September was a whirlwind month for social networking changes. Facebook rolled out a series of features, including a profile overhaul that drew both praise and criticism from users. Meanwhile Google+ opened up to the public and launched a few new features of its own. As the two networks compete for users, journalists and readers are bound to benefit. Here are four exciting new changes that arrived last month:
Facebook Subscribe demonstrates that Facebook is actually listening to the problems that journalists and other media professionals have had with the network’s structure and jargon. First of all, subscribe solves a lot of the old problems journalists had with “liking” pages and becoming “friends” with public figures. Second, it allows journalists worried about separating their personal and professional lives to share from a single account rather than maintaining a personal page and a fan page — as long as you have fewer than 5,000 friends. Visit the subscribe page to allow subscriptions on your profile. When you allow subscriptions, be sure to set your notification and comment settings too.
Facebook Timeline is going to change the way your profile is organized, and re-position the network as a personal archive in addition to a social network. This has big implications for journalists, because it may allow us to organize our shared content both contextually and chronologically and find older content more easily. Timeline is being rolled out for everyone, but you can go ahead and get it now if you’re impatient. For more on the Facebook changes, check out Vadim Lavrusik’s post on the changes for Nieman Journalism Lab.
Google+ +1 buttons have been improved to allow direct sharing from the web. The +1 button previously shared content to a separate tab on your profile, but Google changed the functionality to allow sharing directly with those in your circles from the +1 button.
Google+ circle sharing basically brings the functionality of Twitter lists into the Google+ network. You can organize your circles and share them with others. The only catch is that the shared circle won’t dynamically update. So, if you share a circle, and later update its members, the new members won’t show up in the shared circle. Google is attempting to avoid privacy concerns later, but it means that you may need to re-share the circle as it changes.