March 16, 2012

Make yourself less noisy on Facebook with Lists and Audience Selector

With Facebook rapidly becoming popular around the world, updates are becoming more and more frequent. I often find myself sifting through irrelevant posts from my well-meaning friends to get to ones that are relevant to me. So I often also find myself showing them how to help reduce their "noise". I've done it so many times that it is time it gets written as a post here for everyone else to read.
I am almost always surprised at how many people really believe that something you post on Facebook always has to be visible to everyone. It does not - and this post is about making sure that status updates are visible to your friends that it is relevant to.

Right next to the "Post" button is a little option that Facebook calls an Audience Selector - which lets you pick an "audience" for your status update.

Most people leave it to on the default setting of "Public" - which is exactly what makes it visible to everyone. An important point to note that is that that this option makes your post visible to even those who are not in your friends list.

Click on it and you should notice a few others. Chose "Friends" so that everyone in your friends list only can view it. To make this specific post visible to specific people chose "Custom".

In the next screen, chose the make your post visible to "Specific people or Lists.." and start typing away in the box below to select specific people using the lovable "find as you type" ability of Facebook. The "Hide this from" box can be used for exactly the opposite - preventing specific people or lists from seeing your post. Once you are done. You can also use this to specify any pre-defined lists (discussed later in this post). Click "Save changes" once you are done.
Back at the Update status box, continue to compose your text as usual and click Post. Your post now should only be visible to or hidden from people that you have chosen. Even their comments will be visible to only those specific people. Welcome to your first step in having a private conversation in a crowd :)
But this is only the first step.

Facebook has also recently improved it's Friends List feature. Simply put, it is all about creating Lists of friends and giving them an easy to remember name like "Badminton club buddies", etc. Facebook recently decided to jump-start this feature by automatically analysing your friends and generating "Smart" lists. Again, simply put it clubs friends based on common pattern like current location, current and previous company names, school names, etc and names + generates lists - automatically (shown on the right). It even identifies people that you correspond with the most and puts them under "Close Friends" - how handy!

Notice how the "Harvard University" entry has a small lightening sign next to it? That's an indication that this is a automatically generated list. For detailed help on this Facebook feature check out this link on Facebook's help pages.

To combine the two features, start by defining some lists of your own. In my case, some of my often used lists are:

US Residents
UK Residents
India Residents
Hindi speaking
English speaking
Under 18s
Acquaintances (this is ready-made).

I also make it a point to add newly approved people to these list at the first possible opportunity. Facebook has made it easy by letting you do this when you approve a Friends request.

Now that I have these ready, every time I write a new post, I use the "Audience Selector" (again - next to the Post button) to make sure that my posts are visible to only a specific set of friends. Note how I can chose to hide a post from specific "List" of people.

Unfortunately, this really handy "Audience selector" feature is not always available on Facebook apps for smart phones - something Facebook is really popular on. But I am hoping this slowly changes to let us harness this cool feature from pretty much anywhere you use Facebook from.

I hope you found this post useful. If you have any other ideas on the same topic, please let me know.

Also worth reading: Hinduism and Wikipedia Gold

1 comment:

Mohan Kumar said...

this is
a very useful technique. thanks for blogging about it.