still seems to be toeing the line between being free and being a market commodity. Yet users who enjoy a free service shouldn’t complain about extended free features.
I use Facebook regularly to organize events, bring groups together and to easily communicate with people when I’m not near a phone — all for free. Facebook’s monetization options do not change any of those applications, but spreading your pages, ideas, business goals or mission statement now comes at a price that starts at $5. This fee allows promoters to “boost” a page’s reach by an additional 1,300 users.
An unboosted post only reaches an estimated 15 to 20 percent of a page’s followers. By hitting the “boost” button, an owner of a Facebook page can reach more of their own fan base, as well as audiences outside of their list of followers. Facebook does this by allowing you to target specific age groups that your page caters to already, which it then shares on the news feed.
The idea that the social media titan is doing everything it can to turn a profit — including sacrificing the “promise” it makes on its homepage — is a growing controversy. Companies and nonprofits have left Facebook over these policies and some individuals are up in arms every time Facebook suggests they “boost” their most recent post.
The truth is, they have no right to be. Facebook is free in regard to what they’ve promised from the beginning. Users can still keep in touch with friends and share what is important to them free of charge.
Websites are not causing harm by charging fees to get something extra — there was no contract or clause promising free networking for businesses or charities. It’s naïve to expect Facebook to continue providing free services without implementing either more advertising space or some form of micro transactions.
Facebook has a firm grasp on the social media market — its users’ logins took up 51 percent of all logins throughout social media in 2013, including Twitter, Google Plus and various other sites that only garnered a fraction of a percent, according to Gigya Customer Implementations.
The company has had very little competition since it bought out several rising challengers, including Instagram and Whatsapp. Due to its control of the social media industry and the nature of its business model, Facebook doesn’t have to abide by demands of its user base. If people don’t like the way it’s structured, they can move to Google Plus.
I’m not saying Facebook is right in its structure or that they shouldn’t change. I’m saying they don’t have to. As long as companies have the option of purchasing expanded outreach for their customers, they’ll use it and Facebook will provide.
Facebook abides by a monetization model of promoting pages and posts, and this model will continue to grow as long as demand exists. Given its massive user base, the social media giant isn’t going anywhere.