Blog — 24 July 2012

By Alasdair MacGregor

Marketing Land has reported that last week a fan of its Facebook Page spotted a new ‘Subscribe’ button next to the Like button. It reached out to Facebook and received the following confirmation:

“We are currently testing the ability to subscribe to Pages with a small group. This feature allows people to receive updates from Pages without liking the Page. We have no further details to share at this time.”


Subscribe has existed for a while on Profiles as a way to receive content from individuals in an asymmetric relationship (as you can with Twitter) as opposed to the usual Friend to Friend symmetrical relationship. That Facebook may be rolling this out to Pages is a seemingly small change with big implications.

It may be that Facebook users have disliked the deeper emotional implications implicit (or inferred) by the Like button since it was changed to that from the original Be a Fan button and that this will be welcomed. For marketers it presents several issues.

Likes vs. Subscribes

Firstly, if current campaigns are designed to build reach via new Likes but drive a combination of Likes and Subscribes, what does this mean for the measures of success? If the aim of Likes is to build a ‘database’ of fans who have signed up to receive your content/promotions/offers and a Subscribe enables them to receive those, is there really any difference? Or should a Subscribe be valued less because it suggests a lack of a deeper relationship, widely accepted as the holy grail of social activity?

Secondly, what will Subscribes look like in Insights? Will we have a whole new set of graphs tracking Subscribes that sit alongside Likes and what other data will Facebook append to them? Will Reach apply to the number of people who see your content via a Like and a Subscribe combined or separately?

Thirdly, the Subscribe button has an icon that looks a lot like the RSS ‘sound wave’ which begs the question – where will users receive content they Subscribe to? In their Newsfeeds? In their email Inbox? Both?! And how will they be able to interact with it?

More Questions than Answers

Ultimately the new little button presents more questions than answers, and Facebook are not sharing more than the statement above. But to any brand using Facebook Pages this feature could represent as profound a change to the way users interact with brand Pages as the shift to Timeline earlier this year and consequently impact the way any Facebook campaign is designed and implemented.

Watch this space.


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