Facebook Lets You Subscribe to Strangers' Posts...Sort Of

A new Subscribe button lets users follow people's public posts even if they're not friends. Here's what you need to know about the new feature, and how to determine if it's for you.

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Facebook sure has been busy.

First was a complete overhaul of its privacy settings. Then this new friend list feature. And if there weren't enough ways to keep tabs on your friends (or ignore them), Facebook just launched a Subscribe button that lets you choose what you see in your News Feed, and keep tabs on people you're not friends with.

Facebook says this new Subscribe button will do three things:

1. It lets you choose what you see from people in your News Feed.

2. It lets you engage with people, even if you're not Facebook friends.

3. You can let people hear from you, even if you're not Facebook friends.

The first feature is handy, especially if your News Feed is filled with people who play too much FarmVille, post too many pictures, or complain a lot.

Once Facebook has rolled out the Subscribe button option to your account, you can choose whether you see all of your friends' updates, most updates or important updates only. Facebook says these important updates include a new job or a move.

You can also decide which types of updates appear in your News Feed: just photos from one friend, no stories about games, or go so far as to block someone's updates entirely from appearing.

The second and third Subscribe button features are a little more interesting.

You've always "subscribed" to your friends' Facebook pages. But what about people you're not friends with but find interesting, such as political figures, celebrities and (ahem) journalists? They can now elect to include a Subscribe button on their profile. If they do and you choose to subscribe, you'll start seeing their public updates in your News Feed. After you've subscribed, you can choose how many and what types of updates you see.

You, too, can get your own subscribers if you want to share your public updates with more than your Facebook friends. Do this by visiting Facebook's Subscriptions page and opting-in. It will bring you through a few steps to set up your preferences, including whether or not you'll allow subscribers to comment on your public posts.

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It may seem like Subscriptions and Facebook Pages are similar, but there are some differences. Facebook recommends Pages for businesses, brands or products because it offers tools that help you manage and track engagement. Subscriptions, it says, is better for people to share updates with a broader audience since you don't have to be Facebook friends.

Subscriptions makes the Facebook community a lot bigger, and it's wise to opt-in only if you have a clear purpose behind it. From the public-figure end, it will be interesting to see who uses this feature and how—my guess is it will be another marketing avenue, especially for those behind a personal brand.

What do you think about Facebook's Subscribe button?

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