How to trim the fat from your Facebook account
When I first joined Facebook over 5 years ago, in my first post I said, "Thanks for stopping by! I know, yet another social networking site. Hopefully some of these will gain more popularity than the others and there won't be so many in a few years. In the meantime, what can you do?" At the time, I'd been using MySpace for a little while, as well as an assortment of other online bulletin board systems (BBS) and networks. While Facebook certainly has achieved the popularity I'd hoped for, it hasn't come without some growing pains.
From a personal perspective, using Facebook for so long means that I've made lots of connections. Since 2008 I have accumulated over 1600 online "friends" and Liked hundreds of Facebook Pages. The problem is, like anything else we just jump into, I didn't have a plan. I obviously don't have 1600 real friends (stop laughing). Many of these connections were due to friend requests to or by me from fellow Empire Avenue players - the online social media stock exchange. I also would occasionally go through spurts where I would use Facebook's Friend Suggest feature and send out dozens of friend requests, often to people I really didn't know very well at all. Empire Avenue also has led to me liking countless Facebook Pages for which I have no real interest, but I was asked to Like the Page so I did.
Now, it's time to clean house.
Facebook Housekeeping Reasoning
As you can imagine, and perhaps have experienced for yourself, having this many connections fills your Facebook News Feed with a non-stop stream of status updates from all these people. If I knew them all and were interested in everything they have to say, that would be one thing. But, the unfortunate truth is that I simply don't have the time or interest to keep up with all these updates.
This is particularly true for Facebook Pages that I've liked for businesses that I don't know, but liked because I was asked to. Frankly, I'm not doing these businesses any favors. By Liking a Facebook Page, I've increased their fan base by one, of course, but since I'm not interested in them I do not Like or engage their Facebook Page posts. Due to Facebook EdgeRank, the ability for your Page Posts to be seen by fans depends on how often your past posts have been engaged. By being a fan and not engaging a business, I'm decreasing their engagement ratio. I know it's not a lot, but it's certainly not helpful.
Beyond that, there's the issue of non-stop app requests and event invitations. The more people you're connected with on Facebook, the more often you're going to be invited to install an app or attend some random event. I am particularly amused by the event invitations I get for events taking place hundreds of miles away from where I live, which means the event organizer simply invited everyone in their contacts, rather than taking the time to target people who might actually be interested and able to attend. If I dramatically decrease my number of connections, I'll reduce the number of app and event notifications.
Facebook Housekeeping Methods
There are a couple of different ways that you can go about unfriending, unsubscribing and unliking people and pages in Facebook.
One option that will clean up your News Feed is to hide individual's status updates from your feed. You will still be friends with them, and they'll be able to send you event and app requests, but your News Feed will be somewhat cleaner. While in your News Feed, go to an update from the individual you want to limit, mouseover the update and look for the button that appears in the upper right corner of the update box. Click it and select Hide. That will hide that specific post, and provide you a link that says, "Change what updates you get from _____." Click that link and you can reduce the updates you get by different categories, or unfollow to receive no updates at all.
But what if you don't want any updates or invitations or notifications, and just want to unfriend someone? From your browser, go to your own profile and click on your Friends box. Your Friends page is separated by Friends, Recently Added, From High School and From College. It's likely that you're going to need to simply sift through your general Friends list.
Scroll through your list until you find someone you want to remove. Click on the Friends button next to their name and select Unfriend. A window will pop up asking you to confirm you want to unfriend them, so click Remove From Friends. A new window will come up letting you know you were successful that you can click Okay on, and you're done. Continue through your list.
Unfortunately, there is no method for removing friends by bulk. There used to be a few websites and scripts and plugins that worked, but I didn't see any that were currently functioning.
If you're on your iPhone, it's actually pretty easy. Open your Facebook App and swipe to the right to access the menu. Tap on Friends, and you'll see an alphabetical list of your current friends. Tap the first one you see that you want to unfriend and that will open their profile. Under their profile image, you'll see a button that says, "Friends" with a checkmark. Tap that button and select Unfriend. Wait a moment, and then they'll have been removed from your Friends list.
Do take note of the "Subscribe" button. Sometimes, when you unfriend someone, you will remain subscribed to their updates. If you do not wish to continue to see their posts in your news feed, be sure to tap Subscribed and then Unsubscribe.
You can also perform the same action right from your News Feed. When you see a post from someone you wish to unfriend, simply tap on their name and you'll see their profile where you can unfriend them and/or unsubscribe.
By the same token, anyone that you unfriend can remain subscribed to your news feeds, or later choose to subscribe. They will be able to see any of your Public posts.
To adjust your Facebook Page likes, go back to your profile and click on your Likes tab. Depending on how many personal tabs you have, you may need to expand your tabs to find it (see image below). The Likes area starts with your Favorites, which is divided into Music, Books, Movies, Television, Games, Athletes, Sports Teams, Favorite Sports, Activities, Interests and Inspirational People. Below that, you'll find the Pages that you have Liked in reverse chronological order.
Removing Pages from your Favorites is easy. Click on the Edit button in the upper right and that will break out your Favorites categories and list the Pages within each one. Simply click the X on each Page tile to remove it from your Favorites.
Once you've cleaned up your Favorites, look for the small link, just above your other Page Likes section, that says "Other pages you've liked." Click that and a nice pop-up window will come up listing every other Page that you've liked. Simply scroll through it and Unlike all of the Page that you're no longer interested in.
Once you've gone through the list, for some reason, I needed to Close, Refresh, and the click on the "Other pages you've liked" link again. This revealed Pages that I'd Liked but that weren't in the list the first time through. I actually had to repeat this twice to completely scrub the list clean.
As I mentioned earlier, all of this became necessary because I jumped into Facebook (insert any other social network name here) feet-first, and didn't have a plan for how I was going to use it. Even if you're on a social network for personal use, I think it would be a good use of your time to evaluate why you're there and what you hope to get from it. Are you there to connect with friends and family? Make new friends? Keep up with news and events, or maybe play games? I believe our time is valuable and that we should make sure that we're spending it on activities and people that are important to us. That's why I am advocating that you create a Social Media Policy.
What goes into that Social Media Policy is beyond the scope of this article, and I will be writing on that in more detail shortly, but the idea is that you take the time to consider and write down exactly how you plan to use social networks, both for yourself and for your business. Going through this process will bring clarity and focus to your social media activity.
For example, I have decided that my personal Facebook account will be for strictly personal use and interests going forward. I have already removed 25% of the people I had friended and will likely remove quite a few more in the coming days and weeks, to get my connections down to the people I actually have real connections to. My Page Likes were reduced by 75%, and I have already seen a massive improvement in the quality of content in my News Feed. Not to suggest that the posts from the people I unfriended or the Page I unlikes were bad - they simply weren't interesting to me, and for all of Facebook's promise of the value of EdgeRank, I did not notice it doing anything for me.
While my Facebook personal profile does little to help me professionally, the same is not true for my personal Twitter and Google+ accounts, so those networks aren't getting quite the same treatment. How about you? Do you use your Facebook personal account for both business and personal use? What kinds of guidelines do you think need to be in your Social Media Policy?