If you’ve been on Facebook a while it’s probable you’ve amassed a friends list that includes close friends, old childhood friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, and a whole host of people you like but don’t necessarily want to share everything with. Read on as we show you how to selectively share content.
Dear How-To Geek,
My first child is due in a month and it has me thinking (among a million other things) about Facebook. I want to share lots of baby pictures with the people who I know really want to see baby pictures (grandparents, aunts and uncles, best friends, etc.) but I don’t want to flood my friends newsfeed with tons of pictures they might not be all that interested in seeing.
I know you can select your audience for Facebook posts in broad categories like only people on your friends list or fully public, but what if you want to share it with a smaller group than your whole friends list? It’s not like I’m trying to hide something with ultra tight security it’s just that I’d like to share content with people that actually want to see that content instead of blasting a long list of coworkers, schoolmates I haven’t seen in twenty years, and other people in my friends list that probably don’t care to see daily baby photos.
Can Facebook do what I want it to do or is that kind of control outside the whole share it with everybody Facebook mission statement?
First off, huge congratulations on the impending birth of your first child. Second, while we don’t mind seeing cute baby photos we certainly commend you for realizing that lots of people don’t really care to see the baby photos of people they aren’t particularly close to; you’re certainly in the top echelons of thoughtful Facebook users just for even considering such a thing.
Although it isn’t exactly a front and center feature, Facebook does in fact have a small set of tools that can help you accomplish exactly what you’d like to do. While most people simply share their posts with friends (if they’re using Facebook as a personal social media tool) or with everyone (if they’re using it as a brand platform), there are granular tools for carefully managing who sees the content you post that extend well beyond those very broad private/public categories. Let’s take a look at these tools.
Facebook Lists to the Rescue
You wrote in asking about baby photos but this trick really works well for a wide variety of things. If someone were to post a lot of news articles, topics, or photos specific to their workplace and wanted to share them with direct coworkers and distant colleagues (but not necessarily bore their relatives with such matters) they could create a list of just those coworkers and colleagues. It’s also a great trick for local topics and news too. You might have 500 friends on your friends list but questions about the best dog walkers in the area are only relevant to those friends who live in your city.
By default Facebook has three lists already: Close Friends, Acquaintances, and Restricted. If you add someone to the Close Friends list you’ll receive direct notifications any time they post anything (useful if you want to ensure that something a truly close friend posts isn’t lost in your news feed). If you add someone to the Acquaintances list then what they post will rarely show up in your news feed. The Restricted list allows you to add someone to your friends list but not share content with them unless you make it public or tag them in it.
In addition Facebook also has “smart lists” which create lists based on things like your workplace, your city, and your family. While the default lists allow for more granular control over your posts they’re still too broad for your purposes. The smart lists are better, but they do have one critical flaw: if the person in your friends network hasn’t self identified as a member of the group that list draws from (e.g. they haven’t formally identified your place of employment as their place of employment, they don’t list their city, etc.) then the smart list won’t add them in. Let’s create a custom list specifically for the purpose of sharing content on a singular topic with a group of interested friends; unlike Facebook’s algorithms we’ll know exactly who to put on the list regardless of how they filled out their Facebook profile.
Creating Custom Lists
To create a custom list log into your Facebook account and scroll down your news feed until, in the left hand navigation column, you see the entry for “Friends.” Hover your mouse over the section and click on “More” when the option appears.
If you’re logged in while reading this article you can also jump directly to the list menu via this link. Once you’re in the list menu it’s time to create a simple list of the people you think will be interested in the content you wish to share.
Click the “Create List” button at the top of the menu. For demonstration purposes we’ll make a list for our friends that love robot dinosaurs. An appropriate name for such a list? Robo Dino Fans, of course.
In the “Members” box, start typing in the friends you wish to include (Facebook will auto complete partial names just like it does with the search and tagging tools). Don’t worry if you can’t think of everyone off the top of your head right now; you can add individual friends later by visiting their profile pages or clicking on their posts in your news feed.
When you’re done click “Create.” Facebook will kick you over to a custom feed of just posts generated by the people in your new list. While the original question is focused on how to post content to a custom list of people, it’s worth noting that you can use lists to create custom content lists for your own consumption. If you follow a bunch of brands on Facebook to get free coupons or game codes, you could create a list of said brands for easy daily review.
Posting Content to Custom Lists
With our custom list created its time to create a post with content just for the people on our list. Click on the audience button next to the post button. This button is labeled whatever your default sharing state is. For most people it will read “Friends” as it does in our screenshot.
Select “More Options” and then from the freshly expanded list, select your new list.
Select your content and compose your message now.
Notice the audience indicator is the list icon with “Robo Dino Fans.” When we post this it will only go to those hand selected dinosaur fans lucky enough to be on our list.
That’s all there is to it! Once you’ve done the hard work of creating the list itself using the list is as simple as clicking the audience selection button and selecting the appropriate list for the content you’re about to share.
Have a pressing question about social media sites, privacy settings, or other technology matters? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to help.