Facebook’s heavy push of the subscribe feature has apparently paid off as thousands of journalists enabled subscribers after its launch in September, according to a note on the Journalists + Facebook page.
The social network’s outreach among public figures and the prominence it gives subscribe suggestions on the site show a level of commitment to taking away some of Twitter’s power and preventing Google+ from gaining traction as a source for news.
Journalists like Ann Curry, Nicholas Kristof, Katie Couric and Don Lemon have converted to Timeline and enabled subscribe. Some of these figures have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. More than 90 journalists from the Washington Post and more than 50 from The New York Times have made their profiles available to public subscribers, according to the Journalists + Facebook note. The Washington Post recently published a list of all its staff members who are accessible on Facebook.
Many users have been able to accumulate Facebook subscribers at a much faster rate than they gained Twitter followers. A sample of 25 journalists showed the average journalist had a 320 percent increase in subscribers since November 2011. This is largely due to the “People To Subscribe To” sidebar that shows up on several pages prompting users to follow updates from journalists, celebrities and other public figures. Of course, when one user subscribes to another, it generates a story in friends’ News Feeds in a way that Twitter hasn’t taken advantage of. (Twitter added an activity feed in August 2011, but users have to visit a separate tab to view it.) Facebook has also offered a subscribe button plugin for third-party sites and added a subscribe call to action within its comments plugin and the “page owners” section of pages.
Notably, Facebook has employees dedicated to outreach, not only to bring the right personalities to the platform but also to provide best practices. Journalist Program Manager Vadim Lavrusik has been extremely active in sharing examples of how reporters can use the social network and producing resources like the Facebook + Journalists note today, which included recommendations such as “reader shoutouts can increase feedback by as much as 4x.”
Twitter might have to start implementing changes or better courting public figures to convince them not to neglect Twitter in favor of Facebook. Google+ has an advantage with the way Google Search now displays results from its social network, which could help keep it in the race for public attention. But for Facebook, a key point will be letting users choose whether to post to subscribers or friends. Because posts have to be public for subscribers to see them, a user is forced to also share that content with friends. Unlike Twitter, users can only have one profile so they have to mix business and personal. Another issue is that Facebook does not have a way to designate a profile as “official,” which has long been a problem for pages. And because many people who have subscribers also have pages, the social network will need to determine how to balance these in search.