How to use your Facebook restricted list

Organizing your Facebook friends into lists is a great way to share different kinds of content with different kinds of people: for example, you might want to share certain updates with your colleagues, and other kinds of updates (like those adorable kid photos) with a small circle of friends.Facebook automatically creates a few of these lists for you, like the list of people who went to the same school you went to. One of the most useful lists is the “restricted” list, because it lets you share things with your friends, while hiding them from people on your restricted list.

My restricted list contains anyone I agree to friend but don’t really know (as a writer, I like to be accessible to people who read my blog posts) as well as my workplace colleagues, my mom and my mom’s friends. (Because even after I put my mom on my restricted list, her friends reported on my Facebook updates.)In this guide, I show you how to add people to your restricted list, and how to tweak both your Facebook settings and your individual post settings so you control who sees what.

1. Review friend requests

Start by clicking the friends icon in the upper right of your Facebook window to see your friend requests. Here, I’ve received a friend request from someone I don’t actually know, so he’s going on my restricted list.

Friend requests

2. Confirm request

When you see someone you know through your professional work, and want to friend, click the “confirm” button.

Confirm request

3. Click to see the Friends dropdown

This will load a “friends” button with a drop-down menu. Click to see the drop-down menu.

Friends dropdown

4. Choose “Add to another list”

Scroll down and click on “Add to another list”.

Add to another list

5. Click restricted

Then scroll down until you can click on “Restricted”.

Click restricted

6. Confirm restricted

You should now see a check mark next to “Restricted”. Anyone on your restricted list will see only your Public posts — even though they are technically your “friend”, they don’t see content you share only with friends.

Confirm restricted

7. Change default post settings

Next, you need to change the default settings for who sees the content you share, so that you only share things with the whole world (including the people on your restricted list) when you really want to. Start by clicking the settings icon.

Change default post settings

8. Select “account settings”

From the settings menu, choose “account settings”.

Select "account settings"

9. Navigate to privacy settings

Select “privacy” from the left-hand sidebar. Note that Facebook frequently moves its settings around, so the screenshots I’m sharing today may not reflect how Facebook will work a month or year from now.

Navigate to privacy settings

10. Edit privacy settings

Under “Who can see my stuff?”, if it’s not set to “friends”, select “edit” next to “who can see your future posts?”

Edit privacy settings

11. Edit “Who can see my stuff?”

Set “Who can see your future posts” to “friends” so that you don’t accidentally share things with the whole world. This way, the default for anything you post will be to share it only with friends who aren’t on your restricted list.

Who can see my stuff?

12. Tweak the visibility settings on individual updates

Note that you can change the privacy setting on any individual Facebook post or photo, either at the time of posting, or after the fact. You can even limit visibility to specific people.

Set post visibility

13. Set post visibility (excluding your restricted list)

If you want to post something that you don’t want to share with your professional contacts, set the post visibility to “friends”. When you hover over the button, you’ll see that it specifically says “..Except: Restricted”. That means people on your restricted list won’t see it.

Viewing your post

14. Set post visibility for posts you want to share with everyone

If you want to share something with the whole world — including people on your restricted list — set your post visibility to “public”. Double-check your post visibility before clicking “post”.

Confirm post visibility

15. View your wall

Look at your Facebook wall to see everything you’ve shared, whether it’s public or just for friends who aren’t on your restricted list.

View your wall

16. Test your settings with “view as”

If you want to double-check your settings, or make sure that people on your restricted list are only seeing the updates you want them to see, use the “view as” option on your profile page, under the gear icon.

Test your settings with "view as"

17. View your profile as someone on your restricted list

Enter the name of someone on your restricted list to see what your profile page looks like to them. Sure enough, the latest person on my restricted list can only see the post I shared publicly — not the one I shared with friends.

View your post as someone on your restricted list

18. Filter your news feed with a friend list

You can create as many different friend lists as you want — it just takes a little work to organize your friends into the right lists. You can use those same lists to pay closer attention to some people, and less attention to others. When I look at Facebook, I often filter my news feed so I’m only looking at my “A1 Pals” list: the small circle of friends and family whose updates can easily get lost in the sea of news from the hundreds of people I’ve friended.

Filter your news feed with a friend list
Experiment with creating a couple of lists for specific purposes, like sharing family news. And please be sure to share your own tips for getting the most from Facebook lists!
P.S.  Do you wonder where I found the hours and hours and hours to make these detailed instructions? I didn’t! Thanks to an amazing application called Clarify, it only took an hour or two to put this together — most of it on the writing, not the screenshots. Check out Clarify here, or view this post on my Clarify account.

