by MORGAN CHESKY / KVUE NEWS and photojournalist JOHN FISHER
AUSTIN — Some call it a slippery slope; others call it an opportunity. Either way, Facebook’s latest change, where users can pay to promote a post, is getting plenty of attention.
Just five days old, Vintage Heart Coffee is carving a name for itself in East Austin.
“I just really believe in community and wanted to create a space for people to come and feel genuinely appreciated,” explained owner Mallory Alison.
In a caffeine loving city, Alison knew she’d have to set herself apart.
“We’ve really honed in on pushing the blog and the website through the Facebook fan page,” said Alison.
Almost 300 likes and counting, the page brought new customers without paying to advertise.
“Free is my favorite number,” smiled Alison.
For the business owner, yes. For a now public company, not so much.
“They have to make money,” explained social media strategist Lindsey Tyner. “They have investors. They have shareholders, they have to make money.”
That is why Tyner isn’t surprised at Facebook’s latest venture. It’s called promoting a post. Page users can now pay to make sure their message is seen. Prices vary on number of followers. On KVUE’s page, Facebook promises to reach a third of its following for $100.
“This could be something potentially big for small businesses to use in that same way,” said Tyner. “The concern is, is it going to get out of control to the point where it starts turning off users?”
On Facebook, user feedback is already pouring in. Dana Lang writes, “It’s a way for them to make a ton of money and to weed out the little guys. I’m not happy with it at all.”
Facebook stresses regular posts still work, saying paid promotion only ensures delivery when the volume of Facebook traffic is high.
“It’s a little daunting to be upping the ante — who’s paying and who’s not, and what’s going to show up and what’s not,” said Alison.
For now, the coffee shop owner’s only worry is what she can control — making a good cup of java.
Right now the pay to promote option is only for Facebook pages, not profile users. Social media experts say promoted or not, content is the most important thing. Posting shareable items such as photos and links are still the best way to getting people talking.