How To Keep Your Private Facebook Info Safe From Not So Close Facebook Friends

Ryan Dube 14-10-2010

facebook fansOne of the things that I love about Facebook is that it’s just so easy to keep in touch with people. One of the things that I dislike about Facebook is that it consumes so much time. This is even more true when you’re very active online and you start developing a Facebook fan base. Whether you’re a frequent forum poster, blogger, or just a social network guru, eventually there are a lot of people that are going to want to follow you – and most of those people are not family and friends.


A lot of people start a separate Facebook “Fan Page” which needs to be maintained and updated just like your private Facebook account. The problem with this is that it takes double the time because now you’re maintaining two or more Facebook accounts. I barely have time to keep one Facebook account updated, I can’t imagine trying to maintain two or more.

There is a solution if you want to use your private Facebook account to welcome your fans. We’ve covered a number of Facebook privacy issues, such as Mahendra’s guide on Facebook privacy 10 Solid Tips to Safeguard Your Facebook Privacy Read More and Brett’s 6 simple tips to protect your Facebook Privacy 6 Simple Tips To Protect Your Privacy on Facebook Read More , but we haven’t really touched on some of the unique ways you can customize privacy with a friends list.

By utilizing the Facebook “friend list” feature, you can define a unique class of friends that only see post updates that you allow them to see, while your friends and family are able to see everything.

Setting Up A Unique Fan List

Even if you’ve been using your Facebook account primarily for only family and friends, you can still welcome new acquaintances and fans by creating a new Friend List and defining your privacy settings in a way so that you can control how each individual status update gets displayed.

To get started, click on “Account” and then click on “Create a List“.

facebook fans

The “Create New List” window is where you define the name of your unique list name. This is the list that will have extremely limited access to your wall posts, so name it something that you’ll easily recognize. This way it’ll be quick to enable on those posts that you want to let everyone see.

facebook fans vs friends

Setting Up Default Privacy Settings For Posts

Now that you’ve created the name for the limited list (in my case I named it “Writing Fans”), you can control the visibility of each post. The easiest way to do it so that you can just post as normal for family and friends, and only have to manually add visibility for your special friends list, is to set it up that way as default.

Just go into “Account” then “Privacy Settings” and finally click on the “Customize Settings” list.

facebook fans vs friends

As you can see, I’ve set up information that I consider very private as “Friends Only; Except:” and everything else I leave open to all friends, regardless. What this does is blocks all of your posts and other private content unless you manually provide Facebook permission to show those friends the content. Each of the privacy settings above looks like this:

facebook fans vs friends

So now, I can continue posting as normal to friends and family.

Custom Privacy Settings For Individual Status Updates

Whenever you want to publish a link to one of my articles, or anything that I don’t consider too private for non-family and friends, all you have to do is click the dropdown button that has a little lock on it, and select “Custom Edit”

adding fans to facebook page

Then, you’ll see the same privacy configuration that you saw in your privacy settings above. Just delete the name of the list under “Hide this from” and then click “Save Setting.” Make sure “Make this my default setting” is not selected.

This will essentially allow you to customize the privacy settings of each individual post so that your “public” fans or acquaintances will only see what you allow them to see. Your friends and family will be able to see everything else.

facebook fans

This is a very cool way to have the bonus of offering your fans or acquaintances with a Facebook “friendship” without actually opening up all of the details of your entire life to them. By defining a “limited access” list, these unique friends will see your page updates that are tailored specifically for them, and they won’t see any of your private and personal updates that you make along the way. It’s the best of both worlds.

Do you maintain your own Facebook fan page? Would you consider using this approach instead? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Explore more about: Facebook, Online Privacy.

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  1. Anonymous
    October 17, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    A problem with this is that you have to remember each time you accept a new facebook friend to mark as "writing fans" or how you name the list, a slip and they are in your inner circle. A better approach would be to create a list for family, close friends, etc and give access only to them. In general whitelists are better that blacklists. If a family member is left out ... well, it's better that an not so close friend get too much information.

  2. Ryan Dube
    October 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    TLW - yes, in this setup every post is hidden unless you specifically allow it to be visible to both friend lists. You could use the same approach for other areas of facebook, but as you (correctly) observed, doing that would take a LOT of work. :-)

  3. TLW
    October 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    It's not going to work Ryan. In order for it to, I'd have to hide every status update, every mobile upload, I mean everything, for the last 3 years. A home schooled 13 yr old Grand Daughter has waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time on her hands :)

  4. TLW
    October 15, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Ryan, FB makes it all so complicated. The true solution for me is two FB accounts. Unfortunately, FB will not allow me to have two. My family were FB late Bloomers. By the time they arrived on the scene my following, and FB page, had taken on a life of its own. Sometimes that life is rated R. Can't have my older GrandKids reading any of that crap :) Now I need to go mess around with lists and see if there's anyway I can set it up to exclude my family from my day to day activities. I don't really want all of THEM following me around FB. We all know how family can be. No matter how old we get, we're still the people they knew 20 years ago. PahLeeze :)