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February 23, 2012

Everything You Need to Know About the Facebook Subscribe Button

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Estimated reading time:
6 minutes

Audience:
Marketers, businesses and personal branding enthusiasts

Top takeaways:
• The Subscribe button is a great way to push content further and also build a brand.
• Choosing between a Fan page or a subscribe button to reach your audience depends on your business and niche. Sometimes both are in order.
• The cons of the Subscribe button include not having access to hard data, potential privacy concerns and an audience that perhaps isn’t targeted enough.  

The Facebook Subscribe function launched late 2011, and many have since adopted it as a way to share content and gain reach — further than they had been able to before. But, without access to hard data, some are questioning if it’s worth it to them, while others see it as a powerful way to market. If you haven’t made the decision on whether or not the Facebook Subscribe button is right for your business or branding objectives, read on. We’ll dive into the “whys” and “hows” of the Facebook Subscribe function, and what people are saying they’ve discovered about it since it’s inception in September 2011.

The Facebook Subscribe Button: A Brief Overview

The Subscribe button is a function on personal profiles and a great way to push your content (as a business or personality) further across Facebook and deeper into the Web. Think of Facebook subscriptions as an RSS feed for the updates you want to share publicly.

You don’t have to be friends with the people you want to share information with, yet they will still be able to receive your information in their news feeds. And unlike the number of friends you can have on Facebook, there is no limit to the number of subscribers you are allowed.

The way you share your posts to your personal profile is also customizable with the Subscribe feature. You can choose to make your updates public by default or you can use the drop-down menu to choose which updates you want public individually (there’s a whole slew of custom privacy settings for posts in the drop-down menu). That way, you can still keep your personal chatter with friends and family where it belongs, while having the ability to brand yourself and your business when you want.

The Facebook Subscribe Button Versus a Fan Page

Facebook suggests that if you are a big brand, the Fan page is still for you. But, if you are a personality-based business or a smaller business, where your name and face play an important role, subscription buttons might be the way to go. But, what does the data say?

Data on EdgeRankChecker.com show that between June 2011 and December 2011 (December being after the big Facebook f8 event that unveiled new changes to Facebook functionality), there was a decline in the average impression a Fan page post received per Fan. The report speculates the hybrid news feed that launched late 2011 was to blame.

And in a post by Brian Carter on AllFacebook.com, it states the average Facebook page only reaches 17 percent of fans. Eek. Brian provides a way you can check out your own numbers by using the following formula:

Average the reach of the last 10 posts and divide that by your total fan count.

But, here’s the flip side of Facebook pages: They actually allow you access to things like Insights, so you can track these types of numbers. So far, the subscription button doesn’t have data around it, so we’ve yet to tell how successful it is. In the absence of this personalized data, Facebook stated that subscriptions have been very successful for journalists in particular.

MarketingLand.com spotted a blog post from media analyst Jim Romensko that suggested most of his followers were spam. In a post by Matt McGee on the matter, he highlighted the experiment Romensko conducted in which he asked all 15,032 subscribers to reply back explaining why they subscribed to him. He only received 20 responses back.

And in a post by Romensko on Facebook subscribers and spam, commenters discussed the ramifications of these spammers to women in particular who were receiving consistent inappropriate comments. This raises some additional privacy issues for those who can be linked to a particular location or place of work.

For those who are concerned, adjustments to the personal information that’s visible may be in order. The Catch 22 is that one of the practices Facebook recommends for getting more subscribers is to make your work public. To get around this, you could experiment with creating a very generalized category of your own under “Work and Education,” describing the industry you’re in — but this is flawed when you’re trying to market as a business.

The post by Romensko begs the question: What good are subscribers if they’re not targeted? If your subscribers aren’t your target market, then merely counting the number of subscriptions you have is just as bad as relying on the number of  “likes” a Fan page has as an indicator of success. Maybe Facebook will come up with a way to make this feature more measurable in the near future. We can only hope.

What if You Already Have a Thriving Fan Page?

This is a sticky situation. Many of us at one point migrated our Facebook personal profile to a Fan page for one reason or another, whether it was to be able to grow the network past the allotted 5,000 friends  or to have a more targeted audience for the information shared. Then, along comes the Facebook Subscribe button, and we’re once again forced to think about the best way to reach the people who want to connect.

So what do you do? Do you let your Fan page die off and try to get people to convert to your subscription service? Do you mange two accounts and try to separate the focus? Many bloggers, journalists and personalities have decided to drive people to their subscription button versus their Fan page. Tony Bradley from PC World describes how the Subscribe feature made his Fan page obsolete.

I spoke with Brian Carter, keynote speaker and author of “The Like Economy,” to ask him what he thinks of a Fan page versus the Subscribe button:

“Content is central to social media versus social networking. It’s probably a toss-up in terms of effectiveness in the news feed. Pages give you more analytics and more advertising-for-likes ability than profiles. If you’re already famous, I’d do a profile. If you want to use the Facebook Insights and ads to grow your personal brand, then a page.”

