New Delhi: This is a social networking addict's dream come true. Facebook is testing a new feature that will allow a select class of users, whom Facebook calls 'Advanced Facebookers', to earn while using the social networking service. According to sources close to the programme, Facebook plans to pay the top 4 per cent of the first batch of selected users up to $1 per activity during the initial global rollout phase.
The new Advanced Facebookers (AF) feature is being currently tested amongst a small group of users in New Zealand, where Facebook usually carries out its initial trials before rolling them out globally.
The news was first leaked by Allay Floods, a Facebook user from New Zealand, who is part of Facebook's alpha test team for the new feature.
What is Advanced Facebookers?
Users will be selected programatically by Facebook and eligible users will see a notification (as shown in the image) above their Facebook News Feed. It says, "You have been selected for the Advanced Facebookers programme. Click here to know more." Clicking on the link takes the user to a page detailing the terms and conditions of the program. If a user agrees to be a participant, then he is taken to a page where he needs to enter his credit card details for verification and also bank account and other tax related information.
Facebook's terms state that it can take anywhere between 48 hours to 7 days to process an Advanced Facebookers application and also reserves the right to reject an application without citing any reason.
Floods, who is a senior anagram researcher at New Zealand Institute of Planning and Management, had posted a note on her Facebook profile detailing her Advanced Facebookers experience. But she soon deleted the post. When contacted by IBNLive, Floods said over the phone from Cape Foulwind, that Facebook executives had asked her to delete the note as it violated the agreement she had with Facebook while signing up for the alpha test.
While Floods refused to divulge further details, another participant in the alpha test shared more information via email on condition of anonymity. Advanced Facebookers are not necessarily people who are most active on Facebook or have the most number of friends or subscribers. Instead Facebook uses an algorithm to measure the authoritativeness of users on Facebook and the top 1 per cent of these power users will be the first to get invites to participate in the program once it starts rolling out.
Our source says he expects the test to go on for a few more months before it is formally unveiled at Facebook F8 conference in September this year. Asked about how much money Facebook is expected to pay to its Advanced Facebookers, "it can, for now, at best buy me a dinner at The George," he said. The George is the most exclusive hotel in Christchurch.
How much can users expect to get paid?
While how much users will be paid will vary according to how much they use Facebook and where they rank on the authoritativeness index and each Facebook activity of the Advanced Facebookers can be monetised, be it a status update or a comment or even a mere 'like'. Another source, with direct knowledge about the Advanced Facebookers payment model, confirms that during the initial global rollout phase, the top 4 per cent of the first batch of 2,013 selected users can expect an earning of up to $1 per activity.
Facebook plans to keep the payment model flexible, a like and a lengthy and interesting Facebook note will not be treated at par. How much users are paid will also depend on the virality of a particular Facebook activity. This means that if an Advanced Facebooker's activity triggers more activity amongst other Facebook users the earnings are likely to go up.
Why is Facebook doing this?
With over a billion active users, why does Facebook need to resort to paying its own users? "Competition," says Baz Bandal, head of the department of social media the Indian Institute of Internet. "Because more of what we call the power users, the people who set the agenda and have the most powerful voice online are in fact moving away from Facebook. Our research shows that Facebook use has declined among such power users and they are moving to other platforms such has Twitter and Quora."
"It is important for Facebook to retain the leaders, because of the herd mentality of online users, Facebook fears that other users might also follow suit. Therefore the money is an incentive to hold them back," explains Bandal.
Facebook's official spokesperson refused to comment when contacted but did not deny plans to pay users for using Facebook.
Dontu Seethecine, an Italian immigrant to the US, who was also one of Facebook earliest users at Harvard, thinks Mark Zuckerberg is losing the plot. "Zuck doesn't get it. This is Facebook, not Google AdSense. You have to treat users equally because when inequality steps in, it is fodder for a revolution. And revolutions bring things down."
How you too can board the Facebook gravy train
Though Facebook hasn't publicly announced the Advanced Facebookers program, it seems to be quietly inviting early-bird applications from interested users and also has put up a dedicated page for the purpose. If you too wish you be one of the Advanced Facebookers and get paid for what is otherwise a monetarily unproductive activity, click here.
Is Facebook's Advanced Facebookers program revolutionary or will it trigger a revolution that will break down the class barriers in the social network? Let us know in the comments.