I have been publicly outspoken about my disdain for Facebook’s all over the map strategies (or apparent strategies.) From the attempt to force everyone to have Facebook email addresses, to the suppression of so many followers within our streams (I thought I had over 400 connections but I only see posts from 20?) and the large increase in ad content everywhere from sponsored posts to the mobile app…many different things have caused angst for members. My criticism to date has focused around their seeming desire to be everything to everyone…encouraging more frequent updates like Twitter (how are you feeling today?) and now adding hashtags, integrating job postings like LinkedIn…I have worried that Facebook would fail or falter simply because they had lost sight of their competitive advantage while searching for the right monetization strategy. I felt AOL’s past looming over them like a cloud (remember when everyone used AOL?) Seriously, we all know this about how the platform can be sustainable and make money. We get it and we want them to succeed.
All of this is to lead to my position on whether paid Facebook profiles is a good thing. By all means, my answer is a resounding yes. When Craig Kanalley from the Huffington Post shared an article on this topic on Twitter, I felt a sigh of relief as if Facebook were finally listening to those of us who were truly concerned about their focus. As an avid social media user for both professional and personal reasons, Facebook serves a very important purpose for me that no other social network has been able to fill. It is the only place where I feel that I can truly let my hair down and be myself. I have the ability to keep in touch with people I’ve known my whole life…who don’t care that I’m a chief marketing officer for an international company…they remember me singing in talent shows and care about my kids’ accomplishments. I am more careful about who I let into my Facebook circle than anything else on the web. Many of us have been burned by “over-sharing” on Twitter or other networks and have come to realize that our customers and future employers don’t necessarily want to know about every aspect of our lives. And we don’t necessarily want to invite them to the dinner table either.
I want and NEED a place that I can be myself and share cute pictures of my kids, updates on family and friends, or even sad news about illnesses or personal challenges. In a world that has become so social online, many of us lack a regular social circle for personal support and fulfillment. Facebook already has the corner on the market. With billions of members, it has already connected us to our family and friends and this continues to encourage new family and friends to join simply to keep up with each other.
I would gladly pay for this ability…I’d pay even more if I could block things from being searchable. I don’t want my most personal content mined by employers, recruiters, or competitors. I might even be willing to opt in to certain types of ads and opt out of others…but this is just me. For others, the idea of a paid Facebook account is vanity: controlling their personal brand. Many of these people have already created “Pages” due to the limit on friends or followers. But these people would most definitely be interested in an ad free version. This brings me to the final option, offering paid profiles to companies. As a CMO, I’d certainly like the ability to totally customize my company’s Facebook page and eliminate ads (or at least ones from companies I don’t approve of.) Back in the day, when I worked in Government, this was also an important aspect for agencies with the implied endorsement of products or companies advertised on their Facebook pages.
Last but not least, there comes the need to address Facebook’s promise to always be free. I admire this, but with the changes in platforms over the past few years, there is no reason why they can’t create a freemium model and still stay true to this promise. There can be basic, free accounts as they are now that the majority of people will use. The other 10% of us can pay for premium personal accounts. With companies, you’d have an even better opportunity to offer several tiers including free and this could maximize profits.
If you do the math, even with charging $10 a month for these premium personal profiles, Facebook could make a nice chunk of change with a small percentage of their 1.06 billion monthly users. I know many people may admonish this as Facebook not caring about their customers, but the truth is I think this is one of the most caring things they could do for their customers…giving them a choice in how they use and engage with the platform.