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How to use Facebook lists for market research

March 19, 2012

Facebook restaurant list

The Birmingham, Ala., restaurants Facebook list resembles
the update stream for friend groups and professional groups. 

With the hoopla over the new Timeline format for Facebook pages, you may have missed another feature added in the last couple of weeks: Facebook lists.

Facebook has let users segment their friends by group, whether co-workers, family members, close friends or not-so-close friends. You could use them to keep up with your favorite circles and also limit sharing of your photos and updates to specific people. Don’t want your boss seeing all your weekend revelry, for example.

Facebook lists extends the monitoring of your favorites to pages, too. For example, I spent hours compiling more than 500 local restaurants’ Facebook pages into the Birmingham, Ala., restaurants list. You can subscribe to this list and see what’s going on in our city’s dining scene with a glance.

You can make a list public, so others on Facebook — whether they’re connected to you or not — can subscribe. Or you can keep the list private. For example, you might create a list to monitor your competitors’ activity on Facebook. You can include personal profiles, even your own, along with company pages.

Twitter restaurant listThe Facebook lists feature isn’t a new idea. Twitter has had its own user-created public and private lists for years. The biggest difference is that public Twitter lists are visible to everyone, including non-tweeters; public Facebook lists are visible only if you’re signed in. Plus, Twitter lists can be embedded on websites, as shown on my Birmingham restaurant guide page (shown at right), but not Facebook lists.

You can search for lists or create your own at facebook.com/addlist.

Before you create one, keep in mind:

  • You can build a Facebook list as yourself or on behalf of a page. But if you’re going to build it on behalf of a page, switch your identity to that page before creating the list. Once it’s built, you can’t transfer or share ownership.
  • Getting others to subscribe to your list will be a challenge. With this new feature, few users know it even exists.
  • You can add or subtract who is included on your list at any time.
  • Lists show up sometimes in the left sidebar under “Interests.”

Facebook - hide story

  • You can fine-tune others’ lists. If I subscribe to a Dessert Recipes list, but I don’t want to see any from the Coconut Crazy Co. (because I really do hate coconut), I can click on the down arrow by the update and “Hide all by Coconut Crazy Co.”

As you study how companies market themselves on Facebook, you will find ideas on how to present your own organization’s information, photos, videos and more. You’ll also sometimes notice a lack of imagination: I look through that restaurants list regularly, and I see similar pleas and menu highlights and happy hour specials.

The most important aspect to notice when scanning through a list you make for monitoring competitors is the line of statistics below each update: Likes, Shares and comments. Your competitors are doing the hard work for you, showing what attracts customers to interact with a page.

Facebook stats

Sure, some of the stats will be related to how many fans a page already has, but in terms of instant market research, it’s far easier to assess at a glance than a Twitter list.

The best advice I can give companies for Facebook lists is to subscribe to relevant lists, build your own public ones to share with fans and create a private one to monitor competitors.

What Facebook lists are you reading? Share your faves in the comments, please.

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