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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