Who sees all these posts? With both Facebook and Google+, filtering the audience is pretty easy using lists. Building and maintaining friend lists used to be a chore with Facebook, as even Mark Zuckerberg once agreed. But recent changes make it a lot easier. That cluttered left navigation column is handy for its prominent placement of friend lists. Simply clicking on one brings up the news feeds for everyone in the group. A “Manage Lists” button on the top right of the page allows filtering what shows up (status, photos, game updates…) as well as quickly editing the list to add or remove people.
Facebook also provides a jumpstart by automatically creating a few “Smart Lists” based on a user’s profile—with groupings for Facebook friends who went to the same school, worked at the same job or even live in the same city.
Friend lists are central to Google+. As soon as people start, they create lists by looking up people and dragging their icons into various circles, such as Family, Friends and Acquaintances. Users can create as many circles as they like (and put the same person in any number of them), but Google+ won’t suggest any groupings, as Facebook’s Smart Lists do. (Google has hinted that such a feature may come later, though.)
Building Circles can be tedious, but it can also raise intriguing questions. Who really is a friend? Who counts as an acquaintance? Are all family members also friends?
People can share a Circle—say one for members of a club—with others, who then have the option to add or delete members. Like with Twitter, users can also make a Circle available to the public, say a hotlist of celebrities or experts in a topic whom a lot of people may want to follow.
Automatic Smart Lists provide a good start. And other lists are easy to customize by quickly changing members or selecting what kinds of updates appear.