If you’ve been playing around on Facebook lately, you may have noticed yet another new button popping up in the top right of people’s profiles. The new button, which is a “subscribe” feature, was introduced on Wednesday in what many are calling an attempt to copy social media rivals Google+ and Twitter.
The new feature allows users to “subscribe” to people’s profiles and see their updates without being their Facebook friend. The updates of people you subscribe to will appear in your news feed along with your friends’ updates, however, you will only be able to see the updates that the poster marks as “public.”
For those who are concerned about the privacy of your posts, note that if you have your settings on “friends only,” subscribers who are not your Facebook friends will still not be able to see your updates. And if this still isn’t satisfactory, you can always disallow the subscribe option altogether so you will not begin accumulating subscribers.
The concept of subscribers who are not not your Facebook friends seems a little odd to most, but for thought leaders, celebrities, and public figures the new feature may become a powerful tool. Now, instead of merely having Facebook pages, public figures can also broadcast directly from their profile to interested followers, much like a Twitter account. This will be especially important for musicians, journalists, and other small-time public figures that do not currently have a blown-out Facebook presence and will help them get around the 5,000 friend limit that Facebook imposes.
Though the main premise of the subscribe button is to be able to follow people you’re not friends with, you can also subscribe to friends. If you subscribe to a friend, you will be given the option of how many and what type of updates you receive about them in your news feed.
For example, you can block out a friend’s constant Farmville updates and only request updates deemed “important.” While Facebook has always let you block certain friend’s updates from entering your feed, this new feature allows you to cut out overzealous friends’ random posts without missing out on major news, such as an engagement, that you would want to know about.
However, while the subscribe button has benefits for individual users and public figures, the feature does not bring anything to the table for businesses. You cannot subscribe to a company page, and while Facebook will be rolling out a tool to migrate all of a Fan Page’s fans over to subscribers on a personal account, if you choose to do so you will lose all of your Fan Page content. Additionally, while profiles are prioritized over company pages in search, and are easier to update on the go, they don’t have analytics associated with them and can’t be updated by multiple admins, which poses a problem for companies on Facebook.
So the bottom line? While this tool may be helpful in cleaning up your news feed and may help a select set of moderately popular public figures advance their Facebook presence, the impact of the tool is somewhat limited. Maybe the subscribe button will catch on, but for now, it appears to be an imitation of the much more popular Twitter “follower” model. As such, businesses would be better off keeping their company pages and leaving their public status updates on Twitter.
Posted by Nicole Hall, Account Manager with Mobilize Worldwide. Mobilize Worldwide develops mobile apps, mobile ad campaigns, mobile websites and just about anything else related to mobile marketing for brands interested in growing their sales and revenue using this new and emerging medium.