Menu Close

How to Use Twitter Lists

Bobby Travis

Bobby Travis also author’s the Bluetoque Marketing Tips blog. This post is a first in a Twitter Series cross-venture with 40Tech and is featured on both sites.

Twitter Lists of Evan Williams (@ev), the CEO of Twitter Earlier this month, Twitter finally launched Twitter Lists, a groups feature that helps you to easily organize and share the people you follow (or are just interested in), and view what they’re tweeting about without being hit over the head by the tweets of your (likely) massive general follow list. For example, maybe you want to view only the tweets from your favourite tech blog writers or business peers — all you would need to do is create an appropriately named list and add only those people into it, and whenever you want an update from that group, click on the list in your Twitter sidebar. Voila! Instant filter! I know, I know, many of the Twitter apps you are using probably already do something similar, but Twitter Lists is more than just a simple grouping or filter mechanism. There are a few key features that may make a huge difference in both the way you use Twitter and your reputation and credibility on Twitter.

Lists can be made public or kept private. Private lists are only for you and are shown with a little padlock icon beside the list title.

Lists are currently limited to 500 people per list and a maximum of 20 lists per account. You can put people on multiple lists if you like.


Follow Other People’s (Tweeple’s?) Lists and Let Them Follow Yours

You can use Twitter Lists as a means of recommending and finding cool Twitterers (or Tweeps, if you like the jargon) to follow. To recommend, just create a list of people you think are awesome, then make the list public for all the world to see. People will then be able to follow the entire list or just choose the people they want to follow on that list (to find people, follow the same instructions… but mirror-imaged). If you choose to follow the entire list, it shows up in your lists box on the Twitter sidebar so you can view tweets from the people on that list at your leisure whether you’re following the individuals on the list or not. Only the creator can edit the list, but lists can be unfollowed at any time, just like people. Twitter List featuring web entrepreneurs -- created vy @vl, followed by Evan Williams (@ev), the CEO of Twitter


A Better Way to Gain (and Filter By) Credibility

Until now, the only way to gain any credibility on Twitter was to amass a grand group of followers. With all of the auto-follow software out there that many people who play the "follow game" employ, a large number of followers is not necessarily indicative of quality connections.

Definition: The "Follow Game" — Accumulate numbers and people will listen to you or be more likely to take you seriously (or at least be more likely to notice your advertisements in the case of many business users).

Twitter Lists offers you a way to be more credible and to find more credible people to follow by tracking how many times a person has been added to someone’s list (that "listed" number and link beside your follower count), who that someone is, the name of the list, and how many people are currently following (subscribing to) it. This arms you with additional information to help make an informed decision as to whether that person is worth paying attention to. Close up of Evan Williams' (@ev, CEO of Twitter) Twitter Lists and Listed numbers

NOTE: If people don’t like a public list they have appeared on, they have the option to block the person who has listed them. This will remove them from that person’s list, although it will also have the effect of removing the possibility of them following you or you them.


Finding Good Lists to Follow

To find good lists to follow directly from Twitter, you can check out the Lists box on the sidebar of any Twitter user you might be interested in, and you can also click on your own "Listed" button to see what lists you’re on that you might want to subscribe to. When you find a list you like, just click the "Follow this List" button. You can unfollow a list with the same button.  @Scobleizer is said to have some really great lists to check out. As is to be expected, there are already a few services out there that allow you to search for lists to subscribe to based on categories and other criteria. Two of these services, as recommended by Mashable, are Listorious, which maintains a categorized directory of Twitter Lists, and TweetMeme Lists (TweetMeme finds the most tweeted about Twitter Lists, much like they do for the most tweeted about links).

NOTE: If you are just looking for some good recommendations of people to follow, and want to be able to do it easily, you might want to check out TweepML. TweepML allows for searching and sharing of members of Twitter Lists and custom TweepML lists with just one click.


Other Uses for Lists

With Twitter Lists, you are able to follow people without actually following them. That is to say, you can keep an easy link to their public stream, and anyone else’s public stream in the list, without having to follow them and having them appear in your own stream. This functions very much like a saved search, except that you are able to hone the results to exactly what you want to see. This is a fantastic feature for checking out the tweets of people you may be interested in but not sure if you want to follow, and for business users this is a great option for both market  and competitor research (remember: if you don’t want people to know you’re peeking in on them, make sure you keep the list private), and to find out what sort of audience you are really reaching. How do you use Twitter Lists? Let us know in the comments!