Undoubtedly the biggest complaint I hear about Facebook is that it is a waste of time. This baffles me. How can it be a waste of time to stay connected with family and friends, and to create important connections with associates and acquaintances?
OK, to be fair, I live and breathe social media. So my opinion on this subject is slightly skewed. Let me explain.
Facebook with a purpose
Facebook only takes as much time as you are willing to give it. Admittedly, it is easy to get lost in all the updates posted by your “friends.” But, if you are purposeful in how you use Facebook, you will see great things happen from those connections.
So, set some goals and let’s get started. What do you want to get out of the time you spend on Facebook? Once you figure that out, you can organize your updates to accomplish those goals in no time flat.
Something you should know: You need to purposefully engage with your favorite people and brands on Facebook or you will not see their updates in your news feed. You can “Like” their status updates, Post something on their wall, whatever you want. Just engage with them.
Why do you have to do this engagement stuff? Because, if Facebook doesn’t feel like you want to connect with your Friends, their updates are hidden from you. This makes it that much harder for you to use Facebook to stay connected.
Why does Facebook alter the news feed? It’s pretty simple, really. If Facebook did not alter the feed for you, you would get every post and update from every person and page to whom you are connected. This could be problematic and very overwhelming.
In an effort to give you the best user experience possible, Facebook sorts through all of those updates and shows you only what it thinks you want to see. The problem with that is, you are missing updates that you actually do want to see, so you would have to go to certain pages from time to time just to see if they’ve posted anything. Who has time for that?
You have more control than you think
So, how do you tidy up your news feed so that you will get the most out of your time spent on Facebook? Hide posts, people, and apps that clutter your newsfeed. Turn on subscribe. And, most importantly, organize all of your friends into lists (specifically: Restricted, Acquaintances, close friends and create a list that includes everyone.)
Let me clarify what that all means.
Hiding. “Hiding” someone is not the same as “unfriending” them. Unfriending isn’t very nice, so you should do it sparingly. Hide the person instead. You can always go back to your settings and “unhide” them later on.
I hide people who post negative talk or spam my feed with sales pitches, but I very rarely un-friend someone. The person does not get notified that you have hidden them and when they go to your page, it will still show that you are “friends.” They will also still see your updates.
You can hide just about anything on Facebook. For example, I hide all game requests. Some of them look fun, I just don’t have the time.
You can hide whatever apps you don’t want in your newsfeed. You should also occasionally review which apps you’ve allowed access to your Facebook account.
Turn on Subscribe. Why? Because, if you’re doing any networking at all, chances are there are people who want to connect with you without the “commitment” of becoming Facebook friends with you. It also gives you some automatic control over the content they can see on your profile.
When someone subscribes to your updates, they will only see the posts that you have marked public. Which means, if you post something limited to your friends, they will not see it.
So, to make sure your subscribers have a chance to connect with you, make a point to post publicly whenever possible. You should also let subscribers comment on your posts, or it’s just a one-way conversation and that is not very engaging.
Note: If you go out of town, you should probably not post that publicly, but that is another conversation entirely and completely your choice. Ditto on whether to post pictures of your kids publicly. There could be personal safety issues with both of these actions.
Embrace lists. Finally, you need to embrace the “Lists” feature and organize all of your Facebook friends. This will make viewing all the posts from your connections easier and more purposeful and will also allow you to specify who sees the updates that you post.
There are some lists that Facebook has already set up for you, like Restricted, Acquaintances, and Close Friends. You just have to choose who you want to put on which list. There are also some automatically generated lists, such as places you have worked, schools you’ve attended, the city you live in, and family.
You can view the news feed for any list you would like, but you should pay close attention to these lists:
Restricted – Use this list when you “need” to be friends with someone on Facebook, but don’t want to show them your personal posts. They see what subscribers see.
Acquaintances – Put people who you personally know, but aren’t really “friends” with in this list. You will see less of their posts and you can choose to post to “friends, except acquaintances” anytime you don’t want them to see that particular content.
Close friends – Use this list sparingly, or turn off the notifications. With notifications turned on, it will notify you every time someone in that list posts anything and that gets annoying really quickly, even for someone like me who “lives” for this stuff. However, with the notifications turned off this list is a great tool. Even in the Facebook altered news feed, you will see more of the content from the people in this list.
Create your own lists. I have a list that I call “Everyone.” I literally put all of the people who are my Facebook friends here. I don’t usually post status updates to this list, but it is very helpful for when I want to browse my stream without missing any posts.
I also have one I call “people that don’t live here,” so I can avoid bombarding my out-of-state friends with local stuff that doesn’t pertain to them.
Now that you understand lists, feel free to create lists for each of the groups in your life. When you post updates to that particular list, only the people you have added in that list will see it.
Bonus: You can get SMS messages every time specific persons update their status. This can be helpful so you do not miss an update. But if they post a lot you will get a lot of text messages, so be sure you have an unlimited text-messaging plan! But I do find this less annoying than the notifications sent through the “Close Friends” list.
By keeping your friends close, and your network closer, you will get more out of Facebook and spend less time weeding through the clutter. It really can be a worthwhile business tool.