Facebook Gets Friendlier with Smart Lists

If you are actively using any of the social networks, your community of friends, fans, or followers has grown beyond what you can capably manage.

Google+ came up with an imaginative method for tackling this challenge with circles – which were intended to emulate our real-life social circles.  These social circles can be distinct or overlap – just as in real life.

For example, you may have friends from college and coworker friends. Google+ allows you to place them into their distinct circles, as well as into other circles too, such as a close friends circle.

And now Facebook allows you to do the same with improved friend lists known as smart lists.  Actually, you have always been able to do this with with Facebook friends lists – but you had to do the work manually.

Now Facebook is tapping into our social graphs to make the job quite intuitive and much easier.

Social Graphs and Smart Lists

For many years now we have all been helping Facebook to build our social graphs  – those digital maps that define us online based upon our personal profiles, friends or connections, and everything we share.

Think of your social graph as a matrix containing nodes of information that are embedded within a larger matrix known as Facebook – which of course also contains the matrices or social graphs of all of your friends.

This is how Facebook is able to make recommendations for which lists you should be creating.  Facebook knows who you communicate with frequently, who resides or is connected to your local community, and so on.

The image above shows those that Facebook has identified to be my Naperville, IL area friends.  In addition to the 29 they have identified thus far, there are many more that they are suggesting – most of whom do in fact live within this community.

According to the inset in the image above, in addition to you adding friends to your smart lists, Facebook will also self-populate them using information derived from their social graphs – most especially their personal profile.

Creating Lists and Adding Friends

Building your smart lists is easy.  Make sure you have the correct list open, then just scroll down and add from those recommended by Facebook – or by searching on your own.

Note from the image below that when you add someone to a list, Facebook will make suggestions for them to update their profile – evidently to strengthen their connection to the list description – in this case adding a location of Naperville, IL for my friend Neil.

Facebook starts everyone out with basic lists – work, school, family, and city.  There is also an “acquaintences” list which is not clearly defined.  Facebook sends “only important updates” to that last, evidently using undefined parameters.

I cannot see much value in a list like that.

There is also a restricted list that shares only public information.  This one works much like Facebook subscribers – a feature which was launched concurrently with these improved list capabilties.

To be clear, when you click on one of your lists you see only the newsfeed of what is posted by its members.  If you wish to share something only with that list, you simply choose the list from the drop-down menu above.

Where this Is Going

As I’ve said before, the web exists for one primary reason – and that is search.  It drives everything.

Facebook is a business and they make money by placing targeted ads – something they can do with greater accuracy than Google due to the abundance of social and real-time data we all share on Facebook.

By using smart lists you are helping Facebook to refine its search capabilities by further enhancing your social graph, and that of all of your friends with whom you associate on Facebook.

Is this a good thing?

If you are a business one of your challenges is being found.  If you are a business person doing good things in your community, this makes you more attractive in search.

Facebook is a business that depends upon ads for revenue.  That’s their game.

You are someone with business interests that can benefit from being more findable on a web that is trending towards social.

And remember that in any given hour there is more activity on Facebook than Google.

Wanna play?

Leave a comment below or share this with your community on with any of the share buttons below – or on the little red bar at the bottom of this page.  

Until tomorrow,  Jeff

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  1. You forgot to mention there are three types of Facebook lists today: smart lists, default lists, and custom lists.

    Smart lists and default lists rolled out the same day. The first is your Naperville Area list; and the second is your Acquaintances list.

    The custom list is what’s been an option in Facebook for over a year.

    If you target an update to that Naperville smart list, everyone on it will only see the list name and not everyone else on it. Not so with default and custom lists, whereby recipients won’t see the list name but will see everyone else getting it. Thus, what I and other custom list users have done is curated those lists into smart lists to maintain the privacy scale.

  2. bettyboedeker says:

    this is too much for an old person to comprehend. Don’t like the changes at all.

    • Jeff Korhan says:

      Betty – Most of these changes are optional. It’s always best to use what works for you.

      The battle for advertising revenue between Facebook and Google will continue to create changes that we’ll all have to adapt to.

  3. No. These “Smart” lists are just annoying. What if I don’t want some program to create these lists? I know which of my friends went to the same school as me. And it’s irrelevant. But for some stupid reason, I can’t delete any of these lists. I don’t want lists, I don’t need them.
    No thanks, Facebook should stop thinking for me

    • I agree with Fred. Smart lists are annoying – and they don’t go away. I listed a university I attended for 1 semester, then deleted it because I decided it didn’t matter. But the smart list for the university is still there – probably forever. Can’t delete it, and it’s empty. My friends are my friends for many reasons. I don’t communicate with them as groups based on a sole common factor. I may message individuals, but my posts are for anyone who wants to see them, because my posts are about my life now. If I’m going to a class reunion, a friend who did not attend that school may be interested – I’ll let that friend decide. And I, too, am tired of FB trying to think for me.

      • Hi Dave and Fred – Facebook isn’t thinking for you, rather for the benefit of the system and how it works.

        The truth is Facebook is using all of us to build a smarter system that allows advertisers to reach their target audience with greater accuracy.

        So, in reality, all of the manipulation of our data is the price we pay for the benefits we derive from the service.

        Facebook will allow you to archive a list so that it is not visible, but every piece of data they have is always used behind the scenes. Even when people delete their account Facebook still retains the data for the aforementioned purposes.

        Here’s link for instructions on archiving a smart list:

        Thanks for your comments.

        • Yes, they will allow you to “archive” the list and it says that the archived lists will no longer be shown. But guess what. They are still there. There is no way to get rid of these ridiculous lists. If I wanted my friends to be placed in lists, I’d do it myself (and actually do), instead of having 10 lists that have no people in them, simply because I’ve put down my previous employers or my high school.


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