Facebook Privacy Settings – a Must Read for Facebook Users

The Unofficial Facebook Blog brings us a post that all Facebook users should read “10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.”  It’ll help you navigate the proper settings for your Facebook account and help you to find a way to show your work compatriots one level of info, while showing your personal friends another.  It’ll also allow you to friend your family members without worrying they’ll be reading about all your antics with your friends (Hint, hint, hint – Christina?  This one’s for you…).

A sample:

I can’t tell you how many people are not aware of their friend lists. For those not aware of what friend lists are, Facebook describes them as a feature which allows “you to create private groupings of friends based on your personal preferences. For example, you can create a Friend List for your friends that meet for weekly book club meetings. You can create Friend Lists for all of your organizational needs, allowing you to quickly view friends by type and send messages to your lists.”

There are a few very important things to remember about friend lists:

  • You can add each friend to more than one friend group
  • Friend groups should be used like “tags” as used elsewhere around the web
  • Friend Lists can have specific privacy policies applied to them

I’ve been working with social media for a long time, and frankly, I’ve seen few things that were so convoluted and hard to understand as Facebook Privacy Settings. I suspect the space shuttle, or even an IBM Websphere server might fall into that group, but not much else.

The Shine is off Social Networking

Say it ain’t so, Joe! Over the past few weeks, it’s begun to look like Social Networking, the current darling of the conference and consultant set, might have jumped the shark.  I personally would peg the exact point where it went careening off track as the day that Waste Management (the guys that probably run your local honey truck) opened their own social networking site.

But it goes far beyond that.  Earlier this week Om Malik wrote a very interesting piece showing that social networking may have flattened out, or even may be decreasing. He notes:

Today there are numbers out from comScore that indicate plateauing growth for the big two — MySpace and Facebook — in the U.S. Last week, Revision3 canceled “SocialBrew,” an online video show dedicated to social networking. Meanwhile, Monster killed its Tickle social networking service (first reported in April by TechCrunch), following closely on the heels of CondeNast’s shuttering of Flip and Verizon’s decision to close up its virtually unknown network, which had managed to garner a mere 18,000 members. (Verizon has shifted its community to Facebook.)

And these just might be the tip of the iceberg, for there are way too many me-too networks out there failing to find the traction, and hence the volume, needed to grow their revenues. The lack of monetization will only accelerate this process.

I’ve also been detecting a subtle change in the “conversations” on Twitter lately, with some brave few actually taking a stand against the social networking Kool-Aid.  In one telling argument, it came down to a final comment from the prime Kool-Aid drinker that “You just never got Social Networking,” reminding my of my favorite line from a movie I dearly love, The Duellists, in which the lead character, D’Hubert, (a Napoleonic era officer who has served from Spain to Russia and back) is condemned with the single statement “You never loved the Emperor.”  Indeed, one might as easily be condemned for “Not being Politically Correct,” or whatever the actual flavor of the moment is.

Also, I find the current “Proactive Customer Support” wherein companies monitor social networking apps to create a two tier service network, in which the middle to upper income have a vastly different support experience than the lower middle to poor do.  Think about “Comcast Cares” on Twitter, a Comcast rep, who actively searches out support issues to help fix them.  I’ll bet he’s finding most of the problems are centered in Bel Aire, not in Compton.

Social Networking wasn’t invented by the current crop of Powerpoint wielding wannabes, and it’s been around a lot longer than most would suggest.  Honestly, I see it actually predating the internet, going back to the days of computer bulletin board services (Do you remember them?).  Most of the basic fundementals of Social Networking were really polished in online forums, on IRC, and in the first Instant Messaging Apps.  It’s not utterly new, in most cases, this is just a better presentation.

Some general Social Networking notes:

  • “Join the Conversation” – I’m growing tired of hearing this.  If you already aren’t talking to your customers, then maybe there’s a reason.
  • Just because Facebook says we’re friends, it doesn’t mean I will loan you money…
  • Why is it the GuruVangelistPerts on Social Networking seem to Twitter from bars or about going to bars so often?

What is new, is that there is now a widespread understanding of Social Networking and it’s overall importance in both web design in particular and marketing in general.  I realize many readers may be rather upset at my saying the Emperor has no clothes, but indeed, that is not what I am saying. I am saying it’s a waste of time to talk about the clothes, rather than the more substantive issues about the Emperor, like taxes, etc.  When the medium is the subject of the message, there is a problem with that medium.

I’ve said it before, I say it again here.  Social Networking and Social Media are not ends unto themselves.  They are aspects of good web design, and should be employed as such.  To use Social Media for Social Media’s sake is a waste of time.  There is a limit to the number of Social Networks I want to be a part of, and I personally would prefer to have more in common with my fellow users than simple ownership of a computer.  Niche communities are the way to go…as Om so brilliantly notes.

Niche Social Networking is Networking that Works

Niche Social Networking with Mark CahillI’ve been saying for over a year that there is a limit to the places I want to network with people, and I’m going to go one step further right now: there are a whole lot of people out there I am not interested in networking with.

There, I said it. It’s not that I hate people, it’s just that for the most part I have little interest in the generic style networking that’s offered by Facebook, and in my estimation, it’s lesser brethren, LinkedIn and MySpace. Call me a snob, but I’d like to have something in common with the folks I’m going to network with, and frankly I’d like to have that commonality reach a little deeper than computer ownership and a willingness to share banality over the web.

The shine if off the first round of Social Networking, and it’s not going to come back. I’m not the only one who’s realized it either. You see, Social Networking for Social Networkings sake is a waste of time. The truth is, it’s a tool that as web developers we should be deploying where appropriate.

I believe that ’08 is going to see the rise of niche social networking. A place were the tenets of social networking find real traction in niche spaces, by users who share that common thread, be it cycling, classic cars, fly fishing, whatever.

While Twittering still doesn’t make much sense to me, I can see that it would make a whole bunch of sense when I’m networked with my fly fishing buddies (like “I’m on a blitz of blues at Sagamore Beach right now” ). Online user groups make total sense to me when it’s applied to a classic car group, but an online group of people who simply live within 40 miles of me makes no sense if I’m not interested in dating (and I’m not). Think about it.

Niche Social Networking is like hanging out at your fishing club, while Mass Social Networking is like hanging out in a bus terminal – the two are totally different experiences.

I’ve been working with niche communities since 1995 – niche social networking is a winner.

More Reading: Gary Andrews