The Rise of An Underground Facebook Profile Market

Over the past few days there has been increasing buzz about a market for Facebook public profiles. I’ve even received a few emails on the topic, one individual who was asking me about reasonable rates for purchasing public profiles. While I haven’t heard of any finalized transactions yet I’d expect this to become increasingly regular. Just last week Jason Kincaid posted about CNN acquiring the extremely popular CNNbrk Twitter account from another Twitter user who had been personally managing it.

On Facebook however, brands regularly contact Facebook to have fake versions of their public profiles shut down. At one point, Homer J Simpson was one of the most popular public profiles in our Facebook Pages tracker, with over 2.2 million fans. Suddenly the page disappeared one day and never returned. We contacted Facebook for comment months ago but never heard back.
Most recently Facebook implemented an electronic signature requirement in which users must be an “official representative” of the brand, organization, or person that they are creating the public profile for. While that isn’t stopping users completely, a larger issue is the creation of generic public profiles which some brands are complaining end up detracting from their company’s profiles.
While pages like “I want to sleep … 5 more minutes!!!” may seem like an entertaining joke, it can quickly become a huge promotional opportunity after hundreds of thousands of fans join the public profile. All status updates then go into users’ feeds. While only a percentage of users typically end up seeing the status updates, it can be a large enough to justify the acquisition of a public profile which is exactly what’s now taking place.
Potential acquirers that I’ve spoken to are considering paying tens of thousands of dollars for popular public profiles. The estimated rate per user is around $0.05 per user that has become a fan since the profile redesign. Why not $0.05 for every user? If a user had become a fan of a public profile prior to the redesign, those public profiles were automatically hidden.
In the end, this is the type of thing that takes place on any social media platform, Facebook being no exception. There are squatters, people that create public profiles for fun, and actual brands trying to benefit from public profiles. All of these parties appear to be clashing and in the middle of all of it, some enterprising individuals are actually making real money.
Do you think Facebook should be more restrictive or less restrictive of how public profiles are used? How much would you be willing to pay for a public profile?