Facebook’s “Promote” button that started becoming available to users in India this week is a great example of how an excellent idea can turn somewhat poor when implemented. Interestingly, it also provides a cue to how telecom service providers can collaborate with social media companies to ramp up their app and VAS revenues, respectively.

The “promote” button has been available in the US for some time. (See: http://www.businessandmarket.net/2012/09/facebook-linkedin-rapidly-extending-new.html)
The feature looked like a brilliant monetization Facebook idea to me that would also be a win-win for the users and potentials ‘promoters.’ However, I also decided to spend some money and test the feature before commenting on it.
I tested by promoting a link I had posted less than six hours ago (it also included my website address) and by the time I had completed the process I could see that it was a bad idea from a ‘promotion’ perspective. Why?
As a decently regular user of social media, including Facebook, I could very well see that in its given form a ‘promoted’ post would best be tolerated by the users as an irritant force-fed to them by fellow users.
An overuse of “promoted” posts could soon come to be described as ‘spam posts’ and users would soon be looking out for ways to block such messages. And that would make the whole idea and exercise of “promotion” meaningless.
Indeed, the feature promises to be a money-spinning opportunity for Facebook in the short term, so it may be difficult for the social media giant to not promote it in big way, but it would help to be mindful that the long-term fallouts could be detrimental.
Facebook will indeed need to re-think the “promote” feature in social-media-like ways.
Once perfected though, such features and apps hold promise to open up new revenue streams for the telecom service providers too, who are faced with increased regulatory and competitive pressures in the value-added services (VAS) segment.
For instance, when proceeding to promote a post, the various payment options thrown up also include an option to pay using the mobile number registered with Facebook. I used the mobile number option because it appeared to be the safest and quickest among the other available options, particularly in view of the fact that Internet security experts often advise against using credit cards on social media.
For postpaid mobile subscribers, the “promote” expense reflects as an app charge, and is integrated with the next bill. (For prepaid mobile subscribers, ideally it should get charged only if there is enough balance in the account.)
Indeed, one would assume that telcos would get only a small percentage of the transaction for a “promote” like app because telos are neither the app developer nor the platform provider in this case. They would nevertheless make money if the volumes are big. But more importantly, this should trigger a greater need for them to look afresh at social media and explore app ideas of their own that would work on a Facebook, a Twitter or a LinkedIn.
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