Facebook Interests: A Great Way to Use Facebook for Professional Development

I love the ways social media has opened doors to new and exciting opportunities for professional development. There are plenty of great resources shared by companies and individuals, so much so that filtering through all the content to see only what you want to see is a necessity.

Most people have a ‘preferred’ network that they use for professional development. For me, it’s always been Twitter, as that’s where I have the strongest network ties that best match my professional development goals. Some other people prefer LinkedIn, Pinterest, or some of the other niche networks. What you don’t often hear about as a professional development tool though, is facebook. Most look at facebook as a more personable network, where you share stories, pictures, and posts with friends and family.

And yet, there’s plenty of professional development information being shared by individuals and organizations on facebook. Some of it takes place in closed groups, which can be excellent tools for learning, but usually limit the sharing just to those within the group.

There are plenty of publicly available professionally development resources on facebook. The problem is that it is often just intermingled with Bob’s vacation pics, Sally’s baby pics, and all sorts of other posts from friends and family. I appreciate all of those things. It’s just that sometimes, I simply want to explore topics related to my profession, without needing to search them out.

Enter facebook Interests.

Interests are a fairly recent addition to facebook. They enable you to create lists based on things you are interested in. For example, I could set up a list entitled “My Favorite Bands” that features the fan pages of Squeeze, Rush, and Van Halen. You’re probably familiar with the practice of ‘liking’ a fan page on facebook, which will bring content from the fan page into your general news feed. That’s good, but it throws everything you have liked into a single feed, and chances are you’re going to miss a lot.

Interests enable you to narrow you focus towards only what you’re seeking out. I like using interests for professional development because I follow pages and individuals that may only post once a day or perhaps even less often. If I only used my main feed, chances are I would never see these posts, as they would be very far down my main news feed, unless I was lucky enough to check my feed very close to the time one of those pages posted an update. Using a defined list, I can click the list name and see only the updates from pages and individuals I have added to the list. It really helps focus your attention to what it is you want to see in facebook, and as such makes facebook a great resource for professional development.

Let me walk you through creating a facebook list:

It starts with accessing your Interests page, usually accessible from the left-hand side navigation. Once there, you have a few options.

One of the nice features of facebook interests is that you can easily subscribe to the public interest lists of others.  Facebook will suggest interest lists that you may want to subscribe to based on your facebook activity, so it’s worth taking a look at the suggestions. You can also type a topic in the search field and browse existing lists to subscribe to.  To begin the process of creating your own list, click the CREATE LIST button.

This first step is where you choose what you want to add to the list. You can select your existing pages, subscriptions, and friends. Clicking on any of those options will present a list as shown above, and you simply click any item you want to add to the list.  You can also browse publicly available resources by selecting any of the categories from the list.  To check which resources you’ve added to the list at any time by clicking the SELECTED option on the bottom left.

You can also search for specific pages using the search box in the upper right corner, and selecting any resources from the search results. Once you’ve selected all the resources you want to add – keeping in mind you can still add more at any time – click the NEXT button.

The last step is to give your new list a name and to decide who will be able to see it.  You can choose to make the list public, or to restrict the list to only your friends or yourself.

Once you click done, the new list will appear in your Interests Listing.

As mentioned earlier, you can always add or remove items from an interest list. One way to do that is to choose the MANAGE LIST option when viewing a list feed. I generally find that I manage lists one the spot, either because I see something new I want to add to the list, or I see content that makes me want to remove something from a list.

If you see content from someone or something you want to add to a list, you need to visit their fan page or personal profile.

On both a personal profile and a fan page, you’ll see a button with a sprocket icon on it. If you click the drop-down arrow, you will see Add to Interest Lists as an option.

If you start seeing content from a source that makes you want to remove the source from the list, you can do so directly from the feed.  If you click the drop-down arrow of the post (Note: This button is not visible until you hover your cursor over the post itself), you will have an option to remove the source from the list.

Facebook lists are very easy to use, and are very powerful.  In a world of ever-expanding content, filtering is a much required task.  Facebook lists are an excellent tool for doing just that, and that makes it an excellent tool for using facebook as part of your professional development plan.