Facebook Friend Circles and Facebook Subscribe
by Jo Shaer, on September 20, 2011
It was my friends in the US who first alerted me to the news that Facebook have diversified their sharing ability still further and given its users the equivalent of Google+ Circles and, only a few days later, the change rolled out to the UK as well.
For those of us who have gone through the laborious process of segmenting our 'Friends' into lists with common factors, this is going to be something of a bonus because these 'smart' Lists automatically update themselves according to the information people have shared about their work, family, school and city. So, if you have listed your school on your bio, you will automatically get a Friend list of all the people who are your friends and who also attended that school. They are also offering the option of Acquaintances and Close Friends so you can narrow things down even further when deciding who to share a status update with.
And, in terms of seeing those updates, it will now be possible to choose how many and what type of status updates you want to see from those friends in your newsfeed - as well as not being notified by email about these.
Another interesting change is the new ability to share other people's text status updates on your own and other people's Walls - before it was only possible to share links or images.
Changing things still further - and in my humble opinion introduing a new layer of confusion - Facebook have also introduced the 'subscribe' button. This allows people who don't want to be your friend to still be able to see your status updates - a bit like following someone on Twitter when they don't follow you back, where you can see their output but not communicate directly with them.
At first glance, it seems like a good thing because, not only does it mean that you can receive someone's status updates when you don't know them personally, it also solves the problem of having to accept thousands of strangers as friends - with all the associated hassle of deciding which updates should be shared with whom and having to have an inner circle of family and close friends - when you're trying to grow your persona in social media, journalism, politics or other niche where 'getting your message out' is important.
Where it gets confusing is that, until now, Facebook has always told such people that they should have a Page, not a Personal Profile because they are 'public figures' who are likely to have more than 5000 friends. But now they're saying it's ok to do this via Personal Profile and offering the option to convert Pages back to Personal Profiles and retain 'likes' as 'friends'.
Hmmm, didn't I just write a long post about the trials and tribulations of converting a Personal Profile to a Page without losing Friends and now...
Suddenly, I feel as if I have just come full circle.