Twitter Lists - The Best Way to Tune out the Noise

We do a lot of social media training and more than once I've been asked "What the heck is a Twitter List used for?" and then upon hearing the answer "What is the point of following thousands of users if you just have to use Twitter Lists to filter everything?"

In this author's humble opinion, Twitter Lists are mandatory if you want to find and read pertinent content, engage with specific groups of people, and maintain your sanity.

I like to use the analogy of programming your car radio.  There might be ten radio stations you're interested in, like the morning talk shows; country, classical, and jazz music; public radio; business news; and the local alert station when traveling.  Rather than tuning up and down the dial, briefly listening to each broadcast along the way until you settle on a station, you program your car radio buttons to specific stations you like.

Creating a Twitter List is a lot like creating a visual radio station.  You control the content in the list by adding Twitter Channels that tweet about specific topics.  Then, like clicking a button on your car radio, you can "tune in" to a Twitter List that delivers precisely the content you want to read at that moment.

You can use Twitter Lists for grouping Twitter Channels under any topic you can imagine:  

  • Family and Friends
  • Co-workers
  • Local Businesses
  • Customers and Clients
  • Local News
  • Local Entertainment
  • Sports Team Chatter
  • Industry Influencers
  • Competitors
  • Breaking News


Besides tuning out the noise, Twitter Lists have useful features that provide unexpected benefits, like private and public settings for lists, being able to add people you don't want to follow, the ability to subscribe to other people's curated lists, finding people to follow, and being added lists. That last one can be quite an ego booster if you find you've been added to "Super Cool Tweeters."

Public and Private Lists

This useful feature gives you the ability to create public and private Twitter Lists.  Public lists are displayed on your Twitter Channel, but private lists are only seen by you.  You might keep your Family and Friends list private but promote your co-workers' Twitter Channels by making that list public.

Public Twitter Lists should be of interest to the community you're trying to engage on Twitter.  For example, if you are an organic market, create a public Twitter List for "local farms" and add relevant Twitter Users to that list.

Other people can subscribe to (follow) your public Twitter List and can easily share your list with their community.


You don't have to follow people to add them to your lists

Okay, so you don't have to follow a Twitter User to add them to a Twitter List, but why is this a great feature?  For three reasons:

  1. You can keep on top of your competitions' activity without having to follow them on Twitter.  If the list is private, they will not even receive notification they've been added.  Pretty sneaky eh?
  2. Twitter has follow/followed ratios it enforces on Twitter Channels to curb abuse.  Twitter Lists can grow very quickly.  The members of a Twitter List you subscribe to or create are not counted in the follow/followed ratios, so you can "follow" as many people as you like without impacting your ratios.
  3. Following an influencer or popular channel might go unoticed, since they probably recieve thousands of follows a day.  When you add them to a public Twitter List, they will be notified and might even thank you with a follow.


Subscribe to existing curated lists

Curating small Twitter Lists doesn't take much time, but if you are interested in trendy topics with lots of participants, it can take you days and days to populate a Twitter Lists with members.  Instead of investing in the manual labor, you can subscribe to (follow) a list someone else has curated and voila you can tune in without all the hard work.  See the tip for finding Twitter Lists at the bottom of this post.


Find people to follow

Twitter is reasonably good at providing recommendations for who to follow, but checking out members in a Twitter List is an excellent way to find like-minded people to follow.  They already have a least one vote (being added to a curated list) for the content they are publishing on Twitter.


Being added to lists

If you are cool, smart, funny, or even just topical enough, eventually you will be added to Twitter Lists.  When other people are looking for people to follow, they'll see you in curated lists and your odds of being followed go up!

In summary, if Twitter seems like a vacuous wasteland of meaningless Tweets thrown into a digital black hole where no electron can ever escape  - that's because it pretty much is.  But if you take the bull by the horns and really work Twitter Lists, you can find meaningful content to read and share and can find interested users to engage with.  On your terms.


Looking for ways to find interesting people to add to your lists?  Here's a quick tip.  Type the following into a Google search inurl:lists <twitter tips>

In the results you'll see Twitter Lists covering the topic "Twitter Tips."  Click through to see members on that list.  You can either subscribe to the list or add list members to your own lists.   Just change <twitter tips> to any search term of interest to you.  

Want the specifics on setting up and managing Twitter Lists?  This video is short, well done, and gets straight to the point.

Nice short tutorial by Di coke.  She talks about the Twitter List Features.  Around 3:31 she shows you how to remove yourself from a list.  Might be helpful!  She even touches on Tweet Deck.

Hey, since you read all the way to the end here...  why not add us to a list or give us a follow!