Every BuddyPress site has different requirements for how users should be able to connect. The built-in friendship functionality of BuddyPress is not appropriate for every social network. This is especially true for professional networks. In many instances you may want to replace the friendship component with followers instead. Luckily, there’s a plugin that does that for you.
The BuddyPress Follow plugin is what you’re looking for. It allows members to follow other members activity and has just been updated to be compatible with BuddyPress 1.7. The plugin adds a new activity stream tab, follow/unfollow buttons to member profiles and a new tab to display the users following/followers in the members page along with total counts.
What are the differences between Friends and Followers?
Friending and following are very similar but have one main difference. Following does not have to be reciprocated, whereas friendship must be approved by both parties. Following works just the same way the Follow button works on Twitter.
Please note that it is not recommended to have the native friends component turned on when using the followers plugin. This would probably cause confusion to users who may not know the difference. If you want to change your BuddyPress site to use followers instead of friends, install the BuddyPress Follow plugin, available for free in plugin repository.