Facebook Confusion – friends, fans, subscribers, groups, and lists

Are you as confused by Facebook as me?  I’m not entirely sure on their usability and strategy for the recent changes, but I thought it’d be a good time to break down some of the changes.


Before fan pages, Facebook had personal profiles and later introduced groups.  Groups were not to be on behalf of a business, but rather a few peoples coming together to discuss specific topics.  Initially, people had to join a group.  Of course, these could be public or private.  The best features of this allowed the group to show off who the administrators or any other title you wanted to add for staff of the group. Additionally, email from the group landed in the inbox.

Then, Facebook changed how groups operate. Groups can be created by anyone, and they can add anyone to the group.  No longer did people have to join a group, but they were added by someone else, without any permission granted, and notified of all sorts of things.  Group messages don’t reach inbox, but now a massive group chat is a part of the experience. Messages can automatically pop up as an instant message.  There is no identification of staff members.

old Facebook group


upgrade group



If you are an administrator of an old style group, you’ll need to convert it over soon to the new groups format, or risk it being archived.

Once you’ve joined or been added to groups, you have the ability to silence those pesky notifications.

group notice

Friend Lists

Friends have been the focal point of Facebook from the beginning. In the earlier days, Facebook had a game of guessing which friend matched the information. Then came the ability for people to organize their friends into lists.  According to Mark Zuckerberg, few people took advantage of this feature and didn’t enjoy the experience.  Oddly – this is what is helping Google+ take off.

I am one of the few users that love lists and used them often.  I miss having them as a shortcut on the left side of my all news main page.  I still switch to view the updates based upon the lists I’ve organized.

To draw some attention to lists, Facebook then rolled out featured lists. It is a way for users to show off on their personal profile some special people to them.  That list may be be seen publicly, and notify users that are added to the list.  I use my featured lists to show off those I look up to in the industry, as well as members in an online WordPress and Social Mobile Local Marketing training program I facilitate.


Most recently, Facebook announced new list suggestions.   I’m still unable to access this, but am hopeful that the lists bookmarks will make their way back to the left side of my main page.  I’ve curated my lists long before Twitter enabled the feature. I’ll stick to the lists I’ve made, but want others to do likewise and access or interact based upon this. To aim for some support, please see Facebook’s Friend List page.

friend lists


If you’d rather not be friends with people but want to allow them to view anything you post publicly, you can enable Subscriptions.  The only content subscribers can see is what is posted publicly. I’d image too that this information may start showing up as results in search engines, rather than Facebook being still a walled garden.


Also see your privacy to control the older things you want to keep private if you enable the subscribe feature. “Limit the Audience for Past Posts”

When subscribing to other’s pages, you can choose what you want to see from them. I usually disable seeing games.  Also, you cannot subscribe to someone that you are friends with.


Fan Pages

subscribe vs pageFacebook Fan Pages have long been the method to use for a brand. The addition of a custom tab is proven to increase people opting to like your page, join your newsletter, or in some other way become part of the communityyou are creating.  However, many public figures are averse to having a “Fan Page” so Facebook just began referring to them as “Pages” and the people who follow them “People Who Like”.

So now that a personal profile can have subscribers that exceed the 5,000 friend limit, what is the significance of a Fan Page for a public figure?  I still believe Pages are needed for individuals that want to build their newsletter, text messaging, or other subscription lists off site.  In addition, personal profiles don’t provide data on who is viewing your profile and any engagement on it.

Which should you choose if your brand is you as a person?  Facebook has a page to help answer that.

If you choose to migrate, at this time it only works to go from personal profile –> page, not the other way around.  This can’t be undone, so think through this carefully.


Facebook is becoming more and more complicated. The legacy architecture is lacking, and users have too many options. Without proper information, they may not know what the best option is for them.

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Author: CourtneyEngle

Helping Small Business Owners unlock HIDDEN Profits by Streamlining Social Media, Local SEO, WordPress and Mobile Marketing

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