Facebook today announced that it will expand its test that allows users to pay to promote their personal posts at the top of friends’ feeds.
The test was first conducted in New Zealand in May and began to roll out to some users in 20 other countries last month. Today it will begin to appear for U.S. users with fewer than 5,000 friends and subscribers. Originally called “highlight,” Facebook is now calling this option “promote,” which is what it also calls an advertising feature for business and fan pages.
Users who are part of the test will see a promote button next to Like and comment on a user’s Facebook posts. After clicking “promote,” users will be taken through a payment flow. Over the past few months we’ve heard of prices ranging between free and $16. Facebook is likely testing a range of price points to understand demand.
Users who promote their posts will see some basic analytics on what percentage of people viewing their post saw it organically versus because of the paid promotion. Facebook says that promoting posts doesn’t change the audience that will see a post but it will appear higher in News Feed with a note that it is sponsored.
Promoted posts could be useful for letting friends know about garage sales, fundraising efforts or roommate searches, but Facebook also suggests using the feature for engagement announcements, wedding photos or other big news. This seems odd and reflects poorly on the social network’s algorithms that are meant to surface this type of content to the people it is most likely to matter to. For example, Facebook engineer Jocelyn Goldfein recently told Business Insider about the work she did to make sure that important news was shown to users even if they haven’t logged into Facebook in a while.
“We finally ended up dong some natural language processing and looking at the words,” Goldfein said. “Things like ‘thank you’ and ‘congratulations.'”
If that’s the case, it’s unclear why a user should pay to promote these types of posts. However, the feature is only a test and Facebook can monitor usage and sentiment to determine if it’s something worth pursuing. For example in 2009 the company tested a way for users to give give each other Credits for content they shared in the feed but it was never rolled out widely. The expansion of promoted posts to the U.S. suggests that tests in other countries went well.