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The Not-So Secret Guide to Twitter Lists

July 16, 2014

Not-So-Secret guide to twitter listsWhat are Twitter lists anyway? A Twitter list is a curated group of users on Twitter. When the list is viewed, the posts of the people added to that list show up in the list’s stream. Basically it’s a way to group interesting people on specific subjects or other groups (clients, friends, competitors, movie stars) to more easily follow whatever topic brought them all together.

People can follow your lists and you can follow theirs’ so it’s a good way to curate information to share with friends and colleagues.
Why make lists?
You know how people complain about how noisy Twitter is? That’s because they follow everybody who follows them. Twitter lists help cut down the noise and make you more efficient. A quick look at your lists tells you what’s going on without having to filter through thousands of tweets cluttering up your Twitter stream. Make lists and scan them instead. Then share, share, share!

Another good reason is if you don’t have a lot of followers but there are a lot of people you want to talk to, listen to and learn from. Creating lists allows you to watch for their tweets without having to follow too many people at once. Many people look to see if you are following lots more people than are following you. If this happens you look either boring or like a spammer. Both are bad. Follow fewer people than follow you and you will avoid this. Make lists instead, then decide who really belongs in your Twitter stream.

Public lists or private lists?
The content stream of public lists are seen by anyone on Twitter. Private ones are seen only by you. People are notified when they are added to a public list and if you look at their profile on Twitter then click the “more” tab you can see what public lists a person has created or subscribed to and which ones they are a member of.

I have a lot of private lists. These may be potential customers or competitors I want to keep an eye on, or hashtags I want to follow but not make a big deal on my profile about. If I am wanting to watch a particular topic for an upcoming workshop or training session I may create a list to pay closer attention to that topic without following and later maybe unfollowing a bunch of users.

Below are some common types of Twitter lists.

Hashtag lists
When I go to a conference I use the hashtags relevant to that discussion. As I follow the tags it’s easy for me to add people who are interesting to a list related to that tag and follow up with them later. If there are particular hashtags or Twitter chats relevant to your industry you should be using them anyway, so it makes sense to create lists (public or private) of the other people using the same tags so you can start talking with them, right?

Client lists
Want to keep up with what your clients are doing online? Create a private list of your clients and you can keep an eye on what’s going on in their world.

Competitor lists
There’s no better way to see what the competition is up to than to create a list of competitors and monitor their tweets. Heck, you might learn something!

Journalists and news organizations
I like to keep all my news folks together so when I want to see what’s going on in the world I can find it in one click by going to my list.

Your Tribe lists
These are the people you talk to a lot. They may be co-workers, family or other professionals in your industry you talk to a lot. These conversationalists make Twitter more fun and you want to keep them in a list so you don’t lose track of them.

List strategies
All of the above are good types of lists and you need to decide which works for you or come up with your own. Remember unless the list is private people can see the name of the list you put them on. If it makes them feel good they feel that way towards you. If it makes them feel bad? Well, figure that out. I like to avoid creating names that will alienate. For example, finding yourself on “PeopleIHopeNevertoMeet” doesn’t sound as good as “SmartMarketers” does it?

Getting on Twitter lists
Being listed can be kind of fun. By golly people LIKE me! If you want to get your message out to more people, being on a list or 2 is a good way to increase your reach. In general it’s bad form to ask to be on a list unless it’s very specific to what you do. Instead, just stick to good Twitter etiquette, share great content and support others. You’ll have a better experience and people will add you to lists because you add value.




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  1. Great points about public and private lists (I make a lot of private lists) for different purposes. A few other lists I might recommend considering: local geographic lists, bloggers you follow, and great conversationalists. These might be lists that others would want to subscribe to, and thus beneficial to both you and the community.

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