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The Digital Skeptic: Facebook Has Many Mouths to Feed in Global Market

Tickers in this article: FB PCLN
With additional reporting by Apurva Chaudhary in Mumbai

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's never easy getting paid. And in this grinding global mobile economy, it's especially not easy for Facebook (FB) to get paid.

This year, the social media giant announced it would offer other countries, including India, the ability to pay to promote a post. Already well-known to American users, pay-to-promote, at least when I tried it, is where Facebookers cough up a couple of bucks -- in my case, $8 -- to get more folks to see one's Facebook stuff.

Life-changing it was not, but at least I paid for something on Facebook. And investors are betting that between these and other paying services some real money will really flow Mark Zuckerberg's way. Overseas markets such as India look particularly lucrative. There are 60 million some-odd Facebookers in India, according to SocialBakers, a Czech Republic-based social media search measurement firm, and these users live in a country with $1.8 trillion in GDP for 2011 that should grow in the 7% range this year, according to the World Bank.

It all seems so rosy, but of course it's the digital age. So it's not. Break down the nitty-gritty of Facebook offering -- and getting payment for -- a service in an emerging economy such as India's and it gets very clear very fast that Mr. Zuckerberg will have a lot of hungry mouths to feed before he ever sees a dime.

It's crowded in here
At first blush, how Facebook does business in India is how it does business here in the U.S. Harish Krishnan, who blogs about social media for BlogAdda, one of India's largest blogger communities, and who uses Facebook heavily to market and communicate from Mumbai, explained via email to me how Facebook's paid service works in his home country.

Users are prompted -- just like they are in the U.S. -- with an offer to promote a post for a fee. To explain, he included a screenshot of what an average Indian Facebook user, in this case Ravi Sethia, faced when trying to pay to promote a post on India's Facebook service back in September.

What happens, Krishnan told me, is that as services such as Facebook try to charge fees, something very un-American happens: All sorts of third parties flock in seeking a cut of the action.

"A lot of mobile carriers have included Facebook as a value-added service to incite more users," he said. "But there is a difference in the charges based on the mode of payment."

You can see Krishnan's point right there at the bottom of the screenshot he sent me ; users can either pay 99 rupees to promote a post if that cost is baked into a users' mobile phone charges; or 30 cents -- that's just 16 rupees -- if they use PayPal, a credit card or other service such as Western Union (WU) to pay Facebook.