4 easy steps to creating a Twitter list from your conference backchannel

You know you’re at a conference with a great backchannel when you want to stay in touch with all the folks who’ve been tweeting away under the designated hashtags. That’s how I felt about the Association of Internet Researchers (AOIR) conference last week: from the moment that I saw the conference hashtag (#ir12) bust out with initial tweets about how to troubleshoot the hotel wifi, I couldn’t wait to get down to Seattle and join them.

Now that the conference is over I wanted to stay in touch with all the great folks I met. I could individually follow each person who tweeted at the conference, but that is a lot of work, and then everybody else has to do the same thing. So I figured: if you really want to nourish post-conference community, the best way to do that is by creating a Twitter list that everyone else can follow, too.

And today I discovered a great, free Twitter tool that lets you do just that: TweetBeat has all kinds of handy tools for managing Twitter lists, including just what I needed: the ability to search for everyone who’d used a given hashtag, and add them all to my new Twitter list in one go. Here’s how I did it.

1. Create your list

Set up the list you want using Twitter’s web-based interface. Make sure the list is public, and consider giving it a clarifying description (e.g. “This list is made from everyone who tweeted at AOIR 2011. Tweet me if you were at the conference and would like to be added.”)

Twitter "create list" link appears under "lists" on Twitter web interface


2. Login to

You’ll need to authenticate with your Twitter account, but it’s self-explanatory.


3. Search for conference Tweeters

Use to search the conference hashtag. You’ll get a list of everyone who has used the hashtag recently. Note that loads fewer than 100, initially, so you have to click “older” off to the right if you are searching on a heavily-used hashtag that has been used by hundreds of people.


4. Add the found users to your list

Once you have the list of everyone you’ve found, you need to click “all” (see image below) to select them all. You’ll see checkboxes get checked. Then you just use the “add or remove from lists” dropdown menu to add all the checked names to the list you created on Twitter.

Add people to list from Tweetbeat by selecting "all" then choosing list

And that’s it! You’re done. You now have a great list of all the amazing people you met at AOIR 2011.

You can imagine lots of other great uses for this tool:

  • The fans list: Quickly create a Twitter list for everyone who has ever tweeted @You or @YourOrganization
  • The bigwigs list: Create a Twitter list of everyone who follows you and has more than 10,000 followers
  • The research list: Create a list that automatically adds anyone who tweets a keyword of interest (yes, TweetBeat can automatically add people to your lists on an ongoing basis).

Are you thinking of using TweetBeat to build a list of your backchannel participants? Are you already using TweetBeat in ways I haven’t yet imagined? Do let me know in comments below, or on Twitter.

How to add yourself to your own Twitter list using HootSuite

Today I noticed an irony on the SIM Centre website: our Twitter sidebar widget, which does a lovely job of displaying tweets from all those who are connected to the SIM Centre, wasn’t showing tweets from the SIM Centre itself. I realized that was because our sidebar was fed by a Twitter list called @Simcentre/sim-people, which didn’t include @SimCentre. Easy enough to fix — right?

Arrow points to icon on Twitter profile that lets you add someone to list

When viewing someone else's Twitter profile you can click an icon to get the "add to list" option.

Actually, it’s not so obvious how you go about adding yourself to your own Twitter list, even though there are lots of reasons to do so. (If you’re creating a list of influencers in your field, for instance, don’t you want to include yourself?) If you look at your own profile page, you won’t be able to access the drop-down menu that gives the “add to list” option when you’re looking at someone else’s profile. And the alternatives that Google turned up were either too hardcore (do I really need to learn Ruby in order to solve this problem?) or too dated (this methodology relies on switching to “old Twitter”, which is no longer an option).

Happily, I came up with a quick and easy workaround myself. Using HootSuite, it’s easy to add yourself to your own Twitter list. All you have to do is open your own profile within HootSuite (just click on your username in a tweet that mentions you, as per #1 in the screenshot below), click “add to list” (#2) and then select the list you want to include yourself on (#3).

User profile pop-up in HootSuite shows "Add to list" button that launches window with list selector

If you aren’t already using a Twitter client, this is yet another reason to start (here’s how). And if you aren’t yet using Twitter lists — well, that is going to rock your world too.

How Twitter lists can keep you connected to the relationships that matter most

Social media is all about being connected, we are often told. But who are you connecting with? Answering that question is crucial to using Twitter — or any social web tool — in a way that that supports your career, enriches your relationships and expands your perspective on the world around you.

It’s easy to lose sight of real connection when you’re first confronted with the firehose that is Twitter. For one thing, a lot of people initially use Twitter to follow celebrities, which offers only a very illusory (and fleeting) sense of connection. Others hit follow follow follow follow, or reciprocally follow everyone who follows them, and quickly drown in a sea of tweets that go by faster than they can track them. Lost in the tide are the tweets you actually care about…the tweets from your dearest friend or most valued colleague.

