My first tryst with virtual Social Networking came in 2007 with Orkut where in you could interact with people you might not be in touch with; enjoy a few social games as well as share jokes and interesting facts within a group. But Social Networking has been redefined by Mark Zuckerberg’s “Facebook”. The social networking platform has grown rapidly in the past few years and become almost like a daily binge habit across the masses.

If I am being brutally honest, I am less concerned about checking my Outlook for mail in the morning and more eager about what’s new on my Facebook page’s News Feed! And I am pretty sure that there’s a mass majority who would have a similar routine ;p What’s even more interesting is the amount of apps (mostly time killing) that can keep us engaged as well as the user created pages which serve as a more than efficient source of information and updates about your topic of interest. This makes Facebook a lot more than a social networking tool. Add to that the seamless integration it has on various mobile OS’s which just increases its reach and popularity.

Now that’s one part of Facebook; the user concern part that is. The other one has a lot to do with online marketing and business promotions. Major brands have their paid ads hosted on public profile pages depending on user preferences while online commerce portals benefit a bucket load from this. Using Facebook as a medium, businesses are able to reach a more extensive audience base with minimum costs as well as attract a whole host of new ones with online contests and offers. And all this gets done at a fraction of the cost (close to nil in most cases) which makes Facebook a preferred option.

But even giants feel the pressure in this ultra-competitive business arena. After Facebook’s IPO failure, Facebook has launched a number of new paid features with Paid Post Promotion being the latest amongst them.  Now whenever you go do a status update or share a link you like, the posting options give you a “Promote” option to increase the visibility of your post amongst your friends. I am not sure about other countries, but the price prompt I have had whenever I tried the feature was $0.30 (or 16.00 INR). Reactions to this new add-on have been mixed to say the very least. Even I am a bit on the fence with this.

As far as I see it, the feature has two sides to it. From a personal user perspective, the vast majority will obviously not be in favor of the feature as one would conceive it ill to pay Facebook to promote their posts. The belief around the block is that we would be plunging in to newer depths of virtual obscurity if we have to pay for our friends to notice our posts. They can engage in a post if it’s interesting enough. Plus, there’s the risk of spamming on your friend’s walls which is most likely to be scrutinized even further. On the other hand, business promotions might be more viable due to the prospect of reaching more people and takes online promotion a notch up.

My personal take is that this feature will have a split opinion from a user and commercial scenario and only a clear tilt in favor of either of the two will determine the fate of Facebook’s latest initiative. My question to you: a good step by Facebook or a desperate act of monetization??