Facebook is testing a new system that would allow users to pay for their posts to be prioritised in friends' news feeds.

The “Highlight” feature was first discovered by a Facebook user in Whangarei, New Zealand, where the trial is being conducted.

According to a report in Stuff magazine, the user was given the option of paying $2 USD via credit card or PayPal to highlight status updates and picture posts with a yellow background.

At first, the user thought the offer was a scam. However, Facebook has confirmed in a statement that the offer was genuine.

“We're constantly testing new features across the site. This particular test is simply to gauge people's interest in this method of sharing with their friends,” the spokesperson said.

The company is reportedly testing different methods of highlighting posts, and is thinking of implementing a range of charges to make posts more visible. The spokesperson did not say whether the trial would be extended to include other territories.

Facebook is currently funded by advertising and this trial marks Facebook's first attempt to make money directly from its users. It comes just a few weeks ahead of its initial public offering (IPO), which is expected to value the company at $85 billion to $95 billion (£53 billion to £59 billion).

Enders analyst Ian Maude told BBC News that we should expect to see many more tests like this as Facebook explores new ways to make money. He said that while Facebook's revenue has grown faster than its audience in the last few years, growth had slowed in the last six month.

Facebook is also hoping to tidy up its privacy policy, which has been the subject of some controversy, ahead of its IPO later this month. However, privacy advocates are interpreting the move as an inadequate attempt to quell privacy concerns.

Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, also said the upcoming IPO will lay the groundwork for greater threats to user privacy.

“Facebook can't possibly protect the privacy of its users and grow as publicly traded company. It's going to be increasingly difficult for them to grow their business significantly without collecting and monetising more of its data,” he said.