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Facebook this week started offering its most popular members, those who have more than 5,000 friends and subscribers, the chance to pay to promote their own status updates and get more visibility, VentureBeat has confirmed.

The quiet rollout marks an expansion to a pre-existing test of a sponsored stories extension called “Promoted Posts for People.” The highly followed members, however, will be paying a much larger premium to keep their updates featured in friends’ and subscribers’ News Feeds.

“We are continuing to test promoted posts in the U.S.,” a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat. “As part of this, we are opened up the test to enable people with 5,000 or more friends and subscribers to use the product. We are also continuing to experiment with different pricing models. The price of promoted posts is based on a number of factors, including the reach and the number of people you are promoting to.”

Launched in early October, the Promoted Posts for People test allows regular folks to advertise their own status updates. For about $7 a pop, members with less than 5,000 friends and subscribers can pay to promote posts to keep them higher up in the News Feed and ensure that updates are seen by a larger percentage of friends.

At the time, Facebook told us the feature was meant for personal use only, say promoting garage sales or wedding photos, hence the friends’ and subscribers’ limit. Now, the social network has had a change of heart, as it’s giving the feature — albeit at a marked-up premium — to the type of people anxious to capitalize on their huge audiences: journalists, celebrities, and web-famous personalities.

This journo, who has more than 484,000 Facebook subscribers, was quoted $49, or seven times the regular rate, to pay to promote one of her updates (pictured above). I initially balked at the idea on first offer, but the next time I have a great story that I want to send eyeballs too, perhaps I’ll reconsider.

It certainly makes sense that the social network would want to help its most-followed users better harness the attention of their subscribers (especially since regular Joes and Janes don’t seem all that jazzed by the opp). That we have to pay to do it is an ethical debate I’ll leave for another day.

Facebook photo via Shutterstock

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