Author’s guide to Facebook’s new Subscribe feature

It was Wednesday, Sept 14, 2011, when Facebook introduced the Subscribe button, and in doing so changed the debate on the value of the Facebook profile vs. Facebook business page for authors, which I discussed in an earlier article, “Author’s guide to Facebook account vs Facebook Pages“.

With this new feature, when you see a Subscribe button on an author’s profile, this means a fan of the author can click the Subscribe button to begin seeing the author’s public updates right in the user’s own News Feed.

A few of the arguments in favor of the business page no longer hold water.  One was that the business page is more public.  No longer true, given that anyone can Subscribe to an author’s profile (non-business) page and begin to see posts the author sets as “public”.

Another was that the business page had more growth potential. Now, an author’s profile (non-business) page can have an unlimited number of users who “subscribe” to their public posts. There remains, however, the limit of 5,000 friends — this 5,000 limit does not include subscribers. An author could choose to manage only a profile page and reach the 5,000 friends limit, but continue to grow an unlimited number of fans and readers as “subscribers”.

The author Susan Orlean, who has 4,753 friends on Facebook at the moment (using a profile page, not a business page), captivated her friends and fans with this Facebook missive on the Subscribe feature.  Below are some of the comments she received.

Susan Orlean Facebook Profile picSusan Orlean, Monday Sept 19:  So I just signed up for that Subscribe feature. Thus Facebook inches ever closer to Twitter. Is this ultimately a good thing? Do we need two social media things that are exactly the same? Why do companies always feel their only move is to squash competitors rather than doing what they do better and better? Obviously I do not have the mind for business; I would make Facebook more Facebook-y and not more Twitter-y. That is all. I’m here all night, folks, doling out the business advice.

Here are some comments from the thread:

Kerri Karvetski, an online marketer who helps nonprofits and nonprofit agencies communicate and fundraise online, wrote, “I completely agree.”

Erika Mansourian, an editorial director, wrote, “I like the new “lists” feature, but I’ve been warned off the subscribe option quite adamantly. I’m not sure what the reasoning is, and I suppose I should find out, but I tend to approach these things with a fingers-in-ears-going-blah-blah-blah until the dust settles.”

Melissa Stein, author of the poetry collection Rough Honey, wrote, “i’m not really sure what “lists” or “subscribe” actually are!”

Steve Hollinger, a a sculptor/inventor, added a helpful comment, “On the plus side, no more 5k limit. Unlimited subscribers.”

Lisa Romeo, a self-described essayist/freelance journalist, independent editor, creative writing teacher, and book reviewer, wrote, “Too many changes here on FB; one can’t keep up. They keep making it more like a competitive popularity contest.”

Author Richard Sanders wrote, “Twitter is an FB concern, yes, but I think they’re really aiming their guns at Google+. The lists and subscribe features are direct G+ rip-offs.”

Tana Butler, a web designer, photographer, and copywriter, who currently blogs about beautiful, sustainable, small farms, wrote, “Twitter and FB are VERY separate for me. Privacy is more important here: I have so many followers I don’t know (and I don’t know why they follow me, especially the rug merchants in Jersey, e.g.). Here, I can be more myself—though not as salty. Twitter is much more bullet-riddled with the F-word.”

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