Essential: 8 Things to Consider Before Using Twitter Lists

By Jade Craven – Follow her @jadecraven.

Twitter recently introduced a new feature called lists to many users. This isn’t available to everyone – I’ve heard many reports of people who are unable to see anybodies lists. Basically, it allows you to organize the people you follow into several different categories. These can be made private and can be followed by others.

This is an awesome for those who are using the web interface as you can choose the groups you want to read at any time.

However, there are some considerations you need to make before embracing this feature.

1. People may be offended by not being included on a list.

Some of my friends created lists like ‘awesome friends’ and ‘top bloggers.’ They used these terms as generalist lists but some people took offense at not being included on a list.

This is very similar to the follow/unfollow situations that happened before people started to embrace groups on other clients.

So, what can you do to avoid offending?

• Have a disclaimer on your twitter landing page

• Make your list private

• Organize lists by geographic region – ie, Melbourne bloggers.

2. You can see what lists you appear on

This isn’t a bad aspect – in most cases, it helps show how people perceive you. This is especially helpful for people who don’t have a defined purpose on twitter. You may get categorized by geographic region or industry, but you may also get organized into trait specific lists. Examples are ‘helpful people’ or ‘interesting links.’

This can help you ascertain how you can be more useful on twitter.

3. You can easily get the tone of a group

You can organize people into groups like conference attendees or people who work at a company. This is more efficient than a hashtag as you can filter out the people you don’t want to hear from.

You can pick up on the overall vibe which will make it useful when reporting on it.

4. It may make it easier for companies to target you

I actually wrote about how twitter lists can help with buyer personas over at the Think Tank Media ( blog, but I can also see it as another way some companies may be able to find, and then spam you. This is important to be aware of.

5. You can easily identify what types of people users follow

Seeing the lists in the sidebar can let you know what type of people, and content, certain users follow. This can be useful when networking. You can see that you have a mutual interest and follow some of the same people and start a conversation. This can be useful if you are trying to join a community or connect with a new person.

6. You can use it as an extension of the groups function

I’m a bit slack on tweetdeck – I only have three columns. One for my mentions, DM’s and one for a group of people I talk to regularly. I always pop onto the web version to have general chats but this can become unmanagable when I’m following so many cool people.

I’m now planning to create certain lists and then dive into them at certain times of the day. This can help me assess the conversation across many fields of interest and geographic regions.

7. You can see how many lists OTHERS are on

This may be used as another method of assessing popularity. As I write this, I’m on 2 lists and Chris Brogran is on 144 – which is the way it should be. This could be a really useful method but is also open to abuse and may impact on user experience. It will be interesting to see if spammers try to manipulate this feature.

8. You are able to follow other peoples lists

I am not sure what twitters intentions were with this feature, but I really like it as it saves time. Some users can also use it to establish authority by finding the best users and creating popular lists around them.

Over to you

What do you think of this new feature? Do you think it will help you twitter experience? Let us know how you intend to use it in the comments.


  • October 19, 2009

    I actually started on Twitter because of Digital Women with rebecca from @digitalwomen so several of my lists deal with the different issues I am following with focus on women. There are many of the Genealogy people I follow , with most of them on one list I can easily check the going ons with them. I have one for my local area / state people. I am still adding other listings and people.

    One item I like is that I can list someone I may not be following just to get a feel for how they tweet. And with being able to look at other’s lists I have been able to add to my own followings in the different subjects of interests.

    As for the lists I am on, may be just one for now, but am honored! So far I am having more fun with this feature , and haven’t had any trouble with it….only time will tell, check back with me in afew….

  • October 19, 2009

    I’m setting up my lists right now, which is how I found this, since you just posted the link. I LOVE twitter lists so far. I agree with the concerns and am keeping that in mind as I come up with (hopefully) non-offensive titles. But I see this as something that is going to make my twitter experience a thousand times better, because as I’ve followed more people, I’ve lost track of why I was following anyone in the first place. Now I’ll be able to flip through my lists and have the right mindset as I’m following.

