Facebook “subscribe” – no need to panic.

The debate’s raging on comments boards about the purpose and implications of Facebook’s new button.

Cynics and naysayers were quick to jump to the “they’re trying to be Twitter! They’re trying to be Google+!” conclusions, damning the site for succumbing to some sort of non-existent pressure to be like other social media sites.

Other people have accused them of being “reactionary”, and moaned that this feature is confusing, and increases the risk of offending people and how do I decide if  I should be friends with someone or subscribe to them and what about my pages and oh my God HOW CAN THEY CHANGE FACEBOOK?!

The official line from Facebook Product Manager Naomi Gleit is “Facebook has always been working on giving users more control.”

So while the blogosphere is doing a lot of nail biting about how to navigate the new etiquette and technicalities, and worrying about the direction Facebook’s taking, let’s take a step back and look at the actual purpose of this controversial little button.

Facebook have pointed out that some of their users, namely journalists, political figures, prominent bloggers etc, have signed up to their “pages” option. These people aren’t brands or companies so they don’t want Facebook to be a sales platform for them, but they do want to use it to engage with their audience.

The subscribe button allows them to move the fans of their page across to their personal profile as subscribers, and reach their audience from one feed. From there, they can share media and updates either with actual friends, or with both friends and subscribers by opting to share things publicly. Companies will keep their pages and use them as before.*

That’s it people. Really, that’s it.

Now, undoubtedly it will evolve beyond this and change overtime, and some like The Sarcasmist have pointed out the stalking potential of this button, suggesting that it could be used to keep tabs on people who’ve rejected you as a friend. Perhaps, but you have to opt to allow subscribers. And then you have the option to only share non-private stuff with them. So if you do want to use Facebook for stalking I suggest you try the more effective method of setting up a fake profile. Or for guaranteed results just go with the tried and tested dark clothes and binoculars tactic.**

* Unless they want to do some boundary pushing marketing campaign involving using employees personal pages, but that’s for a whole other post about Facebook marketing.

**Venn Digital does not condone stalking, cyber or otherwise.