A person’s niche may factor in a decision to choose one over the other as well. Journalists are using the subscribe button as an important part of getting their content out there because it makes sense for their objectives. That goes for other professions:

“For me, since I mostly talk about Facebook marketing these days, I couldn’t get a lot of ads approved because you can use ‘Facebook’-related terms in your ads, so subscription made more sense,” says Brian.

If you’re still undecided on whether to use a Fan page or subscription button, Facebook outlines the pros and cons of the Fan page versus the Subscription buttons in the following chart:

Facebook Post 2

Facebook.com’s Facebook + Public Figures also gives a lot of information on when to use a Fan page or a Subscribe button, and offers a guide on how to start with the Timeline and Subscribe feature in a PDF found on that page.

And of course, there are creative ways to utilize both a Facebook Fan page and the subscription button. I wouldn’t completely discount the value of a Fan page if you already have an engaged community. Subscriptions are to push content and a Fan page can still remain as an official “front” of your company that is a hub for all the important branding elements of your business all in one place.

Think of ways you can make the experience unique for your Fans versus your subscribers. It may take a little more effort, but it can be very much worth it.

How to Get More Facebook Subscribers

I asked Brian if there was a way yet to create ads on Facebook that drove people to subscribe directly. “You can’t get a Subscribe button in an ad. I thought about ads to my personal profile, but felt like advertising ‘just me’ would be too boring. I think it’s better to advertise specific blog posts, and if they’re quality, people will subscribe for more.”

Once people reach your content, prompt them with a Subscribe button:

“I use a Subscribe button on all my posts on BrianCarterYeah.com — it’s at the bottom of every post. That’s kind of like some people using RSS subscriptions, but more people use Facebook than RSS readers, so I think this is a more effective approach to that kind of thing.”

If you’re ready to get started with a button, you can download the code for the Subscribe button here.

A couple more tips Brian gives for prompting people to subscribe:

  • Always check your privacy setting before posting if you’re going to have subscribers.
  • Your timeline photo needs to be publicly oriented. If you’re doing a aiming to professional/personal brand, your profile is no longer a private friends-only endeavor.

Here’s what Facebook + Journalists, a sector of Facebook, has to say about creating content that works (click on the image to be taken to the original Web page):

Optimizing for Facebook Subscribers

Facebook + Journalists offers more tips on optimizing a profile for subscribers. (Note: If you’re in the business of marketing for your business, look to the tips from Facebook + Journalists for best practices even if you’re not a Journalist.)

You may also want to think about the different ways you can optimize all types of content you post so that it drives a conversion. For example, if some people are only subscribing to your photos, think about using the text surrounding the photos as something that gets them to convert.

In conclusion, the subscribe button looks like a great way to push content, build a brand and reach an audience that may have not been attainable prior. But, the cons still lie in the fact that we’re not yet given the data to understand what the numbers actually mean, and for some, privacy concerns and speaking to an audience that isn’t targeted will hold many back from participating.

What’s your take on the Subscribe button? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t? Please share your thoughts below in our comment section.





4 responses to “Everything You Need to Know About the Facebook Subscribe Button”

  1. Rick Vidallon writes:

    I have yet to receive an email or a phone from a new client or even an existing client who said; ‘I found you on Facebook, I read your article on Facebook, I saw your post on Facebook, I heard about you of Facebook’. What I am seeing with FB Likes, Posts and Subscribes… is that businesses are looking to market themselves and everyday users of Facebook are looking for friends.

    I think what most people are forgetting is that the key word here is social; engaging users on a social level. The deeper or more personal the connection you make stimulates the most conversation. Not a subscription button. That is best left to News, Blogs and RSS feeds… ‘just like we are doing here’.

  2. Nick Stamoulis writes:

    The subscribe button is still a relatively new feature and it’s possible that the average Facebook user isn’t even aware of the Subscribe option. They still understand the fan page though. Ditching your fan page is risky, because there is no guarantee that all fans will subscribe. Use both strategies if necessary.

  3. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hey Rick,

    Getting your content in front of the right eyes is the goal here. You can allow comments on your updates, just like you would with any other status update, so conversations can definitely be had.

    And, if you are directing people to your blog, conversations can be had there as well. Also, these same people on your blog could click-through to other pages of your site or see offers you are serving up and convert.

    With each social medium, only a fraction of what you post is actually seen and engaged with, so getting it out there in as many ways as you can, can’t hurt.

    But, you certainly don’t want to be wasting resources on mediums that don’t align with your objectives. It can never hurt to try it out and see what happens.

    Thanks so much for your comment!

    Jessica

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Nick,

    Agree — it is risky to ditch the fan page, and if it’s working for a business, I wouldn’t advise doing so. A subscription button approach can be a nice add-on for marketing content. Just wish there were more data available so we can see how it’s working for us.

    Thanks for stopping in!

    Jessica



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