Facebook is offering website owners and authors more ways to help their readers discover, curate and share content. With Facebook's latest Subscribe button for websites, users can subscribe to their favorite authors straight from within their respective websites.
While Facebook initially favored mutual connections as friends, the social network has since evolved to support one-sided connections, particularly with the "Subscribe" feature. Working like a Twitter follow or Google +1, Subscriptions let users follow public updates from another account without necessarily adding that user as a friend. This way, followers need not wait for the other party to approve a friend request. One also need not expose one's personal details to the followed party.
Mark Zuckerberg has about 10.26 million subscribers, according to the above button. He's not necessarily friends with each one.
Subscribe to My Posts
Facebook has since extended support for subscriptions to the official Comments Box plugin that lets website and blog owners incorporate a Facebook-based commenting system to their sites. With this feature, top comment-posters get the opportunity to get more subscribers. But apart from that, Facebook has recently updated its system such that authors can now feature the Subscribe button right on their websites.
The Subscribe button for websites works just like the button on Facebook; once clicked the user will begin seeing the public posts of the person they have subscribed to in his or her News Feed. The subscribe action is also shared -- allowing others to subscribe directly via the News Feed stories, and further increasing viral distribution.
Much like the "Like" button, which effectively bookmarked a webpage or Facebook page on one's social networking profile, the Subscribe button gives web publishers an option for fans and readers to add their content to Facebook. Only with subscriptions, each public post made by an author on his or her Facebook account will be shared to a subscriber's News Feed.
The Facebook Subscribe button can be added in three ways: Through an Extended Facebook Markup Language code, HTML5-compliant markup and an iframe, for broader compatibility with legacy websites and browsers. Facebook's Subscribe Button reference provides more layout styles and functionality.
Are You Subscribed Yet?
Facebook says that a number of prominent websites already feature the Subscribe button for their authors and contributors, including AllThingsD, Newsweek, Forbes, TechCrunch, Time and the Washington Post, among others.
Even with the advantages of sharing content through subscriptions, some argue that posts made available to subscribers and friends be mutually exclusive, so authors don't flood their friends' news feeds with posts, links and updates meant for subscribers. However, Facebook subscriptions have one distinct advantage over Twitter follows and even Google+ Circles. The very act of subscribing is broadcast in one's news feed, which gives a viral aspect to the subscription itself. Your friends and other users following your profile will see that you've subscribed to a certain author or site, and might likewise subscribe to that content.
For Facebook, adding a means to subscribe to authors and content from third-party websites will help increase the visibility of the Subscribe feature, as well as help promote more subscriptions and readers. It's also a way to target one of its bigger competitors, Twitter, head-on, in particular with the asymmetrical means of social connectivity.