Twitter lists offer a way of solving that problem. You could follow someone else’s pre-fab Twitter list. You can find a list of must-follow tweeters on just about any topic under the sun: Crafters. Indigenous people’s rights. New York City food trucks. And following lists like these offers an easy way of quickly getting a taste of a whole bunch of different people, and finding out who you’re really interested in, without making a big commitment: unlike following people one by one (which can make it tough to prune the number of people you follow when it grows too big) you can follow and unfollow everyone on a single Twitter list with just a single click.

But the real power of Twitter lists comes from creating your own. I’m not talking, for the moment, about creating public Twitter lists: the lists you carefully compile and curate to build your own reputation, brand and empire…you know, the usual social media drill.

What I’m talking about are lists that you create just for you: private lists that help you pay attention to different people at different times of the day, or even in different moods. 18 months ago, I created; over time, I’ve pared them down to the following crucial lists:

  1. Love: People I love and want to have more of in my life; or feel I could love, if we had more connection. It even includes a handful of loveable people I know entirely online. This group would make sense to nobody except me: it’s pure, gut-level filing. There’s no “it would be useful to follow this person closely”, or “I shouldn’t file a client here”. If I get a happy warm glow from thinking about this person, they’re in. If I get an anxiety twinge, they’re out.
  2. Inspire: Feeds that feed me. Some of these are people who say things that inspire me, and some are “official” feeds that inspire me.
  3. Meet: People in Vancouver. Following locals is a good way of using Twitter to drive me to see people and participate in events in real life. For now, I’m putting every Vancouver-based feed in here, but over time I may triage so that it only has feeds from people who Twitter events and meetups. However part of what I like about having everyone is that it will prompt me to set up my own dates, too — or to notice if someone is hanging out near where I am at the moment. The key is to let the group name — “meet” — remind me of my intention with these folks.
  4. Learn: People I don’t know personally, but learn from watching.
  5. Apply: This is a group for feeds from software applications I use regularly in my work. These are feeds that contain tips I can apply in my work.
  6. Help: This is for feeds that belong to people and organizations I’m trying to help.
  7. Engage: These are people I’ve gotten to know, or know better, through Twitter. They are people who use Twitter to reach out to me, to share what I’m writing or tweeting about, or to share resources they think I’ll be interested in. They are people I want to focus a lot of attention on because they are people who it’s really, really satisfying to connect with on Twitter.
  8. Normal people: These are Twitter users who don’t work in social media. So many of my colleagues and friends — especially those who tweet a lot — are people who (like me) work in social media or communications, and so they tweet in a way that is quite different from regular folks or non-communications professionals who use Twitter, rather than tweeting about Twitter. Keeping an eye on how these folks tweet is a way of keeping my finger on the pulse of how Twitter is evolving and being adopted out there, in the real world.

By setting each of these up as lists, I can zero in on the people I want to pay attention to at any given moment. Better yet, I can set up my preferred Twitter client — these days, it’s HootSuite — so that my most crucial lists get the lion’s share of my attention.

If I’m going to look at Twitter ten times a day, I want to spend that time on the Hootsuite tab that gives me access to the Twitter pals who are most rewarding, along with the people I love, the people who inspire me, and the people I want to connect with. Yes, I dip into my “all friends” feed from time to time — I got shamed back into it after shocking an audience at Northern Voice with the news that I’d sworn off “all friends” altogether — but I find that I’m happiest, most focused and most productive when I lavish my Twitter minutes on the lists that I’ve carefully groomed to focus on key people and key goals.

You’ll notice that almost all of these lists are private: in other words, I’m the only person who can see who is on them. For these lists to work effectively, I have to be brutally honest, putting people on my love list only if I really and truly adore them, taking them off my inspire list if they get cloying, adding them to my meet list only if I actually want to meet up with them from time to time.

But the real trick to this system lies not in how carefully you build or curate your lists, or which Twitter client you use to view them. It lies in letting yourself off the hook for your dozens, hundreds or even thousands of Twitter follows; in admitting that nobody truly keeps up with the tweets of that many people. When you check your all friends feed, you’re letting an accident of timing determine who gets your attention: your attention will go to the twenty or thirty people who happen to have tweeted shortly before you dropped in.

Focus instead on your lists, and you take charge of your attention. You put your Twitter time into the relationships that matter to you, into the people you care about and most want to learn from. You’ll turn Twitter into an engine of real connection, and you’ll never again wonder just who you are trying to connect with.