How to Turn Business “Friends” Into Your Facebook Subscribers

A social media etiquette question I hear often from business owners is:

How should I handle it when people I don’t know well and/or business acquaintances ask to be my friend on Facebook? I want to use my personal Facebook Timeline (as opposed to my business Page/Timeline) to connect only with my family and close, personal friends. But I don’t want to appear rude by not accepting these friend requests.

As Alicia mentioned in her post yesterday, it’s important for small business owners to stay connected with business acquaintances but that doesn’t mean they should have full access to your personal and private life, especially on Facebook. That’s reserved for close friends and family.

There’s a handy feature in Facebook called, “Subscribe.” Once you turn this option on in your Account Settings, people can “subscribe” to the updates you make public on Facebook (as opposed to those personal and private updates you post only for your friends and family to see). This means acquaintances can receive your public updates in their newsfeed, the same way they would as if you were friends with them on Facebook, but you don’t have to accept their friend request. This great subscribe feature allows you to communicate certain things to people you don’t know well, while still keeping your personal updates private.

Be sure to select the appropriate level of privacy whenever you post on Facebook. Here’s where you can change that setting when posting:


Once you’ve enabled the ability for people to subscribe to your public Facebook posts (see below if you’re not sure how to do this), you can send a Facebook message to the acquaintance who sent you the friend request. Here’s an example of a message I sent recently:

Hi, John,

Thank you for your friend request. I use my personal Facebook timeline to keep up with family and very close friends. But I sometimes use public posts on my personal timeline to share social media and other info with the public. You can subscribe to my public updates at and you can also like and follow my social media business page/timeline at for social media updates.

Thanks for understanding,
Colleen Pence

So far, this open approach has served me well and it’s turned most of these friend requests into subscribers.

How to enable the Subscribe button on your personal Facebook Timeline:

Click on Account Settings.

Click on Subscriber Settings on the left and make sure “Allow Subscribers” is checked.

You’ve enabled the “Subscribe” button for your public updates.

You can display the number of subscribers your personal Timeline has AND if you click on the number of subscribers you can…

…view a list of your subscribers.

For those people who already have a large number of friends on Facebook, the Subscribe feature can be really helpful. Facebook limits the number of friends we can have to 5,000, but there is no limit on the number of subscribers we can have.

Are you already using this handy feature? Or do you plan to? Let me know how it’s working for you in the comments.

About Colleen Pence

Colleen Pence is a life-long learner and lover of marketing and social media. Through her company, Social Media Mentoring, she helps companies (such as Westin La Cantera and the San Antonio Children’s Museum) create social media strategies to capture the attention and revenue of their target markets. Colleen is a co-founder of Action San Antonio, an initiative to help non-profits in San Antonio make the most of social media. She also blogs about life in parenting in the Alamo City at San Antonio Mom Blogs.


  1. Brilliant! Thanks, Colleen!

  2. Thanks for the clarification.  I’ve been pondering this lately too and was wondering how best to handle the ‘separation’ and this has given a place to get started! 

  3. When I first started on Facebook, I saw it as a business tool and decided I would accept friend requests from anyone and everyone. But over time I started longing for a place where I could say what was really on my mind without censoring myself for the general public. So I recently unfriended close to 300 people. Since then I keep receiving friend requests from people I don’t know. Your post gave me the exact info I need to answer all the pending friend requests. Thank you!

    • Alicia, like you, many people started on Facebook wanting to connect with everyone they came across. But, also like you, most people I talk to want to keep their personal Facebook account private for only people they know well. This subscriber option helps us accomplish that without turning anyone away completely. I’m glad you found the post helpful too! 

  4. Ellen Evans says:

    Perfect timing. Thanks for sharing a solution to a problem I knew I had, but didn’t quite know how to address it.

  5. Steve Furtick says:

    Is there a way that I can turn the friends I already have added into subscribers ?

  6. Queso says:

    Thank you very much! Recently activated the subscribers feature and was wondering how to get the unknown “Friend Requests” to subscribe instead. Your example message is definitely a great start.

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