How to use Twitter Lists like a Pro

How to Use Twitter Lists Like a Pro

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Sketch by Shawn Campbell

I spoke at a conference recently to a rather social media-savvy audience. It didn’t surprise me that the bulk of the crowd raised their hands when I asked them if they were active on Twitter. It shocked me when less than a quarter raised their hands to say they used Twitter lists.

Back in the early days of Twitter, there wasn’t an option to create lists. Instead, you had to manually use a wiki to list yourself under categories. A couple of years later (December 2009), Twitter introduced the lists feature. Lists gives you the easy ability to group your friends into specific lists which you can refer to quickly to catch up with tweets you may have otherwise missed.


How to Create (and Rock) Twitter Lists

To create a list, visit Click “Create List” and follow the simple steps.

The key aspect is to decide whether your list will be public or private. During the historic Nashville flood in 2010, I created a public list so residents could easily subscribe to news from the most reliable sources all in one place.

When I’m speaking at a conference, it’s valuable for me to connect with the other speakers and attendees before I get there.

Twitter lists come in handy in so many ways:

  • I sometimes recommend that my clients create private lists of their competitors. They can easily refer to this list to review their competition’s latest tweets for ideas, inspiration or just to check in. You can follow Twitter profiles using lists without actually following their accounts, which means these users aren’t notified that you’re following them. Technically, you’re not following; you’re just observing their public Twitter timeline.

  • I have private lists of my clients so I can keep an eye on their accounts to assist when needed. I also have private lists of my closest friends so I don’t miss their tweets.

  • I made a list last year of my friends attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. This helped me stay connected with them during the chaos in Austin. (Tens of thousands of geeks attend; it’s madness.) Once I returned home from SXSW, I added new friends to the list. I check the list from time to time to check in with those friends, plus I plan to use it next year when I return to Austin.

Taking It a Step Further

The examples I’ve given you so far are based on lists you can create. Did you know you can also subscribe to other people’s public lists?

Find people and brands you respect on Twitter, and look at the lists they belong to. Note the number of members on the list and consider subscribing to it if that number is decent. This is a great way to find like-minded people to connect with.

Finally, review the lists you’re a member of from time to time. These are public lists that other people have added you to. Don’t worry if you aren’t a member of any lists yet; over time, others will add you. You can look at the lists I’ve been added to here as an example.

So, what are you waiting for? Create a list and find people you want to add. The fastest way to do so is from a user’s profile. Click the little black figure next to the “Following” button. In the dropdown menu, choose “Add or remove from lists.” Easy.

Do you use Twitter Lists? How do you use them to make connecting on Twitter easier?

Sketch by Shawn Campbell

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  • Nikki Klemmer

    I didn’t realize you can put someone on a list without actually following the account. Thanks for the tip!

    • Dave Delaney

      You’re welcome, Nikki. I’m glad you learned something new.

  • Sinclair Ashman

    Thanks for the tips Dave. As I always ask myself ‘why?’ and ‘what for?’ with social media, it makes more sense to me now.

    • Dave Delaney

      Thank you.

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  • Megan

    So would list be a good way to do internal communications for a business?

    • Dave Delaney

      Good question, Megan. I would recommend Yammer or Hipchat for that.

  • Rob

    Thanks for this write up, very helpful. Just want to mention…”You can follow Twitter profiles using lists without actually following their accounts, which means these users aren’t notified that you’re following them.”
    Although you’re not following them, the user being added still does get a notification when they are added to a list.

    • Dave Delaney

      Thanks Rob.
      They won’t know if your list is private. 😉

      • Rob

        Ahh, I see. Thanks again. This list thing is all new to me. Just thought I’d mention it since I was recently added to someone’s list and got notification of it. Good info.

  • Ryan Williams

    Conferences are a great use of Twitter Lists, to help with networking before the conference and to stay up to date with fellow conference goers afterwards. I’ve been building a lot of conference lists lately and developed a Chrome extension to make it a little easier, .

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  • Louis Huynh

    Great post. I started using lists a while back but stopped and forgot about it. These are some grrat ideas.

    • Dave Delaney

      Thank you. I’m glad you found it helpful.

  • Lee

    I love the concept of lists, however, is there a way to be able to see your Lists from your Twitter home page? All I see is “Who to Follow” and “Trends.” Seems like so much space on my home page to use, but Lists are given a spot. Instead, I have to click “Settings,” then “Lists.” Or I could use the shortcut “G>>L”. But wish I knew how to put Lists on my Twitter home page.

    • Dave Delaney

      Thanks for the comment, Lee.I use Twitter on my phone a lot. The Tweetbot app has quick and easty access to lists.

      ​You can access lists from desktop as you mentioned, but it’s not always easy is it?

  • KCAllison

    I thought lists took those people off the twitter feed. Is this correct?

    • David Cunningham

      No, adding someone to a list does not remove them from your Twitter feed. Using lists will make it eaiser to filter what you do want and don’t want to see, in the list.

  • David Cunningham

    I just wrote an article about using Twitter lists to filter Your Twitter feed and I explain to people step by step on how to do it, I actually reference and link back to this article here. Great article by the way. My article is on my blog at Up Next at, here is the link directly>>>

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  • Tom

    If you’re a part of a list, do you have to tweet/post directly to the list for it to show up? Or will posts from your personal page show up on the list?