If you don't use it correctly, Facebook's new subscription feature can lead to a social networking mess: private posts and comments shown publicly, a cluttered news feed and spam.
Subscriptions, which launched last week, lets you see people's public posts in your News Feed, without having to friend them. And while Facebook Subscriptions is an interesting way to broaden your network and connect with people you otherwise wouldn't have contact with, some critics have panned it for its complexity.
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If you decide to opt in to Facebook Subscriptions, you'll need to understand some key concepts. Here are five caveats before turning on the subscribe button on your profile, or subscribing to people's profiles.
1. Is this post public?
In your new privacy settings is the default privacy setting, which you can set to either public, friends or customize it. But the word default is misleading here.
Whichever you choose will not be the privacy setting for everything you post on Facebook, it's just the default setting for when you use a Facebook app that doesn't have the drop-down menu with privacy options, such as the Facebook BlackBerry app.
Say, for example, you want to open up your profile to subscribers. In order for them to see something you post, you need to choose the "Public" setting from the drop-down menu in the status update field.
Warning: The next time you post something to Facebook, it will automatically be posted publicly since that was the last setting you chose. Unless it's a post you want shared with everyone, remember to select the desired privacy setting from the drop-down menu.
Similarly, if you post something publicly to Facebook from your computer, then post again using the Facebook iPhone app, the iPhone post will also be public unless you remember to change the privacy setting. You will be unable to change who can see that post until you are back at your computer.
[Want more Facebook tips, tricks and analysis? Check out CIO.com's Facebook Bible.]
2. Public post, public comments
When you subscribe to people's Facebook posts, everything they post publicly will appear in your News Feed. What's important to remember is that since their posts are public, so will any comments you add to their photo, link or discussion.
Also, keep in mind that the person you're subscribing to may have set their profile to be searchable on Google. This means that your comments can be visible to everyone on the Web when a search for them is performed. So it's wise to keep your comments on public posts professional.
3. Polluting the News Feed
When you subscribe to a Facebook user's profile, most everything they share publicly will appear in your News Feed. This can quickly lead to clutter. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn't yet have the ability to view posts only from Subscriptions, or to group your subscriptions into a list.
Cleaning up the clutter is going to take a bit of work. While a default setting for all your subscriptions would be useful, right now you need to adjust each one individually. Here's how to do it.