    I also love being able to follow other lists. It was the first thing I did, when I saw the function and it is giving me the ability to follow whole concepts in one shot. I have nothing bad to say about lists…yet.

    I do agree that this is ripe for exploit by spammers though, so we’ll see how that turns out.

    Thanks for the tips.

  • October 19, 2009

    I have another one: you must consider that the limit for a list is 500 Twitter accounts. So, if you are starting a list that will soon go over that number (say a list of “all companies in the world”) then you’ll spend a lot of time building it only to be disappointed in the limitations in the future.

    Also, you’ll need to keep track of the lists you are on somewhere else because right now Twitter is only displaying 40 of them. Hopefully they greatly raise the limits when they release this to the public.

  • October 19, 2009

    I don’t know if I’m glad we’ll be able to see how people categorize us or not.

    I fully expect my name to appear in the category “crotchety old hags.”


  • October 20, 2009

    I’ve been anxiously waiting for lists. It’s great! Of course I have already used up my 20 lists.
    The ability to all folks to a list without actually following them is a very cool feature! I’m having fun with it and am quite sure my followers are going to love it and I can’t wait to see what lists they come up with.
    I’d also recommend if you are not a beta user, to start getting ready. It’s cumbersome for sure, but I’d suggest adding the RSS feed of your favorite tweeps into your reader (like Google of course) then sorting them in folders. When the lists feature goes live for everyone, you’ll be ahead of the curve a little.

  • October 20, 2009

    I have another one: use it to focus your time and energy.

    Instead of aimlessly drifting from one subject, topic, news of the day etc, setup groups to keep yourself more focused.

    Twitter can be a time-waster or a time-saver.

    Depends on how you use it.



    Beijing, China

  • October 21, 2009
    Sarah Bourne

    I discovered that you can add accounts that you don’t follow. This means you can trim your primary follow-feed, and use your lists to keep up on particular topics. Handy for folks hitting their follow limits!
    Another huge impact will be on the “social score” or grading services: they will need to add inclusion on lists to their algorithms, and (further) down-play the following/follower stats, since you can follow lists instead of individuals.

  • October 21, 2009

    I think only the popular people get lists, because a lot of us still can’t make any.

  • October 22, 2009

    Good points made here, Jade!

    Perhaps this will cut down on, what I have called, #FollowFriday List Madness?

    I have to admit, at this time I am not sure I have the time or energy to implement Twitter lists. And while I am always happy to see Twitter implement new features, I would rather have them upgrade DM’s and make it a more useful e-mail client with more and better features.

    Also, I agree with #4: Twitter Lists seems like yet another opportunity for the “follow all” spam marketing problems to continue @ Twitter. I want to see Twitter grow with more average consumers not marketing and companies trying to sell something.

  • October 22, 2009

    I would have to agree with Barbara on this one. It will be nice when those I follow have things to say not just things to sell.

  • October 22, 2009

    Good post Jade. You’ve identified valuable points. I like the concept of Twitter lists but am finding the actual building of my lists to be a slow process.

    I will be interested to see how lists change the #FollowFriday phenomenon…my sense is that many people on Twitter actually enjoy that and may continue with it even after lists go public.

    Guess time will tell…

  • October 23, 2009

    I actually think it’s great! Most of my friends that I follow on Twitter don’t tweet as often as, say, the news or blogger accounts I follow. Having a separate list for friends makes it easier to keep up with them.

    Also, it’s a good way to manage the massive amounts of information we get on Twitter. If I only want news stories, I can go to my “news” list. If I want the latest information on the dance community, I can go to my “dance” list.

    It’s about time someone has thought of this! I needed a way to compartmentalize Twitter!

  • October 26, 2009

    Thank you for sharing this tips and this could be an awesome lists for whose who are using the web interface as you can choose the groups you want to read at any time.

  • October 27, 2009

    I, for one, am thrilled that Twitter finally got around to adding lists. I’m in PR so I follow several different categories of people. It makes it easy for me to sift through my 4,000+ people I’m following (though I’m not done categorizing them).

    As for people getting offended bc they’re not on “cool lists…” I don’t get that. I use Twitter to be professional and use lists to separate industries, not rank friends. That can be kept private.

