Well you know this had to happen, since you can still purchase Digg’s, and a ton of other forms of popularity in social networking it is not surprising that an enterprising company would come up with a way to allow people to purchase Facebook friends.
USocial is the company that will sell you Digg votes for whatever you wanted to get a lot of attention from on Digg, and now they will sell you 5000 Facebook friends as well. If you want to put a value on your Facebook friends, each friend is technically worth about 7.6 cents each according to Adage.com. They state:
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — If you’re a Gmail user who also happens to use Twitter, it’s probably been about five minutes since you’ve seen an ad promising to boost your follower count. The folks at online ad firm uSocial are taking that a step further: Pay them money and they’ll make you at least appear to be very big on Facebook. In fact, they’ll deliver you 5,000 Facebook “friends” for 7.6 cents per friend ($654.30), or up to 10,000 Facebook “fans” for a mere 8.5 cents a fan ($1.167.30). Source: Adage.com
If you want an instant following then this works, but there is something seedy about having to purchase friends to make your company or person look better. To me this is a form of astroturfing, which is seriously frowned upon in the real world. If you are not popular, then start doing things that will make you popular. Nothing against USocial, they do perform a function that for some people/companies might end up being important to them. USocial adds a spin to social networking that there is a market for, regardless of the personal feelings or opinions of others. They are also successful at it, enough to stay in business and enough to grow their business, there is obviously a need here.
One cannot pass up on the thought that this is really a form of cheating the community. If you have to purchase friends, what is the point of the social campaign that the company or person is working on? If you want to build community you need a way to connect rather than spending pennies per internet friend. I would much rather connect with a social media campaign that is honest and real, not something that is contrived, purchased or astroturfed. I cannot help but think that something like this is going to be found out, discussed on the blogosphere, and quickly panned or derided in the blogosphere once it is known. Things like this always come out, and there are always strong opinions about the whole idea of purchasing friends.
Of course people will purchase the service; obviously they will purchase the service. But in the longer run, how will people react when they think they have been cheated or mislead? That is the downside to doing things like this, the negative PR (Public Relations) might just end up costing more than what it would have cost to get 5000 Facebook friends the real way.
(Cross-posted @ TechWag)