Register reporter examines pros and cons of Facebook subscribe feature

Susan Misur

As she closes in on her Ninja belt in social media, we asked New Haven Register reporter Susan Misur to give us a report on the pros and cons of journalists using the Facebook subscribe feature. Here is Susan’s take — and note her effective use of crowd-sourcing to arrive at her conclusions!

From Susan:

One of my ninja belt goals was to evaluate the usefulness of Facebook’s new subscribe feature, even though I already had a professional profile with more than 2,500 “friends.”

You can turn on the subscribe feature if you already have a Facebook profile. You can see a list of your subscribers just as you can with your friends. But it’s definitely not user-friendly or intuitive and it’s not entirely obvious that you have it after you turn the feature on.

Pros for subscribe:

The subscribe feature seems most appropriate if you still only have a personal profile for real friends and family but want to interact with sources and residents in your towns. In that case, you can turn on the subscribe feature and only allow subscribers to see certain posts.

Subscribe is great for celebrities because it’s assumed they can’t get to know every single “friend” or fan.

Cons for subscribe:

I’m definitely more in favor of a professional profile for journalists, so my con list if much larger for the subscription feature.

It does not seem to be the best tool for journalists who already have established professional profiles and a presence on Facebook. As reporters covering towns, we need to know who the residents are and learn more about our beats through their posts, and we can do that by friending them.

I asked my Facebook friends what they think of subscribe and received a lot of comments.

I thought Richard Wilson’s comment, “If ‘reporters’ want to truly get to know others and want to connect with the public without being self-aggrandizing then they should have profiles,” is interesting and telling.  People join Facebook to interact with others. If I don’t friend people and only allow them to subscribe to me, I’m not learning anything about them or what they’re posting about in their town. That makes it seem that I am not interested in them and what they are saying, when the opposite is true.

People also want to friend other people on Facebook to increase their friends count, as well as interact and build a profile, etc. But if people can only subscribe to someone’s profile, that does not make them look more popular or “cooler.” They might benefit from reading your statuses and posted articles, but it does nothing to increase their friend numbers. I started with Facebook when it first came out, so trust me—I know the friend number is important to many.

Additionally, it appears Facebook has a few kinks to work out with the subscribe feature. At first when I turned mine on, I asked people on my Facebook if they could see it, and they couldn’t. And I couldn’t either. There was no real way to tell if I had done it correctly until I started to get subscribers.

However, when I soon began to get subscribers, I realized that some people are automatically subscribed to me until I friend them back. I have checked my subscribers list and then friended a few people, and noticed that the people I just friended immediately came off the subscribe list. So while it’s great to have subscribers, it’s not so great when the people didn’t actually want to subscribe — it just happened automatically.

I first thought that turning on the subscribe feature would give you the opportunity to create a page within your profile that people could go to. For example, I thought I would make a West Haven page that Westies could subscribe to within my profile.

So in my opinion, if a reporter has a professional profile, it should be completely open, and then you don’t need to try and have subscribers. Facebookers seem to prefer friending reporters and others who are local and then subscribe to celebrity pages.

—————————–

Assistant Managing Editor for Disruption Chris March said he agrees with Susan that “friends” is a far more engaging means for a local beat reporter. But he offers an additional thought on instances in which the subscribe feature can be a plus. He notes that Dan Petty from DFM’s Denver Post (http://www.facebook.com/danielpetty) was followed by thousands recently for his coverage of the Colorado fires. He garnered more than 42,000 subscriptions. When a “big story” comes along, you sometimes do enter “celebrity” status, Chris notes. So he believes journalists can (and probably should) turn on subscriptions and still employ the friend method. “It doesn’t change anything, it just limits you less. You can still go in and choose to friend your subscribers from the list.”

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