Spring Cleaning: Facebook prompts users to update friend lists to improve News Feed

Some Facebook users are seeing a banner above their News Feed encouraging them to update their “acquaintances” list so certain friends appear less frequently in their feed.

The acquaintances list launched along with “close friends” and Smart Lists in 2011. Users can add people to the acquaintances list to limit the amount and type of updates they see from them. Users can also apply this list to improve their privacy settings and prevent certain photos or posts, for instance, from being visible to friends they aren’t as close to. Over the past year we’ve seen Facebook try different ways to get users to update this list, but the prompt reader Matt Navarra saw on his homepage late last week is the most prominent.

When users click “update list,” a window pops up with suggestions of friends that they haven’t interacted with on Facebook recently. Users can click “see all” to select from their entire friend list.

Facebook’s algorithms will automatically start to show users fewer posts from people and pages they don’t engage with, but explicit actions like adding a user to “acquaintances” or “close friends” give the system even better signals about what users want in their feed. News Feed relevance is the No. 1 thing that shapes how much users enjoy and engage with Facebook. One of the most common complaints we hear is that people don’t care about the things they see in their feed, and most often these people have not created friend lists or deleted friends they are not longer close to. Another common problem is that people don’t feel comfortable sharing with all the people they’ve added as friends, and again, these people typically are hesitant to delete friends and haven’t organized their friends into lists. The acquaintances list — and even lesser known restricted list — address both these issues, and so Facebook would be well served by promoting users even further.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Wired in a recent interview that “sharing with smaller groups” is a key trend he’s seeing. With the last major update to friend lists in 2011 and groups being mostly the same since October 2010, the company is likely to refresh either or both of these products in the next year to improve the options for small group sharing, particularly on mobile.

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