Back to Basics: What is a Subscriber?

A subscriber is a person who has opted to receive communications from your organization.

  • You can track information about subscribers using profile and preference attributes.
  • Use the subscriber key to identify your subscribers in Marketing Cloud. Create lists or data extensions to store your subscribers.

What is a subscriber key?

When importing contacts into a data extension or list, you are required to specify a unique subscriber key to identity the recipient within Marketing Cloud. What do you select for a subscriber key? In order to prevent issues with misdirected emails, unsubscribes, and CAN-SPAM regulations, the subscriber key should always be the same as the recipient’s email address. *DMS lists use their own numbered subscriber keys.

Need to further segment subscribers?

Use groups and data filters to further segment subscribers. When you send a message, you select the list, data extension, or groups to receive the message.

Learn more about groups or data filters.

All Subscribers list in Marketing Cloud

The All Subscribers list is considered the master list of records for the Marketing Cloud Email Studio account. Every subscriber in your account appears in the All Subscribers list.

  • Subscribers added to a subscriber list join the All Subscribers list at the same time.
  • Subscribers stored on data extensions join the All Subscribers list when you send your first message to that subscriber.
  • If a subscriber is unsubscribed in the All Subscribers list, the subscriber is unsubscribed from all lists and groups.
  • When a subscriber is set back to active on the All Subscribers list, the subscriber must also opt in for any other list and group separately.
  • A subscriber can be unsubscribed on lists and groups and be active on the All Subscribers lists.

Did you know each subscriber has their own status?

Active, Bounce, and Held are discussed in a previous blog post.


  • The subscriber has asked to be removed from a single list, multiple lists, or all lists. In these cases, the subscriber's status is changed to Unsubscribed for the selected lists or at the All Subscribers level.
  • The subscriber was manually unsubscribed, thus changing the status to Unsubscribed for the list at which the action was taken.
  • The subscriber has submitted a complaint. In this case, the subscriber's status is changed to Unsubscribed at the All Subscribers level.

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