Facebook charges people to send messages now, apparently

The problem with switching customers from free to paid


I’m curious has this tactic ever worked successfully for online businesses?

Let’s backtrack. Earlier today I wanted to send a Facebook message to someone on Facebook without jumping through the hoop of adding them on Facebook. (I try to limit my contacts list to people I know or have met at least once)

And here’s what came up:

Facebook -Sending Messages -Charges Users

Did I pay? No.

I ended finding a different way to get the message to them outside of Facebook but it still made me think. Has it ever worked to charge people for an online service that was free before?

The problem here is without any notice, Facebook suddenly decides to charge for something that was previously free. It might have been communicated to everyone, I wouldn’t know I rarely use the e-mail I used to register for the service almost 5+ years ago but suddenly they want me to pay for something that is free.

Here’s what I think is the problem with that:

  1. It’s not just a price change it’s a paradigm shift. Honestly, if something is free and a user is used to it being free then adding a price to it (no matter how low) will make you look bad. And worse, you will probably meet resistance with that
  2. It looks sleazy. Unless you have communicated clearly why you need to do this, and when this change will take in effect your customers, upping something from $0 to $1 might not look like a big deal to you but to the user who suddenly has to use their credit card it just feels a little icky.
  3. Is it really that essential? In other words is your service all that valuable? This change might have happened eons ago and I’m just finding out because I rarely message people outside of my friend list as is, but to me sending messages to strangers on Facebook is one of those things I have always been able to do, but never really used. So if the goal is to stop people from sending messages to people outside their friend list THANK YOU, the less creepy “friendly” messages from strangers in one’s inbox the better. But if the point is to actually make money off this thing then Good luck with that.
  4. is what you are charging for irreplaceable? the behemoth of social media, Facebook, is unique, but is what they are charging for all that special? Can there be other ways to get in touch? My argument is if there is no alternative then users may grumble and complain but if they have no choice, then they have no choice. Of course, they might hate you for it, but they will grumble and make the switch or stop using the service. But with the option of sending an e-mail, a direct message on Twitter, connecting on LinkedIn there are other options online that I don’t have to pay for, so sorry.

Online or Off-line Communication is Key

Facebook has a history of not really communicating some of it’s shady low-key changes like when it created e-mail accounts for everyone, or its gift system. So really if your users don’t know it’s there would they really like your shiny new idea? Whether it’s a crisis or a new product or what you would consider a small change, communicating clearly with customers BEFORE putting something into effect can make the difference between a hit or miss. And it’s ways of communicating can be improved. Outside of people who are really into tech and social media I don’t think that many people out there that have heard of it’s latest News feed makeover. One would think with the number of increasingly intrusive advertising there would be something that pops up on the news feed of every user about major changes.

Buzz can only do so much if it’s industry specific for a product that everyone uses.

In my humble opinion

Personally, I don’t think Facebook was ever meant to be that big of a money-making machine, its essential -yes, but a big money-maker? I don’t think so. It’s like being charged for G-mail or Hotmail (or Outlook.com as they are desperately trying to re-brand themselves) you could make some money off the advertising and the business that are willing to pay to reach people but the user experience should be left alone. Maybe I’m wrong but the harder they try to make the ordinary user pay the more it feels forced.

By the way, for an example of a company that did manage to make the switch well, look at Hulu. Leave the people who are happy with the service as is alone, and make others who really want to pay for the extra perk of an unlimited experience pay (which for Facebook that’s businesses) It still keeps your core feel-good value of providing your product for free but allows bug fans to upgrade. But as Pandora would tell you, it’s really a hit or miss.

It reminds me of that TED talk Amanda Palmer gave that everyone raved about, let people choose how they want to pay or support you.

Have an opinion? Share it below!

Starting from Scratch: The Newbie’s Guide to top 5 Social Media Networks

By Daisy Quaker

Fingers typing on keyboard-Beginner's Guide to Social MEdia for BusinessWhether it’s for business or networking use, social media has exploded to become a staple to any Internet user’s day. Checking your Facebook or Twitter accounts and connecting with people has become a necessity for business or personal use. Everyone is on social media, by everyone; I am referring to, for example, the 901 million Facebook users.

You can’t afford to ignore social media.

I can relate to this because I tried. When Twitter came out, I thought it was a fad. I assumed it was for the egocentric that wanted everyone to know what they were thinking at every minute. I was not eager to share my thoughts with the world. But a year passed, and then another, and another, and Twitter was not going away, quite the opposite, it kept growing. Until I finally had to swallow my pride, and admit that the social network was here to stay.

In that time where I was stubborn, I missed out on learning how to use it as a networking and business platform, all because I stuck my head in the sand.

Are you ready to develop your social media strategy?

Download the FREE guide:  The Newbie’s Guide to Social Media (No commitment, no obligation)

Even if you have some accounts out there, understanding the power and potential of each can set your business apart, and worth following.

But with the so many platforms out there, finding the right tools to work for your business can be a challenge, and can occupy a full day’s work. Big companies and brands can afford to have a dedicated social networking professional managing their multiple accounts, but what about small businesses?

It is tricky figuring out which social media platform is right for your business if you don’t know how they can each be applied. Most marketers are not even talking about how to build your brand on social media anymore, the conversation has moved from what is it, and why use it to how to manage it.

This guide initially started out as a post, but as it progressed I decided a better course of action would be to offer it as a short free guide is yours to download, share, e-mail or whatever you wish to use it for.

This free guide does 3 things:

  • Breaks down the basic definition of each platform
  • Gives a snapshot of the number of user on each network
  • Talks about how to apply each network for marketing your business

The market and users are on social media, your business should be too. So without further ado here is the Newbie’s guide to social media platform, because it’s never to late to join the party.

Download the guide free of charge at no commitment. Use as you wish, share with people you think might find it useful and enjoy.

Click this link to download this short, free guide.

Image credit: Flickr- Saxoncampbell

This post is part of a weekly series, on the essentials guide to Marketing Planning, and Online Brand Development.

Daisy Quaker is a freelance internet marketing consultant, specializing in social media strategy, content marketing, e-mail marketing and internet marketing strategy, find her on Twitter and tell her what strategies work for your business.