Facebook is rolling out a new feature called Interest Lists. Facebook users can create and share lists of people and fan pages centered around a topic. The lists then act as a news feed of posts from just the people and pages in the list. Also “top stories” from each list you subscribe to will appear in your main news feed. Lists can be shared with your friends, who can then subscribe to them.
To see suggested lists or create one of your own, click the “Interests” link in the left sidebar. This brings up a list of all your Subscriptions and Interest Lists. Click “Add Interests.”
On this screen you can see a list of suggested, already-curated lists you can subscribe to. To create your own, click “Create List.”
You’re taken to a popup where you can choose people and pages from your current Pages, subscriptions, or friends, or choose from people and pages in pre-selected topical lists.
Select the people and pages you want to add to your list. You can review your selections at any time by clicking “Selected” in the left sidebar. Click the Next button to name your list and decide its viability level.
Click “Done” and the list will now appear in the “Interests” section of your left sidebar. Clicking on a list name will change your news feed to display only posts from the people and Pages in that list. You can share any list with your friends and subscribers by clicking the list name, then the “Share” button at upper right.
Interest Lists: Yet Another in a Long Line of Features Copied from Google+
Now we get to the editorial
Interest Lists are almost undeniably yet another in a long list of Google+ innovations that have been copied by Facebook. In this case, the Google+ feature is Shared Circles. For months now Google+ users have been able to gather people and pages into a Circle and then share that circle with other users. Users viewing the post of the shared circle can add it with one click to their own circles.
Like most of the copied features Facebook has taken from Google+, the implementation on Facebook is a little less elegant. Whereas on Google+ shared circles can be created from existing circles you have, or new ones can be made with the drag-and-drop simplicity for which Google+ circles are famous, on Facebook you have to go through a series of screens, and your existing Lists cannot be instantly converted to Interest Lists.
Google+ shared circles also allow the user to preview the contents of the shared circle and selectively add people or pages in the circle to any of their existing or new circles. With Facebook interest lists, you have to subscribe to the whole list as it exists.
The one thing that Facebook interest lists may have over Google+ shared circles is the topical suggestions offered during the list creation process. But then Google+ has a much more powerful search for finding people and pages.
Implications of the Copy Wars for Google+
While Facebook is pretty brazen about its constant copying of Google+, this is also a smart strategy for them. They’ve begun and arms race with Google, demonstrating “anything you can do, we can do also, so there’s no reason for people to leave us for you.” That’s true to a certain extent, but some very powerful and unique features of Google+ have yet to be equaled by anything on Facebook, including Google+’s excellent filtered search and Ripples, which allows you to see graphically the viral spread of any Google+ post that gets shared.
This underscores the need for Google+ to play to its strengths and change it’s marketing. So far Google+ has marketed itself as just “another social network” with maybe slightly cooler features. But if Facebook is able to copy most of those features, that’s a losing battle. Observing this led me to write a rant on Google+ about Google+’s terrible marketing.
In my opinion, if Google is serious about gaining any traction over Facebook, they are going to have to play to Google+’s strengths over Facebook, which is the ability to easily discover, follow and interact with new people in your interest areas.