  • October 29, 2009

    Thanks for sharing tips!
    List feature is good to save time if you are following lot of users. Good way to organise if using web interface.

  • October 30, 2009

    I just got list capability yesterday evening so I am in the process of setting it up still. I really like the idea of being able to integrate other people’s list. It does make you think of why and if a person is interesting to me. Thanks for the great article

  • October 30, 2009

    I don’t like lists. I think people will be very nosey in finding out what list they are on and I also don’t want people following my list of people unless they are interacting with me.

  • October 30, 2009

    I like using lists within my desktop tool – currently my favorite is Seesmic desktop. I haven’t started using the “official” lists yet!

  • October 30, 2009

    Wow, there has been a lot of interaction recently!

    Susan – I, and a number of friends were among the first to have lists. Within hours, some people were offended. People were creating lists that were useful to others and people were offended because they werent deemed relevant enough. It was interesting to watch but I agree, it shouldn’t happen.

    Marina – it is awesome! I do a some tweeting for corporate accounts but I worry that they’ll have trouble remembering all of the people that I interact with. This is a fair concern. Now, we can use private and public lists so all parties can duck in and read tweets from a certain demographic or discover why a certain person is so good to talk too.

    Allen – I’ve seen it change how some people use follow fridays. But i’ve also been included on wierd lists like knitting , lol.

    Scoble brought up some great points. I’ll talk to the editor and see if I can expand on this post :-)

  • October 30, 2009

    Well, I don’t really get it yet. If you tweet on a variety of subjects, like I do, you will not get on any list. So lists will only include people with one track minds?
    It would be a lot more useful if we could pick a category or tag for our tweets, so that people interested in technology would not get my tweets on theatre and vice-versa.

  • October 31, 2009

    I was one of the first to have the capability of lists and I don’t have a clue as to why. I don’t intend to use this new feature. I’ve got a funny feeling this could backfire on us average twitter users. Count me out.

  • November 1, 2009

    This is a great article–lots to think about. I’m a mom blogger, and was listed bu someone as a marketer. I was a little offended but 99% of the lists I’m on are accurate.

  • November 1, 2009

    I like this new feature in Twitter. I have been using groups feature of Tweetdeck and Seesmic for a long time. I totally agree with you on the first point “Making the lists private”, because it may offend some people who are hurt for not being included in some particular list

  • November 3, 2009

    I guess I didn’t fully understand the use of Twitter lists. I’m using it as a means to putting people into categories so I can read their tweets on a particular subject without having to go through and sort through my regular timeline. I know I miss a lot of good tweets so having them in lists makes it manageable and easier for me.

    I’m not offended on any lists that I’m currently on or not on. My list names are generic – at least in my opinion and I hope no one on or not on my list are offended.

  • November 25, 2009

    I’d say “check you’re not making incorrect assumptions based on someone’s Twitter ID” – I’ve been included on several “parents” lists, and one “pregnancy” list, when I have neither current nor future kids. In this case, it’s funny, but it could easily not be.

  • January 24, 2010
    Steve Golden

    I teach and wish there was a way to get only class related SMS from students I follow. Lists helps but I still have to get all of their personal stuff which will clog my phone and they probably don’t want me seeing it anyway. I’ve also tried to set up a Tweeter account for each class… same problem. If anyone has any ideas I’m all ears.

  • April 3, 2010

    I absolutely love using lists. Lists help me to block out a lot of Twitter ‘noise’ and quickly get up to date with what is going on in different niches, for example #photography or #haiku. Lists have definitely improved my Twitter experience in a huge way.

    Warm wishes,
    Mia Rose

  • August 15, 2010

    I just recently set up my own lists. This is a great list. Had not thought of people being offended by being left off of the list. Good tips.

  • November 18, 2010

    re: offending someone
    Lists can be made private. If want to be sure to see all the tweets of certain people, set up a private list just for that group.

  • November 18, 2010
    Gilles Veilleux

    I don’t know how (or can’t) set up lists of people i follow :( can someone help me out please? thank you

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