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.
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Until tomorrow, Jeff