Why you want to pay to use Facebookby The Augustan on 12/29/2013
When you buy a product or service from a business, you become the customer. Being the customer means that businesses are responsive to you. Their success is based on your approval of what they are offering. To some degree, the customer has control over the companies that they patronize. That is the natural balance of commerce. Social media companies such as Facebook and many others have a unique business model: They offer a free service that a lot of people want to use and then try to figure out how to monetize it.
Once a brand has accumulated a huge pool of people using their service for free, how do they monetize it? In every business model, there must be a customer. For social media brands, the customer is advertisers. Facebook and many others are not in the social connection business; they are in the advertising business. The potential problem with Facebook’s users not being their customers is simple: The temptation of privacy infringement. Either we are the customer or we are the product. In the case of Facebook and other social media sites, we, the users, are the product. We are being “sold” to the customer, the advertisers. Privacy issues will always arise when the customer is the advertiser because the only way to improve services for advertisers is to provide more detailed information about consumers. It is not enough for social media companies to sell advertisers mere quantities of people; they have to sell specifics. Advertisers want to ensure that every dollar that they spend is going to penetrate their target audience.
As a result, those “Terms of Service” agreements that no one ever reads are going to become more and more intrusive.
Having your personal information sold to advertisers is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the trend of free social media services is leading to a gradual push towards collecting more personal information. Paying $4.99 per month to use Facebook may sound absurd now, but it may not sound as absurd in the wake of a declining user experience saturated with advertisements and solicitations. Or when information that was intended to be kept private is made public without prior consent.
It seems plausible that in the future Facebook will offer its users the ability to purchase items directly from their advertisers on the site. Imagine the implications of a single database full of millions of names, addresses, bank account and credit card numbers.
Does all of this sound far-fetched? Sure. That is, of course, until it happens.