Facebook Friend Grouping – Finally!

I’ve said previously that grouping of friends within Facebook was an inevitable new feature because of the very logic of the service, and that this would substantially aid Facebook’s effort to edge out LinkedIn as the place for both professional and personal networking. If Facebook wants to accurately represent the “social graph” it needs to enable users to account for the fact that some friends are closer than others.

Facebook users got some great news just before Christmas (and in my family time off, with three straight days of Christmas visitors I haven’t been blogging, so I’m just getting around to writing about it.) Facebook has implemented the first phase of friend grouping, and it’s really well done.

Applications like “Top Friends” and “Circle of Friends” are fine, but the problem is they are out there for everyone to see. So if you add someone to a group using one of those applications, everyone who has access to your profile can see who is in what groups.

The best thing about the new baked-in friend grouping in Facebook is that it’s private. I’ve created five new friend groups, for example, but they’re only visible to me. So I can organize my Facebook friends in a way that makes sense to me, which enables me to have various spheres that reflect the reality of how close we are.

The other neat new part of the Facebook friend grouping is the ability to send a group message to everyone in the group. Here’s a message I sent earlier today to my Family friends.


I found through sending this message that when you send a message to a group, every recipient sees the name of every other recipient. They don’t necessarily find out the name of the group list you’ve created, but they can “reply all” to all of the other members.

So, in essence, this is a great way to create a messaging distribution list, to take advantage of the spam-fighting features of Facebook. It makes it more realistic to rely on Facebook as a messaging alternative to email.

The even better news about this development of variable friend grouping in  Facebook is that now we know there will be further enhancements related to these groups. As Mark Slee concluded his post in the Facebook blog:

This is just a start. Expect to see lots of new Friend Lists features in 2008 that will give you more control over the information you share on Facebook and who you share it with.

When this becomes reality, and when we can truly segregate the personal from the professional within Facebook so that professional friends won’t have complete access to our personal lives, then we will see Facebook achieve its goal of being the one-stop social utility. Then, as Nick says, sites like LinkedIn will find the competition much more difficult.

Being a Facebook Celebrity

Can you be a celebrity without having any fans?

In Facebook, I guess you can.


(Click the thumbnail to see the full-size screen shot, or better yet, click here to see my Celebrity/Public Figure page, in the Writer category.)

I had originally tried a workaround for the personal/professional Facebook separation by creating a group called Lee Aase’s Professional Contacts. Establishing a brand page for your professional persona looks like it might be a better way. People can become “fans” without being “friends.” You don’t have to approve it. You can put your email address on your Celebrity page.

So if you want to put forth a professional representation of yourself, you can. You can upload videos and photos. You can post links to some of your most significant news coverage or blog posts. And you don’t have to worry about the various applications you’ve installed on your personal profile cluttering your celebrity page.

Seeing that Scoble and Jeremiah have fan/brand pages in the Critic and Writer categories, I decided to give it a shot. I looked at the Facebook Terms of Service and didn’t see any requirement for a certain level of notoriety before someone could be a celebrity. So if two of my Facebook friends, Jeremiah and Scoble, can have both user accounts and celebrity pages, hopefully I won’t run afoul of the TOS with my celebrity page.

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Why Organizations Should Join Facebook Group Land Rush

Facebook Group Land Rush

Organizations of all types, whether nonprofit or not-for-profit associations or for-profit corporations (hereafter all just called “organizations”), should establish groups in Facebook right now. Jeremiah Owyang has described this as the equivalent of the domain name land rush for Facebook group formation.

Here are the top three reasons to act now:

  1. It’s Free. Not only is membership free, but you can create a group for your organization within Facebook, for no charge. You can pay for a sponsored group, as Apple has with Apple Students (415,056 members as of this writing), and that may be a valid tactic for you. But if you can create a presence in a cyberspace community that has 31 million members, and is growing at more than a million members a week, why would you not take advantage of the opportunity?
  2. Stake Your Claim, and prevent cyber-squatting. This is related to #1 above. You may not realize how easy it is to create a Facebook group, but a mischievous prankster could create a new group in Facebook with your organization’s name in 90 seconds or less, at no cost. If you create an “official” group for your organization, and encourage constituents to join it, the real thing will drive any impostor groups to irrelevance, sort of a Gresham’s Law in reverse.
  3. You can create more than one group, and the second one is half price. (OK, that was a joke; see #1 again.) In reality, you can have an infinite number of groups related to your organization, each with a different purpose.
    • You can have an “open” group that anyone can join, as your organization’s public face in Facebook. If you need to communicate quickly with everyone affiliated with your organization, you can use Facebook to send the message.
    • You can have a “closed” group that is visible to the world, but for which people need permission to join. This is ideal for a membership organization, to create a value-added space for networking, mentoring and discussion of issues of common interest.
    • You can create “secret” groups that aren’t visible to people in Facebook unless an Administrator first invites them. This could be used for a Board of Directors, for example, or for communication within an employee group or work unit…anytime you want to be able to communicate confidentially, and even keep the existence of the conversation confidential.


More to come on how organizations can use Facebook to communicate with constituents and others who share common interests.

Update: This post was written several months before Facebook developed Pages as an alternative for organizations and brands. You may want to have a page for your overall brand, and have groups that are ways for employees, customers or constituents to collaborate. See the Facebook Business page or the Facebook curriculum here on SMUG for more recent thinking.

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