Facebook narrowcasting: Learn how to post (not send) to a list

communication tools, technology

A while back, I posted a lament about the perceived inability to “narrowcast” to a group of friends on Facebook.  Why?  I wanted to let my friends in San Francisco know that I was driving up to attend a lindy hop event there, but I didn’t want to go through the bother of creating an explicit event, nor did I feel like pushing a Facebook message (blech!) or e-mail to every buddy I know in SF.  In short, I wanted to let both friends and acquaintances folks know I’d be in town in a non-intrusive way… like showing up in their newsfeed.

At the same time, I didn’t want the other 90% of my friends outside the Bay Area being bored or annoyed by yet another Bay-Area-centric post of mine.  I mean, yeah, it’s not as bad as another one of those “I need [x] for my [y]” lame Facebook game-oriented posts that keep cropping up, but still…

So what to do?  Well, bladam reader and astute commenter Chris suspected that one could indeed actually post to a Facebook list one had created… and I discovered that he’s absolutely right!  So without further ado, let me outline the steps so you, too, can target just the right folks, and avoid boring other friends (and/or tipping off exes, parents, jealous roommates, bosses, parole officers, and other sensitive folks to your scandalous private business).

  1. If you haven’t already created a Friends List on Facebook, you’ll want to do that first… by clicking on the Account link in the upper right-hand corner and selecting Edit friends.  

Why do this, especially since it can be rather a pain to sort through your list of hundreds of friends?

  • You can use this list to read a subset of your friends’ statuses… e.g., just your best friends, your family, whatever)
  • You can share information with this same set of people.
  1. Now click on Create New List on the top of the page, and — in the shaded box that pops up — name your list (pretty much anything you want; only you will see this!), then select/de-select friends by clicking on them in the list of friends below the title you just entered.

  1. Now you’re ready to create and narrowcast a message!  Click the big Facebook icon in the top left of your screen, and then note the big “What’s on your mind” field towards the middle.

    You can do the friends-list selection either before or after you write (but before you hit share!).  To select which friends will be able to see your post on their newsfeed, click the little padlock-with-arrow icon and select Custom.

    If you don’t see this padlock, even after you type a few characters into the “What’s on your mind” box, then refresh the page in your browser (I had to do this on a couple of different occasions; not sure why).

  1. Now select Specific People… and then below you can type either the names of folks you’re friends with and/or friend lists (including the one you may have just created).
Remember, you aren’t sending a message (e-mail or FB message) to these folks, but rather, you’re telling Facebook that you want the people specified to be able to see your note when view their newsfeed (or your profile page) on Facebook.  Depending upon your friends’ habits and number of friends, they may never actually get to your message, so if you absolutely want them to see your note, send it to them (by e-mail or FB message) or — here’s a radical idea — call them.  You can do this by picking up a phone, clicking the little icon that looks like a phone, and then — I know, this is madness for so many of us — actually speak with your voice into the aparatus to another person.  But I digress.
  1. Lastly, you can doublecheck that you’ve posted your message to the right group of friends by mousing over the padlock icon below your post.  Yes, I know there’s a visual inconsistency in my screenshots, but I didn’t feel like either exposing who’s on my BA friends list or bothering blurring out the names :-).


Hope this walk-thru has been helpful!  Feel free to share this with others (see the nifty icons right below or in the neato Wibiya bar at the bottom of this page) and sound off in the comments if you need more information on this topic, or if you have examples in which this sort of narrowcasting could or has been helpful for you 🙂
[ Trivia note:  This blog took me about one hour and seven minutes to write.  It amazes me that some folks actually make a living from this sort of thing, given the time it takes to craft and edit even relatively short posts. And that doesn’t even take into account participating in comment threads.  Channeling Barbie:  Blogging is hard! Perhaps that’s why BloggingLite is all the rage nowadays. :p ]
5 comments… add one
  • Jaemi Jun 22, 2010

    Aw, you don’t want to be a tutorial blogger? You did a fine job of it 🙂

    I know what you mean though. I’ve been reading a slew of blogs lately, and I keep feeling like I ought to contribute and write some stuff of my own, but by the time I have time…it never happens.

  • ThatAdamGuy Jun 22, 2010

    Aw, thanks! And I think you should feel no pressure to contribute. When blogging starts to really feel like a chore, it’s just not worth it.

  • ThatAdamGuy Jun 22, 2010

    I think you’ve pegged it (with regards to having to figure things out first). Having a goal, maybe carving some specific time out. I still need to do that myself 😉

  • righini Jul 2, 2010

    i’m a little worried thinking what will facebook do with this incredible amount of information that we give only to them. getting back from holidays (almost without internet yeah!) i’m also a little frustrated by facebook’s information duplication, and most of all by facebook tagging (i cannot block people from tagging me, the best thing that i found is to click on “show only to me” option in the “Things others share” section in the privacy panel. This stops people from seeing where i’m tagged but i’m still forced to read every annoying post i’m tagged in. Why should i build lists for people i know? i would prefer the ability to let people subscribe to my different posts types (like i’m already doing by publishing on my blog using categories that create separate rss feeds). Example: What if i think that this item would never interest Paul simply because i do not know enough Paul?

  • speciallens Jul 8, 2010

    never know about this, thanks for the info.

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