7 Ways Facebook Can Make Money, Without Invading Your Privacy

Facebook privacy concerns reached a new warning level a couple years back when their product, Instagram, released new terms stating “you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service” That effectively paved the way for them to use your photos however they want, outside of their service, for profit… including the potential of selling users photos as a stock photography service.

Instagram later recanted and revised the terms. They cite needing to generate revenue as a reason for the changes, and that’s reasonable. Since then, privacy issues continue to rise. The issue has even sparked a competing social network to spin up, with goals to:

  • never sell user data to advertisers or third parties
  • never show advertisements
  • not enforce a real-name policy

However, there are many ways for Facebook and Instagram to generate revenue without expanding their license on user generated content or pushing the privacy limits to a new low.

These ideas are not innovative and rather plain. (If Facebook wants more ground breaking ideas, they can hire me 😉 Some of these ideas may invade the space of Facebook apps. That does pose a problem, but I think many users are in the same boat as I – we don’t need more third-party data sharing. With users losing trust in FB, the external apps are even less likely to be accepted. 

1. File sharing & backup

Dropbox, Box… have already shown that filesharing is a profitable space.  Facebook already has users uploading, for example, photos. Google+ does this as well, and they backup all of a user’s photos – but those photos count towards a storage quota. Exceed that quota and Google is happy to sell you more. Currently they charge $1.99/mo for 100GB.

2. Documents & Productivity

We’ve seen Google put docs on the web, with Microsoft and Apple following with their Office and iWork apps transitioning from desktop to cloud applications. If Facebook doesn’t want to create their own, partner with Apple or Microsoft to provide the service.

3. Photobooks

Taking a step back from the cloud and looking at ink and paper, photobooks are still very popular. Even with digital photos being so easy to share, families often prefer to have printed photos in books. Facebook has started keeping larger resolution photos. They would need to add the ability and permission settings for users to pick and choose photos and have them added into a photobook layout, then dropshipped.

4. Education

Online education continues to take off. I think Mr Zuckerberg would agree that a large positive aspect of college is social interaction. Bring socialization to the online education space. Take a drawing class with a friend, on a tablet, 6,000 miles away. The Facebook “Happening Now” feed would include “Your friends Jack & Jim are taking a Spanish class – peek in”. Sure the classes might cost a few bucks, but let other friends take a peek of what’s going on, so they can get a taste.

5. Affiliate programs

This isn’t that Facebook should create its own affiliate program, but that they should join a few. Facebook already has a ton of links, often to products. But Facebook isn’t making any money off of those links to Amazon. Quite a few web forums have found an alternate source of revenue is to tack on their own affiliate tracking when users post links.

6. Marketing Center

Google is slowly providing more and more tools for small businesses to better compete in the marketplace. Sure Facebook as their Pages and tools for marketing on Facebook and gauging social success, but there’s much more out there. Create a place where small business would gladly plunk down a few bucks a month to have one site for promoting their business. Businesses would find resources specific to their industry and their region to help them target and connect with their audience. Some businesses forego a traditional website and instead push people to Facebook. Making it a more fluid experience for the business and customer is something Facebook should embrace.

You might be thinking “doesn’t Facebook already do this?” Yes, but their tools are still really limited.

7. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is not new, and mining Facebook connections for money funding is also not new. However, there is huge room for improvement and Facebook could optimize the process. It would bring a whole new level to the “friend and family” round 🙂

Truth be told, I started writing this post over two years ago. What’s amazing is, even with Facebook’s move into mobile payments, they’re still not capturing other potential revenue streams. They could have vetted a few or all of these – there’s plenty of smart people there.

What other ways could Facebook generate revenue without prying more information from users?

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