24 September 2012

How To Use Twitter Lists

This post is written by contributing author Genevieve Brazelton. 

Last month I wrote about finding your people on Twitter. In that piece I mentioned Twitter lists, an often-overlooked feature of Twitter. I honestly feel that spending a little time setting up lists and then using them is the single best thing you can do to make your time spent on Twitter more rewarding.
Image: Jacqui Oakley
Why Would You Use Lists?
The simplest answer is to filter your stream so as to get the information you really want when you want it. I have separate lists for folks who share a lot about social media, or publicity, or entrepreneurship, or handmade. I keep local artisans separate from those in other places. I keep my real life friends separate from my online friends.

Some days I check into multiple lists, other days I’m looking to see what the local crafty folk are talking about. I keep tabs on what my past and current clients are up to and I see what my competitors are talking about.

Using lists helps me log into Twitter and get the information I need in much less time. Some days I only spend 15 or 20 minutes on Twitter and I’m still able to connect with a few people, send out a few tweets, see what’s going on, and respond to a few interesting threads.

You can also follow other people’s lists so you don’t have to spend the time curating your own. Check out the profiles of some the most influential people you follow on Twitter, you’ll see a link to their lists in the left-hand column. Not only will it show the public lists they’ve curated, but also the public lists that they’ve been included in.
Photo: Molds

What Types of Lists Should You Create?
Start with industry leaders. Who do you need to and want to be paying attention to regularly? Who is the best source of news that relates to your business? Who are your role models and influencers? Put them all together in a list and it will be one amazingly informative and inspirational read.

A list of customers is also a must. These could be people you work with already, people you hope to work with, or matches for your ideal client. This list will be great for market research. You can tune in to find out current struggles, trending topics, hobbies, and even favorite media sources. And don’t forget to jump into the conversation, be the expert that you are and offer answers to questions or simply engage the community. 
Peers and competitors is also key list to have. These are the people that are your direct competitors and potential collaborators. You should be aware of what they’re doing and saying, and who they’re talking to. But don’t just spy, look for ways to build relationships, you never know what sort of opportunities might pop up.

Think about your goal for using Twitter. What types of lists can you set up to help you gather the right information and connect with the right people?
Image: Just One Scarf

How Do You Set Them Up?
Right next to the follow button in relation to anyone’s name is a button with a silhouette and a down arrow. Click on that and you’ll get the option to add or remove from lists in the drop down menu. From there you’ll be able to create a new list if you need to or add them one you’ve already set up. Simple.

Lists can be public or private. If your list is public other people can follow the list and users will be notified when they are added to the list. If the list is private, no one but you will know it exists, let alone who’s in it.

You can also add people to lists without actually following them. I do this sometimes if I’m not sure I really want to see their posts in my main stream.

Now go forth, create lists, keep your Twitter stream manageable and get the information you want with less distraction.

Genevieve Brazelton endlessly researches the newest ideas in creative and social media marketing so you don’t have to. Genevieve’s strength is her keen outside perspective and sometimes infuriating logic that puts structure to dreams and lays out paths to goals. She is also the business side of Lightbox SF. Read more about her here.
Connect to Genevieve via twitter or facebook.


  1. This is so very helpful!

    I haven't spent much time in twitter, but now I'm starting to think that doing this (filtering by lists) will help me enjoy and make the most of my time there.

  2. They do take a little time to set up, but the investment is well worth it. You'll see it pay off pretty quickly in more focus and less time spent.

  3. Thanks for this post! This is such a good idea, and worth the time to set it up. What a great way to get the information you want and save time.
    Everyday Inspired