Manage Your Relationships the Easy Way with Facebook Lists

by on January 24, 2012 · 31 comments

If you find yourself hooked on Castleville but don’t want to flood your friends’ Facebook feeds with your gaming posts, check out Lists. Guest author Anna Blake explains how to use Facebook Lists to make sure your status updates reach only your intended audience!


We’ve all had the same experience as Facebook users: you’re tired and frustrated at the end of a long day at work, and all you want to do is vent. Normally, that would involve a brief and somewhat cryptic status update on Facebook – just to let everyone in on how you’re feeling. But wait – you just added that new girl from the marketing department, and she talks to your boss a lot. So, perhaps that update isn’t such a good idea. Oh well, maybe you can have a quick gripe about the argument you’re having with a friend. But wait a moment, your friend’s sister added you a few days ago, so you’ll be in the bad books in a matter of moments. Are you frustrated yet?

There are two solutions to these problems: one, wean yourself off venting via social media (and rob yourself of one of life’s great pleasures), or two, use Facebook’s latest ‘Lists’ feature and make your life a whole lot easier. As any marketing agency worth its salt will tell you, with your settings tweaked to perfection, you’ll never again have to worry about your Great Aunt seeing you wax lyrical about the driving skills of that fellow on the way home. Lists can give you a new level of power over your social networking in just a few clicks… let’s find out how.

Time for some ring-fencing

You may not want to compartmentalise all of your friends and relatives, but to live the easiest of all online lives, you’re going to have to bite the bullet. The first step is to ‘ring-fence’ your Facebook friends, or pigeon-hole if you prefer, into certain Lists. You’ll need to think up some unique names for each of these Lists, meaning you’ve got a good opportunity to be creative. Try to put everyone in a list that best describes them; examples include ‘Colleagues’, ‘Extra Cool people’, ‘Acquaintances’, and so on. If you’ve ever been on Google+, you’ll likely have encountered Circles. Facebook Lists are the answer to this, and they’re great if used properly. They let you share certain information with some people, and other information with others – giving you the fine grain control over your networking that, in an ideal world should, have been there in the first place.

Create your Lists

Once you’ve concocted a few clever names, you can start to create your Lists. In the sidebar of Facebook on the left you’ll see the link to your Lists. You’ll also see that there are some pre-selected ones such as ‘Close friends’ and ‘Relatives’. You can use these if you like, but it’s probably safer to create your own and be sure. To do so, simply click on the ‘More’ link next to the title ‘Lists’ in the sidebar. Then you’ll see a button in the upper right that says ‘Create a list’. Click it, and you’re on the way. It’s pretty self-explanatory from here, tap on the name and add the chosen members. Then you’re all set to start managing your relationships better.

Using your lists to best effect

Lists you create will appear in the left hand sidebar. You can click on each to see what people in it are up to. If you create a lot of Lists, just click on the Lists header to be shown a list of your Lists!

But here’s the best part: when you post a status update, you can press the down arrow that says ‘Friends’, then you will be shown your Lists. Select a List and broadcast your update to only the people on that List. Alternatively, you can click ‘Customise’ from that drop-down menu and choose to display or hide your update from specific Lists. This latter option is quite useful, as you’ll be able to protect your rants from the tender ears of your more conservative friends, or protect your job by hiding certain updates from your colleagues.

Remember, this guide is meant only to enhance the way you use Facebook. Don’t rely on your Lists to be foolproof 100% of the time, even Facebook has bugs. For this reason, it’s sometimes better to simply bite your tongue. But Lists can still be massively helpful if you want to say different things to different people. Try it out now and see how easy it can be to manage your Facebook experience.

Do you use Facebook Lists? Do you post status updates you’d rather be kept from some of your friends? Let us know in the Comments section below!

* Facebook Window image by pshab

** Lemur image by Lone Primate

*** Facebook List image by Philip Ashlock

Comments on this entry are closed.

Barbara January 24, 2012 at 10:38 am

Thanks to Anna for this valuable advice and the how-to of list buildings on Facebook, thank you, Carolyn, for mapping out my homework – I was so looking forward to playing truant today.

