All You Need To Know About Facebook Subscriptions

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.

Making Google + and +1 Better Together

Combining Google+ and +1 has always seemed like a no-brainer to me. They both have a + in their name, for Pete’s sake! But us Google+ users have seen little use for the previously released +1 button (that little box that lets you “recommend” a page to friends much like Facebook’s “like” button). Up until now.

Today, Google announced a new feature of the +1 button that directly affects, in a positive way, Google+ users – you can share directly to Google+ via the box that opens when you click on a web page’s +1 button. When you click on the “share to Google+” link in the box, you will get a link, a bit of text describing the link and an image, which will appear in your Google+ stream when you “ok” the share. No more grabbing URLs, navigating to Google+ and manually adding the link into your status box. Now there really is a reason to click on that +1 button – easy Google+ sharing.

Google is also releasing to publishers and designers the ability to edit the shared “snippet” via code for each page of a site. This gives control to the owner of the site over the content that ultimately is shared to Google+. Nice for both the user and the publisher.

Check out the announcement below. The feature will roll out over the next few days / week, but you can get an early view if you head over and sign up for the Google+ Platform Preview. Now they just need to figure out a way to catalog +1’s within Google+, so we can all keep a record of what we like.

Studio, +1

Back in March, 2011, Google trotted out its +1 button – a little widget that shows up next to your search results enabling you to “vote up” a particular result with the click. It is essentially another sharing button, but it comes with some strings – Google gains the ability to “tailor” your advertisements and results based on what you +1 (I see a new verb in the lexicon). In order to use and track them, you need to create a Google Profile, and your +1 saves will show on that profile, either publicly or privately. It isn’t a bad way to keep track of things you like, much like a Google bookmarking system, with benefits.

Now, Google is releasing the code to its +1 button and rolling the button out to major sites. Publishers can drop the code into their sites to make it even easier to mark down +1’s – if you click on a search result and view a page that you like, you can then hit the button there, instead of on the search results list. Check out the tutorial over at Mashable on how to add it to your site’s CSS / HTML editor. Or, you can do what I did on my self-hosted WordPress blog and add a plug-in that automatically adds the button to each post.

If you already have share buttons on your site, the +1 is a no-brainer. If you happen to garner a lot of +1’s, the number will show in the search results, which further impels your content in a viral direction. Like a universal recommendation icon for the Web. With these options, adding the button is easy, and encourages sharing, which, as they say, is caring. Hey – feel free to +1 this post, and click the little button at the top left!