One of the major criticisms of Facebook over the last twelve months has been the lack of privacy. Or, more accurately, the fact that the platform insists on an opt-out policy rather than an opt-in policy. Facebook is built around the assumption that you want to share everything with everyone, and if you don’t adjust your settings, that’s exactly what happens. Google+, on the other hand, takes the polar opposite tack and focuses on building relationships with user-defined groups of people with similar interests. You choose who you want to share any given update with and, as such, the Circles feature is the bedrock of the new platform.
Barry Furby runs a digital recruitment agency and succinctly explains the objections that many have to Facebook: “Like most people I know, I have been struggling with the collision of my social networks, where my personal and professional connections are becoming a bit too close, particularly on Facebook. It’s not that what I’m sharing or being tagged in is inappropriate, but due to the nature of the work I do I am very conscious that I want to remain in charge of what goes where. The privacy settings are just too confusing and subject to continual change.”
This leads to many people breaking Facebook regulations and setting up two accounts: one for business, one for pleasure. With its new product, Google has watched this happening, listened to the objections and come up with a simple concept that tackles the issue head-on. Circles enables you to build groups of friends, colleagues and acquaintances, segmented however you wish. Want to post specific updates just to your foody friends? Done. Want to update your family but no-one else? Done. Want to filter out your work colleagues? Done. More relevance, less noise. It’s simple and intuitive, and the interface is beautifully conceived and executed. But it’s not unique. Facebook has had this feature for many, many months.
The thing is, Facebook Lists is not only badly-designed, but it also makes little sense and is hidden away so that the vast majority of people don’t use it. And the reason for this is because, if used properly, it completely goes against Facebook’s ‘share everything with the world’ policy. At the end of the day, Facebook doesn’t want you to be private as it feels that this would undermine what the network is all about.
But with a little thought, you can use Facebook Lists to keep different groups of people completely separate. It’s very counter-intuitive as it involves choosing who you want NOT to see an update rather than choosing who you DO want to see something, as with Google+. But if you can get your head around that, it is possible to use one Facebook profile for business and pleasure, and to present a personalised profile to each different one of your friends depending on their interests, your relationship with them and what you want them to see (and not to see). And here’s how…
To get started, watch the short video clip below on how to create lists of friends in Facebook. You can create as many lists as you like, from simply one for ‘friends’ and one for ‘work’ as in my video example, to multiple lists. Importantly if you’re going to get very targeted with it, any friend can belong to more than one list.
Now you’ve got your lists set up, you can set about personalising your profile, which you do using the Hide option within Facebook’s posting function. Facebook gives you the ability to hide anything you share from anyone else, and you can use this to choose who you do want to see an update by removing those you don’t. The video clip below shows you how to do this, and can be employed whenever you post anything to your page, be it a shared article hidden from work colleagues such as my example, or a simple status update hidden from another of your lists. You can also hide more than once list for any update.
Let me know how you get on. I’ve been using this method successfully for the best part of a year and, once you get used to it, it becomes second nature. Or you could just wait for Facebook to introduce their own version of Circles, which probably won’t be too long coming!
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