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I’ve been having an interesting time – for “interesting” read “time-consuming and frustrating but I hope it’s worth it” – working out how to communicate a particular message to friends on Facebook. For experienced Facebook users what I’ve learned the hard way will probably seem terribly obvious, but someone might find some value in my sharing the experience.

And in the glorious tradition of blogging, I’ll have had the pleasure of getting it off my chest. 🙂

Background is that in my previous post on my current adventures with Facebook, I promised to write about making my new Social Media Roadmap page on Facebook more functional.

In looking at putting some time into the project I had been gratified and encouraged by the very positive response I’d had to inviting people to sign up on the new page, first in the somewhat pressured context of the Facebook page name “landrush” and subsequently. From the initial minimum 100 “fans” I had needed to be able to submit my name of choice for the page, the number has grown now to 186.

But as I was about to start on the process of pimping the Social Media Roadmap page I noticed that on my Facebook profile I have some 763 friends. It occurred to me that some of those friends might want to know about the Social Media Roadmap page and might not have picked up on my invitations, on Twitter, on my Facebook wall, etc.

Should be easy, I thought: just send a message to my friends.

Because they’re my friends, right? So where is the button to message all my friends? Can’t find it. Ask around. “Oh no”, I’m told by a friend (as in the offline version of “friend”) who knows about these things, “Facebook won’t let you send a message to all your friends at once.” This is apparently to protect us all from spamming: understandable, but right now that’s a pain. So what can I do? “Simple” says my friend, “you create groups and message them. But remember there can’t be more than 20 people in a group.”

Here’s where it got interesting. Whether by design or indifference, the Facebook setup is extremely user-unfriendly when it comes to linking friends together in groups.

And one of the first things I learnt in the process was that, technically, what I needed to create were not “groups” but “lists” (“group” means something else in Facebook).

First I had to click on the Friends tab in the main menu bar. That gave me pages of friends’ names and photos and at the top of the list a new menu bar with three tabs: Create New List, Edit List, Delete List. I noticed also that on the left hand side I already had some lists I had created at some point: but they were fairly selective and would not do for the current purpose.

Only the tab Create List was highlighted at this point, so I clicked that and a popup box appeared, with a field for the group name, and friends’ names and numbers displayed three across. There are two ways to add a name to the group, namely by typing into a separate field the beginning letters of a name or by clicking on a member’s picture. As you add names a tally is registered at the top of the box (“Selected”). The aim for me with the current exercise was to add no more than 20 to a list.

A complication I made for myself, consciously, was to exclude from the lists any of the people already on the Social Media Roadmap page. I did not think it would be a good look to be sending a notice about the page, or invitation to join, to someone already on the page.

As I could not find any way to export the list of names on the Social Media Roadmap page (as I can do, for instance, and with email addresses, with my connections on LinkedIn), I set up a spreadsheet and put in some time copying each name from the page into a spreadsheet.

I then cross-referenced that list of those already on the page with each of the new lists of friends and removed the duplicates from the friends’ lists.

So the current situation is that I have 36 lists of names of Facebook friends who have not yet become fans of the Social Media Roadmap page. As I understand, one of the advantages of the new page setup is that I will be able to message everyone at once without having to do sub-lists.

Over the next day or two I will message the 36 lists of friends progressively about the Social Media Roadmap page and hope some of them will see that as something of sufficient potential interest and value to them to consider becoming “fans”.

Then I will look at ways to make the page more interesting and helpful. And I intend to post about that in due course.

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