Have a lovely day! ;-)

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Lol, Thanks Barbara! Anna did a great job of explaining Facebook Lists for us. Great idea playing hookie today. The solar flares would mess up anything you would try to do today anyway. :-)
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Sonia January 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

This was something I was trying to figure out because I always hated the game updates. Considering I don’t play farmville, getting a message about it is quite annoying. The timeline is a bit of a learning curve, but I am getting it more each day.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Hi Sonia, I used to be quite hooked on Farmville, but I started this blog and quickly realized I could only live in one virtual world at a time. I used Facebook Lists to make sure only my Farmville neighbors would know when I posted about my new chicken!

If you have a friend who posts about games often, you could block the game, block your friend or send her this article!

I’m glad you are enjoying Timeline a bit. Keep at it and it will seem like second nature in no time. :-)
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January 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Hey Anna,

Thanks for the valuable information. I get very confused on Facebook especially restricting people to “circles” (yes, I am learning Google +)

This might help me make things easier!

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Hi Hajra, You can think of Facebook Lists as an easy way to post just to certain people or to see certain people’s posts. I hope this helps, Hajra! :-)

Anna Blake January 27, 2012 at 9:49 am

Hi Harja,

No thanks necessary – the pleasure was all mine. Despite the fact that it took me a long time to get my head around it too, it’s actually quite intuitive once you get used to it. Just play around, and have fun!

Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog January 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Hajra’s right I think – this sounds like Facebook’s answer to Google+ Circles. I can see the benefit, but I suspect I’ll be more productive if I just stay away from the games altogether :-) (Besides, when I play Words with Friends on my iPhone…no one’s the wiser!).

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Hi Ruth, I would agree with you but Facebook Lists have been around long before Google+ was launched. I used them to keep my Farmville postings private to my Farmville neighbors and I quit Farmville before Google+ was launched.

Yes, the games can entice you which is why I’m avoiding my farm and hanging out here on my blog! :-)

Praveen Rajarao
January 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Absolutely true Ruth & Hajra..this is an exact replica of the Circles and I think G+ has implemented it in a more smoother fashion than FB.

Thanks for sharing Carolyn & Anna.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Hi Praveen, I have to agree with you. One thing that makes Google+ Circles better is that when you add someone you have to add them into a circle. With Facebook, Lists are optional. Quite a few people don’t know they’re even an option (which is why Anna’s article is so helpful!).

But Facebook Lists have been around for a while, well before Google+, so perhaps Google got its idea for Circles from Facebook’s Lists? :-?
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Bill Dorman January 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm

This is what I need. I have a few ‘friends’ who kill me with game requests; now if I can stick them in a box somewhere I won’t have to drop them.

Thanks for sharing; I knew you could do this but now I know how…….
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 24, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Hi Bill, I know what you mean. You could also just block the games. Don’t hate the gamer, hate the game, lol!

Stan Faryna January 25, 2012 at 8:35 am

I created a list a few years ago. Then I got lazy. But this is excellent advice.

The most recent Castleville message on my Facebook wall:

Stan is feeling magical!

Because I’m special like that… [grin]

Big hug to you, Carolyn. And thank you for the love!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Hi Stan, You are the Castleville Guru, my friend! I thought my readers who enjoy Castleville should learn from the Master. :-)

I have made lists, but I used my Farmville list a lot when I was playing Farmville. You may enjoy having a Castleville list both for posting and for quickly seeing what your Castleville friends have posted.

You definitely are magical, Stan! (*)
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Jonathan Gaurano January 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Hi Anna:

Here is the thing. I like keeping a very clean facebook profile. But, I don’t like putting people into lists because I have a facebook so I can publicize my opinions on the site (debate / inspire / motivate). Therefore, if I feel I have to limit what a certain group, I think to myself that I should unfriend them. Yes, it might be a big step – but if you want to limit people you should just use Google+


Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Hi Jonathan, That’s a very interesting perspective about Facebook. I like lists because I have such a variety of friends on Facebook. For example, if I need suggestions about Chinese restaurants close to me to celebrate the Chinese New Year with Chinese students who are visiting us, I might post a question on Facebook for my local friends. If you play a game such as Farmville or Zynga you may want to post just to those friends who play that game.

