It seems Facebook is now following in the footsteps of Twitter by allowing what can be seen in Facebook terms as one way friending or in Twitter terms following. Facebook, however, have opted to call their unidirectional relationships ‘Subscribe’.
The concept of followers was arguably pioneered by Twitter with the vast majority of sites that have opted to have a social feature opting to use this term such as Tumblr and SoundCloud just to name a couple. With the ubiquity of “follow” in social sites coupled with the advent of Google Plus, it was only a matter of time before we seen a similar feature being implemented by Facebook.
So why is this so significant?
Firstly, the 5000 friend limit. Most talent start with a normal friend profile and as they raise their public profile with time most find that 5000 friends just isn’t enough. It is not uncommon to be unable to add someone because there profile is either maxed out or they “have too many friend requests”. It is equally not uncommon to see people with second Facebook profiles because their first profile has been maxed out.
It seems a lot of fans of upcoming talent prefer to add friends than like pages. This is probably due to a combination of reasons such as the personable feel of friending and the Facebook friend suggestions. This probably explains why you can see people with thousands of friends but only a few hundred likes.
I once had a conversation with African R&B star Theo Thomson where he mentioned that he had attempted to get Facebook to transfer his excess friend requests to his fan page. Although they were unable to do so at the time the facebook subscribe option removes the problem of excessive friend requests and opens a new avenue for talent and public figures to connect with their fan base.
It seems as though Facebook themselves do see the Subscribe option as a replacement for pages when it comes to individuals (not companies). This can be seen in the fact that they have enabled a feature to allow for easy merger of fans to Subscribers. This is great as not only does it build a slightly more personal connection but also it removes the need to update multiple pages/profiles. However, perhaps the only downside (for now) of using this as a replacement for pages is that you lose the social plugins that link to the page such as like boxes but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until we see subscribe boxes floating around people’s websites.