Why We Need A Real Facebook Subscribe Button For Web Sites

This week, Facebook gave us the Subscribe Button For Web Sites. Unfortunately, the button doesn’t let anyone actually subscribe to web sites, much less the Facebook pages associated with web sites. Here’s what Subscribe does and doesn’t do and how things should change. Subscribe: Facebook’s Version Of Follow Back in September, Facebook introduced the concept of […]

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Subscribe ButtonThis week, Facebook gave us the Subscribe Button For Web Sites. Unfortunately, the button doesn’t let anyone actually subscribe to web sites, much less the Facebook pages associated with web sites. Here’s what Subscribe does and doesn’t do and how things should change.

Subscribe: Facebook’s Version Of Follow

Back in September, Facebook introduced the concept of Subscribe, along with a new Subscribe Button. It allowed anyone on Facebook to allow others to “subscribe” to their personal profiles.

Personally, the button dramatically changed how I shared on Facebook. I share plenty through my personal profiles on Google+ and on Twitter. But sharing on Facebook meant I had to decide who was my “friend” and let them in to my Facebook profile.

That, along concerns I had with Facebook over privacy, caused me to shift to using a Facebook page back at the end of 2009.

With the launch of the Subscribe button, I no longer had to decide who should be friended. Instead, it allows me to be “followed” by others in the same model that as Google+ and Twitter both allow. All I had to do (as anyone can do) was to allow Subscriptions as part of my account.

Consider this example for Andrew Bosworth, director of engineering at Facebook:

Facebook Subscribe

On his page, I get a sad-sounding message that “You and Andrew aren’t friends,” but that’s followed by a note that I can subscribe to him to see anything he wants to share with the world. All I need to do is click the Subscribe button that the arrow in the screenshot points to.

Subscribe Options

How Subscribe Updates Are Delivered

When you subscribe to someone, unlike with following on Google+ and Twitter, you won’t see everything they post.

Instead, by default, you’ll see “Most Updates,” with Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm algorithm deciding exactly which of “most” updates you should see in your news feed.

This can be changed by selecting the Subscribe button again and choosing a different option (as shown on the right), though I imagine most people don’t do this.

Updates themselves appear in two places. Most people, I imagine, get updates from subscriptions the old fashioned way. The updates just flow into your news feed, in the same way you get updates from friends or pages you’ve liked.

The Subscription Tab

The second option, which I bet few people use, is using the Subscriptions link, which appears on the left-side of your timeline, marked “A” below:

Subscriptions Page1

By default, the Subscriptions tab appears in the “List” area of your sidebar, but you can click to pin it to your Favorites area.

The tab brings up your Subscriptions page, where you can see the latest posts from everyone you’re subscribed to. You can refine this to certain types of updates using the “Updates to show” button marked “B.”

The Subscriptions area marked “C” shows you everyone you’re subscribed to (those who aren’t also friends; by default, you’re already subscribed to friends ).

The “People To Subscribe To” area marked “D” is a really nice way to find good suggestions of those you should follow (and it leads to a full page of personalized suggestions, which is also great).

You Can Subscribe To People But Only Like Pages?

Until now, the Subscribe button only existed within Facebook itself, on personal profile pages. This week’s announcement was about how the subscribe button can now be embedded outside Facebook, on web sites.

Get it? That’s why it’s called the Subscribe Button For Web Sites. You can make one using this generator from Facebook. Here’s an example of the Subscribe button on this web site, for my personal page:

But want to subscribe to our Marketing Land page on Facebook? You can’t.

You can’t subscribe to any Facebook Pages, which means there’s no subscribe button for them, whether those are buttons on Facebook itself or for their web sites. Instead, those pages can only use the Like Box/button for Facebook Pages.

How Like Is Different From Subscribe

It’s pretty crazy that Facebook pages — which are often linked to companies that have web sites — can’t be subscribed to. Examples of this weirdness can be drawn from Facebook’s own photo gallery of publications using these buttons. Consider:

Walt Subscribe

Yes, AllThingsD has a subscribe button on its site, but the button isn’t for people to subscribe to AllThingsD on Facebook. It only lets them subscribe to the Facebook account of Walt Mossberg, co-executive editor of AllThingsD.

Here’s another example:

Erick Subscribe

Yes, TechCrunch has Facebook’s Subscribe Button For Web Sites on it. But pushing that button doesn’t subscribe you to the TechCrunch web site nor TechCrunch on Facebook. It only subscribes them to TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld’s account on Facebook.

If you want to follow either of those publications on Facebook, or our own, your only option is to use a Like button.

Unfortunately, liking a Facebook Page doesn’t mean that people will see “Most Updates” from it, as is the case with Subscribe. Instead, only a small percentage (perhaps less than 10%) of all those fans a publication has enticed to “Like” their pages will see any post.

Can Publications & Web Sites Have A Real Subscribe Button, Please?

It really shouldn’t be this way. If someone wants to follow a publication or web site on Facebook, they shouldn’t have to hope that they’re not going to miss content they may want to see, because Facebook decided something wasn’t important enough to show.

Similarly, publications that have helped Facebook grow into the platform it has become by convincing their own readers to follow them there shouldn’t find themselves second-class citizens or worse, be required to pimp their writers and employees as “Subscribe” options in place of the publication itself.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that Subscribe exists and allows for writers to be followed. For individuals and public figures, using Subscribe with a personal profile may make a lot more sense than having a Facebook page. I’ve certainly been finding that, and Facebook has more advice on making the decision here.

But publications need a Subscribe option just as much, if not more so. After all, in what strange world is it where you can’t subscribe to a publication?

I’m hoping to hear back from Facebook more on this issue, including any plans to perhaps bring a Subscribe button out for Facebook Pages. Let’s hope so.

In the meantime, see this past article on our sister site Search Engine Land with tips at the end on how to make posts from your Facebook page more visible.

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Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Danny Sullivan
Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, MarTech, and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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