The new feature is also going to come with a personalized Suggested Subscription list – a personalized recommendation to help people find interesting non-friends to receive public updates from. Think friend suggestions based on who users have mutual friends with – these will be suggestions for subscriptions based on connections and demographics. There are lots of new bits and pieces of subscription information being published now on the site, no doubt in an effort to increase user engagement with the feature and promote viral adoption. You also will see who has subscribed to who when you visit a person’s profile.
Facebook has been a busy bee lately, trying to drag its social network into the modern age with tailored sharing and connecting, much along the lines of the coolest Google + features. I have no problem with that – competition being a good thing and imitation being the highest form of flattery and whatnot. Rather than go through an exhaustive analysis of all of the new features, I thought I would highlight one particular feature that rolled out yesterday that I think could seriously change the entire dynamic of Facebook.
Up until now, there has been this guarded approach to connecting that requires both a friend request and an acceptance in order to open the door to all the valuable content shared on FB. If you are a content junkie, like myself, it is pretty easy to amass a fairly large number of “friends” on the service. But are they all really “friends?” What if you simply want to follow a person, a la Twitter, and see their public information without all the commitment that a formal friend engagement entails?
Facebook Subscriptions will allow just that – the ability to follow another FB user without becoming “friends” and without requiring a mutual relationship – a one-way follow model reminiscent of Twitter. When you subscribe to someone on FB, you will see only their public posts. Tailoring posts has become much easier now that Facebook allows you to set privacy with each individual post via a drop down button in the status box. When you subscribe, you will see the subscription’s public posts and when people subscribe to you, they will see yours.
When you opt into the Subscribe feature (nice FB – thanks for not turning it on by default), people will see a Subscribe button on each person’s profile or on each post in the News Feed. They can click on your Profile to follow your public posts without first getting your approval. You can set whether or not subscribers can comment on your public posts. Subscribers can specify exactly what kind of content they want to see from you – all updates, most updates or important updates only, photos and vids, status, games, life events, etc.
This feature will definitely appeal to people with broad appeal – those who may have hit the 5,000 friend limit and have had to turn to Pages to manage masses of fans. It might also appeal to the little guy too – you get the option to share with a broader audience and, given FB’s numbers lead when it comes to social network population, this is not a bad thing for on-line publishers and content creators. Will it replace Pages entirely? No – because Pages still offers some features (analytics, multiple admins), that Profiles do not. But, if a person or brand would like to simplify their FB experience into a single presence, the new Subscription feature and the ability to merge Pages with Profiles will allow a more personal and efficient approach. Check out the comparison chart between Pages and Subscriptions below:
Subscriptions are not just for new connections – it also will appeal to anyone who wants to tailor the content they receive from their existing friends, either from their profile or on each post in the News Feed. Use the Subscribe button to limit / define exactly what and how much you want to see. If you subscribe to others, you will see a new Subscriptions entry in the left menu on your profile, from which you can adjust settings.
Behind the scenes, Facebook has implemented some nice touches via their powerful algorithms to tailor content on your News Feed and your notifications. With all the new ways to receive and consume, it is nice to hear that there is some filtering and control available to adjust the settings, so to speak, with decent tweaking on by default. You should be aware that there is no requirement that you enable a Subscription button on your Profile – if you choose not to, your FB experience will not change in any way. But if you do, then you open the door to more engagement with privacy options intact. And there is no doubt in my mind that, while FB has borrowed heavily from the Twitter model, the new features vastly improves on it – offering fine tunnig of content-in and content-out if a far more meaningful way.
I have to say that I am pretty impressed with FB’s bold move here. I had always pegged them as to proud to change that friending model that has defined the service from its start – a service built on “belonging to a club” so to speak. Now everyone can join the club. But you just don’t have to listen to everything each other has to say.