has been testing a pay-to-message service in the U.S.
since December, and now the trial has expanded to include some 36 countries, including the UK. According to the Guardian, about 10% of UK
Facebook users can now message
their favorite celebrities--for a price.
The cost is on a tiered scale depending on the popularity of the celebrity in question--about $1, $5, or $15 USD. (How exactly Facebook determines a celebrity’s relative popularity is a little unclear--it apparently has to do with a person’s number of Facebook followers and number of weekly messages--but we get a chuckle imagining them getting irate or fretting over their rating.)
"Time for my weekly Kardashian trio Facebook Message love pledge", he may be thinking
"It is being tested among a very small percentage of users,” a spokeswoman told the Guardian. "There is no set timescale. It depends on what happens, what feedback we get as to whether it is rolled out nationally. We are testing a number of price points in the UK and other countries to establish the optimal fee that signals importance.”
Facebook indicated that the pay-to-message move is about managing spam
while allowing fans to get messages to celebs, with the idea being that paid messages get routed to a celebrity’s inbox, while other out-of-network messages would land in the Other folder. Supposedly, the paid messages would be limited to one per week per user.
Unless celebrities are pocketing most of the cash that users spend sending them messages, this sounds like shenanigans. Facebook does things to make money that can seem shady, but while you could make the argument that some of those measures (i.e., targeted ads) are part of the cost of participating in free social media and can actually bright a small benefit to the user experience, this pay-to-message business offers zero benefits other than padding Facebook’s coffers.