Social Media

Facebook’s still free, unless you want to subscribe

Fi Bendall /

As Mark Zuckerberg famously promised, Facebook will always be free. But now it might let you pay a little more if you want to subscribe to certain groups.

As one of the regular tests rolled out to tweak and improve its user offerings, Facebook recently started to trial a feature that allows group admins to charge a subscription fee for membership to a Facebook group.

The limited trial is being run in partnership with a select number of Facebook groups and their admins. Alex Deve, Facebook’s product director of groups, explained that the subscription trial program comes in response to group admins looking for ways to better monetise through the platform as well as create stronger attachment and engagement for users.

“We hear from group admins that they’re looking for ways to help them earn money to deepen engagement with their members and continue to support their communities,” Deve said.

“Many admins do this today by creating an additional subscribers-only group that sits alongside their existing group, and rely on additional tools to track and collect payments. Subscription groups were created to make it easier for admins to provide these experiences with built-in tools, and to save them time so they can focus on offering members-only content.”

While plenty of closed-member groups already exist on the platform, a monetised subscription feature creates a new tier for groups, and potentially enables group admins to build on the services they already provide to users.

Depending on the nature of the group, it can be tricky for some groups to monetise what they do, even to the extent of making it a minimally viable undertaking for admins. The promise of an integrated subscription feature might make it a little easier for groups to finance their services to users.

No doubt part of what is driving this trial is the fact that Facebook is looking at all sorts of ways to keep users engaged. A big part of that is giving users the content they want to see and engage with on a regular basis. This is pertinent as Facebook is seeing young users move across to other platforms, especially Snapchat. The thinking may be that if group admins are adequately incentivised, they will be able to up their content game and keep users interested in staying on Facebook.

It has been a very tough year for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. Expect to see more trials and experimentation from Facebook as it looks to fend off challenges from other social platforms and maintain its position as the world’s number one social network.

NOW READ: Facebook slide as teens opt for Snapchat and YouTube

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Female Social Network and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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