Facebook finally launched Friend List, a way to organize your friends into different categories. This is not to be confused with the Facebook application Top Friends which allows you to identify your best 32 friends ( an activity fraught with consequences, IMHO).
I've been waiting for this feature for a long time, as my Facebook presence is primarily about my public persona. Yet, I'm beginning to have "real" friends on Facebook and it's tough to share anything with them that I don't share with the rest of my network, e.g. photos of me with my kids, updates about family vacations, etc.
Friend List is a start, but it lacks privacy controls that would really make it useful. Also, I have over 500 friends in my network, so it's painful having to go through them and put them into the various lists (I'm so far on the letter "e", and finally had to take a break from the tedium).
There's also no way today to see updates from each group -- if I'm at home in the evening, I want to catch up with my close friends, family, and fellow exhausted moms. At work, I want to focus on my professional networks.
What lists have I created? They reflect not only the networks that I'm in, but how I plan to connect with them on Facebook. Here's my list as of now, and how I would *like* to connect with them via Facebook:
- Close friends (personal updates, photos)
- Family (same as close friends, but also coordinating family events)
- Forrester (current employees as well as alumni)
- Moms (sharing parenting tips, getting advice from my trusted network of moms)
- PR (people who usually are pitching me, so communicating my research agenda)
- Press (updating them on topics I'm covering)
- Smart (people who I think are just plain smart that I want to stay in touch with)
This makes me wonder what to do with anyone who doesn't fall into one of these lists, or my other school/work related networks. I've pretty much been accepting all friend invitations, but realize that I may hit the 5,000 friend limit at some point (which is what happened recently to Mark Cuban).
My strategy -- to eventually migrate people who have friended me because they want to *follow* what I'm doing/saying because I'm a Forrester analyst to my Facebook Page. (The problem: if you do a search today for "charlene li", you can't find the page!)
What it means: Professional and business social networking sites will find it more difficult to compete if Facebook is able to successfully allow people to distinguish between their various social graphs. The reality is, we need "friend management" tools that allow us to organize our complicated, inter-connected social networks from real life.
Friend List is just newly launched, but I believe it provides the foundation for many several services. In particular, imagine social applications like My Questions or Movies filtered through specific friends lists. I'm looking forward to it -- Facebook will become all that more relevant and addictive if it's able to truly reflect the complexity of my personal social graph.