When will we start paying for Facebook friends?

We are just beginning to see how social applications will impact the next generation of information workers.

I expect we’ll see the following within the next year:

  • Paying for “friends”
  • Facebook reputation replacing Ebay reputation
  • My Yelp

Two weeks ago I attended a Facebook mini-conference put together by Seth Goldstein’s SocialMedia. Not a single person mentioned opportunities for using Facebook outside a personal context, despite the fact that the room was filled with 50 of the internet’s best minds: partners from Sequoia, Greylock, Charles River Ventures, founders of RockYou, HotOrNot, etc.

Mainstream press and big institutions only mention the negative implications of Facebook in the corporate environment; they claim it is a distraction and a drain on employee productivity.

So far developers have become successful building Facebook apps that let you virtually bite a friend or send someone a virtual beer. I think this will change. These silly apps are creating 30 seconds of entertainment value, where future apps will have implications for billion dollar markets like investing, recruiting, information sharing, and sales lead generation.

Paying for “friends”

A new YC company, SocialPicks.com, should be leveraging the Facebook platform. They probably will. Social Picks allows you to find stock recommendations and follow successful investors. I can imagine an investor “friending” people for a subscription fee. After becoming the investor’s friend you have access to his stock picks. If you see that four of your friends are following Ken Fisher’s stock advice, you might be more willing to purchase his services. This stuff works on the real internet, why wouldn’t it work just as well or better on the Facebook enabled social internet. Cramer, you should be doing this! You could make Mad Money!

Facebook reputation replacing Ebay reputation

Give it time, but a Facebook powered Ebay competitor has the potential to steal that deeply entrenched market. Reputation is everything when you are selling online, and Facebook will own reputation, because all of your friends are watching.

My Yelp

You could make a seriously successful personalized service recommendation engine within Facebook. It would be like Yelp, powered by people you know. People trust the opinions of their friends. If you are making a decision about a doctor, or a restaurant for a fancy date, Facebook can connect you to the opinions of your friends.

Our company’s accountant gave me four business cards after our meeting the other day. He thanked me for referring him to a new client and asked me to give his cards to others. I’m Facebook friends with the founders of no less than 40 companies. I get asked for recommendations to lawyers, accountants, real estate brokers, and insurance brokers almost every week. Just think if this information was all in Facebook; I wouldn’t have four business cards cluttering my desk.

7 Responses to “When will we start paying for Facebook friends?”

  1. 1 Sunil Garg August 28, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    I don’t quite understand the paradigm shift you’re claiming with a movement towards “buying friends” — using your example of stock picks, how is this any different from subscribing to an analyst report service? The value-add you speak of is in seeing what your (real) friends subscribe to, which would be covered by your third point of a social review system.

    In terms of reputation, I believe the distinction between Facebook and eBay is that Facebook’s trust system is based off of your personal relationships, while eBay’s is based off of mostly anonymous transaction reviews. Facebook is already leveraging theirs with success on Facebook Marketplace. Watching them (or an app developer) extend that to incorporate some of eBay’s features will be interesting.

  2. 2 Matt August 28, 2007 at 10:45 pm


    I agree that “buying friends” is just like subscribing to an analyst report service, with the caveat that you mentioned; the value-add is that you see what your (real) friends subscribe to. This point does overlap to a certain extent with my third point. Good observation.

  3. 3 mikeb September 3, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    OK, I’ll offer a dissenting opinion.

    Just because your friends like someone or something doesn’t mean that it will be the right choice to you. The key is to get recommendation that suits you and your situation. If you think that you can get those from your narrow circle of friends, you’re not being realistic. Social services offer a very narrow view (unless you have a ton of “friends” in which case those are not really your friends but your acquaintances).

    As for Facebook replacing eBay’s rep, I don’t see it. Let’s think about the perils of it first. Let’s say you buy something from someone and you’re pissed off because you’re not happy with it. You demand your money back and you don’t get it. So, due to this bad deal you’ve just made an enemy that will badmouth you to all your friends on FB and will write on your wall/their walls all kinds of nonsense about you. Is that really useful?! It only takes one case of this and it can suck out all of the euphoria out of FB commerce. There’s a reason why you should never go into business with friends!

  4. 4 Ziomek September 3, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    I think that’s just bullshit. Stop talking about FB as if it was something so great.

  5. 5 Matthew Maroon September 4, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Facebook seems to be little trouble for eBay. The great thing about eBay is that when I list my iPod, hundreds of people will see it. I don’t have anywhere near as many Facebook friends as the number of people who viewed the nano I sold on eBay.

    Auctions rely not just on the percent of potential customers interested in your product, but the absolute number as well. An auction with one bidder is a total waste. So a site with 100 bidders bidding for 100 ipods concurrently is way better for the seller than a site with 1 bidder bidding for 1 ipod. Of course a site with 10 and 10 is probably almost as good as the former, but most people’s buddy list won’t support that for most things they want to sell.

    Also, reputation would appear to matter very little, given how close new items on eBay sell to their list price on Amazon, even when the seller has a mediocre feedback rating. The little extra trust can’t even come close to the huge marketplace. As a seller, I just don’t see the value of Facebook.

  6. 6 dj September 24, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    I agree it’s possible for Facebook to battle with eBay over reputation. Frankly, I’m surprised FB Marketplace hasn’t taken off more than we’ve seen thus far. Craigslist I suppose is pretty good for unloading a lot of things, and eBay can cover the rest. I would think FB can build a lead in selling textbooks online, then build out from that core strength to over items.

  7. 7 Jaws1 March 4, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Why is it that when a good, that is a user friendly site that happen’s to be free, we get these moron’s that want to make it a pay site. Leave it alone!!! If you want a pay site make one and let the rest of us enjoy using this site in our own way, or offer a for pay application that can be attached.

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