You can also use lists to see streams just from a certain group of friends. If you are looking for posts from your university friends about a get together with them, you could click on the list from your school.

But if all of your Facebook friends come from the same area of your life and all either play or don’t play games on Facebook, you may not need lists at all!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us, Jonathan!
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Jonathan Gaurano January 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Anytime! I’ll visit often. (:

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 27, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Awesome! :-)
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January 25, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Great post Anna,

I didn’t realize that I could post a status update using my lists. I’ve just been use to sending messages to certain lists. But this will work great because now I don’t have to email my lists to notify them that I’m having them switch over to my fan page now. I’ll have to get right on that.

I also don’t play any of the games and I don’t really rant on my wall. I save those for my videos! lol… :-)

Great information and I’ll have to share this post now on my Fan Page Carolyn. I like to share great posts that I think my fans will find helpful and this one sure will.

Great job ladies, as always!

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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Hi Adrienne, Thanks for sharing this on your Facebook page! I don’t rant on Facebook either, but sometimes I post things that I only want certain people to see, like a rave review of a nearby restaurant that I think my local friends should check out.

Similarly, when I want to find out about something local, such as a school closing for inclement weather, checking my local friends list is very helpful! :-)
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Cat Alexandra January 25, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Hi Anna,

What a value-packed post! I love using my lists but will admit that I hadn’t thought about using them in some of these ways. You’ve inspired me to clean up my contacts and do a more specific job of sorting out these lists so that I may optimize my shares!

Thanks for sharing!

Cat Alexandra

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 27, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Hi Cat, Yes, Anna did a great job with this article, letting us know about Facebook Lists and explaining how to use them. I think if you take the time to set up your Lists, your efforts will really pay off!
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Jens P. Berget
January 26, 2012 at 7:15 am

Hi Anna,

Awesome post. I haven’t started using the Timeline yet, but I’ve been filtering my messages and the messages from my friends a while. Facebook lists is probably one of the absolute most important things I discovered early. I am very picky when it comes to who sees my various messages, and when I write status updates in Norwegian, I don’t want all my “international” friends to see it, because they wouldn’t understand a thing :)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 26, 2012 at 9:22 am

Hi Jens, That’s a brilliant use of Facebook lists, especially for those who post bi-lingually. You’re right, I wouldn’t understand a thing. Tak for posting this wonderful comment! ;-)

Anna Blake January 27, 2012 at 10:02 am

Hi Jens,

I’d just like to echo Carolyn’s comments – what a really innovative use for Lists. I hadn’t considered the language aspect but that seems like a great way of managing it.

Faran January 30, 2012 at 1:47 am

Nice post,
facebook lists were there even before the timeline. Now that they have made default lists, more people are using this feature. But still I’d say facebook needs to do more to preserve privacy of its users

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 30, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Excellent point, Faran. Now when people add new friends on Facebook, they are asked which group the new friend belongs in, much like Google+ Circles. This helps people organized their Facebook friends. But many people had plenty of Facebook friends before this change was implemented and very few are going to go back and add all of their friends to Lists.

Eddie Gear January 30, 2012 at 9:31 am

Facebook lists are a great way to share your content with select people in your facebook page. However, I think its better to keep family separate and business page separate. I like the Facebook Groups options.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr January 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Hi Eddie, You’re right, if someone is going to rant on his Facebook page, perhaps it’s best that he not have business colleagues as friends on that account.

Facebook Groups are different from Facebook Lists and really are a different beast altogether. Facebook Groups is a topic that deserves a post of its own.

Rohit Batra February 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm


I have been Lists a lot earlier ago when un-expectedly my friends list started getting bigger & bigger day by day as I entered into Blogging, Social Networking. Many times I used to share some pictures which i thought that should not be shown to those friends who were just a part of my work environment who really didn’t know me accept my name & my work.

Same I have seen with many of my Female friends that there Friends list goes on increasing with unknown people, one of them asked frequently about some settings which can limit access to their photos to just some people not all of the friends. I told them simply to 1st make a list of close friends & then use the Custom lists option but now in timeline these settings are easy. But still the main privacy infringer is the Feeds tab.
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