Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Three Ways to Manage Your Attention with Facebook

Three Ways to Manage Your Attention with Facebook

It took me awhile but I have become a big evangelist for Facebook. It's now my primary source of information. I suspect, from looking at the data, that this is true for millions - although I bet most don't even realize it. Nielsen reports that the average American spends seven hours a month on Facebook - that's staggering when you think about bounce rates and how mission-oriented web users are. (Note - Nielsen is a client.)

The main reason I am digging more into Facebook these days is that, in an age of infinite noise, the site actually helps me manage my attention. What's more it makes it easier for me to connect with streams I care about from brands, news sources and thinkers like Jeremiah Owyang and Om Malik. I also like the richness of the conversation and how it's easy to read, navigate and respond.

Still, as great as Facebook is, the site has its annoyances. You need to dig in a bit to tweak it. Once you do, however, I find it becomes a really powerful way to manage your attention. Here are three ways I am making Facebook rock my world ....

Tune out Inane Updates

First, while games are huge on Facebook, I really don't care about my friends' gaming activity. I am not alone. "I don't care about your farm, or your fish, or your park, or your mafia" has attracted over five million fans. Thankfully, the New York Times today details how you can tune out say Farmville updates from friends...

"On your regular News Feed, you can also weed out the constant updates from any of the farming, organized crime, vampire, space, fantasy or casual games your friends may be playing on Facebook. Just move the mouse cursor to the end of the first line from an update from say, Mafia Wars, and click the Hide button that appears. A box pops up giving you the option to either hide game updates (or the friend) from your News Feed."

Organize Pages Into Lists and Use the Search Box

I have fanned more than 350 pages on Facebook. You read that right. The reason is that I treat Facebook as my primary newsreader. I want to see these updates in my real-time stream. 

Still, if you have fanned more than a few pages, I would recommend setting up lists to make this all manageable. I have set up several lists that I navigate from my phone as well as on the web site. These include lists for client pages and people, news sources/reporters and more. Lists help keep Facebook in check from becoming another source of overload.

Also, don't forget the search box. Often, when all I have time is a a quick scan of the headlines, I head to the box and type in one or more of my favorite sites. This is harder to do on say Twitter. Plus Facebook offers summaries.

Set Your Priorities

In an age of information abundance, quality and signals rule. Still, each individual's definition of what is signal varies. Once you find individuals or pages that add value to your life, you can prioritize them in your feed. Head down to the bottom of your news feed and click on "Edit Options." There you can tell Facebook which people and pages to show more of. 

Right now, this is how I am tracking the Olympics. I have asked Facebook to prioritize updates from four Olympic-related pages that I have fanned. Once the games are over I will turn this off. But for now, it's a great way to keep up with the news.

How are you using Facebook? Are you like me in that you're spending more time on the site or are you in the opposite situation? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Also if you log in with Facebook the comments can be shared on your profile and mine.

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