Facebook Friend Lists: A Numbers Game

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I was having a mini-Twitter discussion yesterday with @DanZarrella and @ChrisMusial on using Friend Lists within Facebook, specifically about the math and logic involved in creating list of Facebook friends. Facebook Friend List segmentation is a useful tool, particularly if you have a lot of different kinds of friends or are setting up a Profile for a public figure of some sort.

Most average Facebook users don’t see the value in creating Lists of friends, but Lists can be helpful for even the most basic and stereotypical Facebook tasks. Raising money for a charity run or alerting people of a new phone number is infinitely easier if your friends are already broken down into Lists.

The advantages of using Facebook Friend Lists for business and marketing purposes are fairly obvious and abundant, but the biggest draw for the average, everyday user is, or should be, that they can “label” their friends for easy adjustment of Profile Privacy Settings.  Creating Friend Lists may sound harsh or judgmental, but this categorization happens every day in real life; Facebook just allows you to put it to good use.

What Type(s) of Friend Lists Do I Need?

The names or types of Facebook Friend Lists you create will depend on your use of Facebook and the overall purpose of your Profile. If it’s personal, I suggest “Real (offline) Friends,” “Work People,” “Online Buddies” and “Restricted” for effective tweaking of privacy settings to control each List’s level of Profile access.

You could break these up a lot more, of course; by job, school, level of friendship, etc. How many Lists you make, and how you use them, is up to you, but the idea behind these four will most likely carry throughout.

If you’re a public figure on Facebook…you’re really supposed to have a Page. Even politicians. But if you want to laugh at the TOS, your List segmentation will be much more specialized. Depending on the range or reach of your ”publicness,” you may want to have Lists broken down by geographic area. You’re definitely going to want Lists of age ranges and issues or causes they align with.

You’re allowed to have overlap among Lists, and that’s a good thing here; a 30 year old Boston woman who believes in lower taxes could appear in at least four categories. This allows you to speak to her on a more personal level using more traditional targeting methods.

How Many Friends Belong in Each List?

The benefits of using Lists, and the number of people in each one, are intricately tied to your use of these Lists. Dan Zarrella is a very number and data-driven person and wanted to know all about the logic behind my math and Friend List limits. Facebook doesn’t limit the number of people you can put in a List itself, but it does limit how many friends can be involved in certain actions you take on the site.

Inviting to an Event
List size: 100 friends

The maximum number of people you can invite to an Event in one shot is 100. So if you create an Event to say you lost your phone and need numbers, you can invite all 700 friends, but you’ll have to go through 7 round of invites. Easy enough if you have Lists of friends broken down into 100 each…painfully drawn out if you don’t.

Also, keep in mind that inviting a ton of people to an Event in a short time period looks spammy and is almost certain to temporarily “break” your account. Having Lists won’t help you in that respect, but it will keep you from getting confused and trying to invite people more than once, which is a dead giveaway to Facebook that something is fishy.

Mass Messaging
List size: 20 friends

The maximum number of people you can send a Facebook Message to at once is 20.  To go back to the lost phone example, if you want to give people your new number privately, having lists of 20 friends each would allow you to type one Message and select one List to send it to. Copy and paste for each List and you saved yourself a ton of time sorting through who you already sent it to and who’s left.

Yes, it’s kind of lame that the list size is so small, but bear in mind that each person on the Message will be able to see everyone else who received it. Like using CC instead of BCC. Also, because it’s so small, you’ll have to send a lot more Messages to reach 700 people, which will send up another red flag. Reserve private messaging for important people or topics, or don’t try to send to everyone in one day.

Tagging in a Note
List size: 25 friends

The maximum number of people you can tag in a Note at one time is 25. Notes follow more of the Facebook Message format, but with a little more functionality; you can format a Note with some basic HTML or FBML, add images and post it publicly. Notes are imported into your feed, so it’s not an effective private messaging strategy but far less annoying than Events. Notes are a nice cross between Events and Messages.

The small number of tagged people does present a time issue, but since Notes can be shared publicly, it’s not as much of a concern to hit every single person.

What Does This Mean For You?

Whatever you want it to. Facebook doesn’t limit the size of a Friend List; it’s up to you to determine how and why you want to use this feature, then tailor your List size(s) according to your goals. These numbers are just a way to get you thinking about how to use Lists, and things to keep in mind when you start segmenting your Friends.

6 Comments

  • I think friends lists are a great idea.
    One thing that’s occurred to me, though, and I haven’t found a solid answer yet is, if someone is a member of two lists, say Friends and Family, if you exclude Family from something, does the person still receive it because they are also in Friends? I would consider that the ideal situation.

    Comment by PeoriaPeepers — April 3, 2009 @ 9:02 am
  • If you are sending a message or inviting to an event, they will be included. However, if you blocked “family” from viewing photos, you would have to make an exception for this individual user in order for him or her to see them.

    Hope this helps!

    Comment by Alison — April 3, 2009 @ 9:06 am
  • [...] how large a Friend List can or should be when discussing Privacy Settings; however, if you want to use lists to batch invite, message or tag people, you will need to create smaller, more targeted lists. But for privacy purposes, you can make each [...]

  • [...] how large a Friend List can or should be when discussing Privacy Settings; however, if you want to use lists to batch invite, message or tag people, you will need to create smaller, more targeted lists. But for privacy purposes, you can make each [...]

  • [...] how large a Friend List can or should be when discussing Privacy Settings; however, if you want to use lists to batch invite, message or tag people, you will need to create smaller, more targeted lists. But for privacy purposes, you can make each [...]

  • [...] how large a Friend List can or should be when discussing Privacy Settings; however, if you want to use lists to batch invite, message or tag people, you will need to create smaller, more targeted lists. But for privacy purposes, you can make each [...]

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI