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Introducing Subscribe: Facebook changes the game again…

September 14th, 2011 by Colin Carmichael

It’s a big week for Facebook. With their annual developer conference coming up, they’ve rolled out a few new features including “Smart Friend Lists” which I hadn’t even had a chance to write about here before today’s HUGE news: you can now subscribe to a personal profile’s public updates without having to friend them.

Here’s how it works. As you browse around the site, you’ll notice that some users have a button at the top of their profile that says ‘Subscribe’. Click it, and you’ll start seeing that user’s status updates in your News Feed, just as if you were their Facebook friend. But there’s a big difference: unlike normal Facebook friends, the people you subscribe to don’t have to approve your subscription request, and there’s no limit on how many people can subscribe to any given user.

Of course, Facebook has offered a similar feature called Pages for years now, which was meant for nearly the same thing (you’ll find that many journalists and politicians have already created Facebook Pages… because that’s what Facebook told them to do). The difference here, Facebook says, is that users no longer have to maintain two separate entities; they can just use the site’s sharing settings to decide which content they want to share very broadly, and what will only be shared with friends.

via Facebook Launches Twitter-Like ‘Subscriptions’, Lets You Share With Unlimited Users | TechCrunch.

What does it mean? For most pages that represent brands and organizations and for most people who don’t have “public” audiences this will mean very little. It is huge, however for people that have a need or desire to send updates to people who are not (or should not) be their friends.

If, for example, you have a profile AND a page that both contain your own personal name, you might consider merging them. Authors, politicians, musicians, and artists would fall into this category BUT there may be very good reasons for any of these to keep their pages and profiles separate, so get some advice before you press that merge button.

I suspect this new feature will be much more beneficial for people who don’t have a Page – but have felt that they should be connecting with people who are not their friends. These people (myself included) are usually very conflicted about who should and should not be a Facebook friend.

I can think of two professions that almost always fall into this category: teachers and ministers. Here’s this new feature could allow these folks to finally make the most of Facebook:

  • Limit your Facebook friends to your real friends and family with strict privacy controls.
  • Invite your students/colleagues/congregants and anyone else that wants to connect on Facebook, but isn’t really a friend, to “Subscribe” instead.
  • All of your usual Facebook activity will be seen only by your real friends.
  • on occasions where you want to reach your broader audience (ie: don’t forget that field trip permission forms are due tomorrow OR don’t forget about the Sunday School Picnic this week) you simply specify ‘public’ and everyone sees in their newsfeeds.

That’s my understanding of it anyway… I’ll be experimenting with this myself, but feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

Update: to enable ‘Subscribe’ on your profile, you need to go to the Subscribe page and click on the green Allow button.

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One Response to “Introducing Subscribe: Facebook changes the game again…”

  1. Thomas says:

    lol nice post… well played!