Ari Herzog

A policy and communications specialist on new and emerging media, Ari Herzog welcomes you to connect with him at @ariherzog.

Why Twitter Lists are Less Effective

Image credit: Michael Hamburg.

Twitter introduced the concept of lists about 16 months ago to enable the manual grouping of people into categories.

If you visit Formulists or Listorious you can type a keyword and see the different lists that people maintain. Searching for the keyword apples, for instance, you can read Twitter biographies of the 491 people who someone added to a list about honeycrisp apples. You can either follow the list or follow its members individually.

Any Twitter user can create his or her own list, or follow an existing list — such as the above one about apples.

I used to love creating lists. I embraced lists with passion and for the better part of two years I followed few people by way of the “follow” button and followed everyone else by lists instead. Because I kept changing the names of my lists and the people in each list, I also kept following and unfollowing different people.

But the passion is gone. I still like the concept and continue to follow some lists around government and public relations, but I’m tired of having my own lists. And, in fact, short of a local community list and a humor list, I deleted the other dozen lists I’d managed.

Because I use as my primary view (and not third-party tools like Tweetdeck or Seesmic), it was time-consuming and unproductive to click a different list’s link every time I wanted to view its members’ recent tweets.

Which leads me to announce a new tactic in my ongoing quest for internet enrichment and resource productivity: I am once again following people outside of lists. It’s a tactic I once employed. I count 700+ people today (up from a mere 12 only two weeks ago). I don’t care about Klout scores and I don’t care if anyone I follow chooses to follow me back.

Do I look at twitter all day long? No.

Am I more productive since following people outside of lists? Yes.

Am I seeing more people’s names flow by quickly? Yes.

Will I see everyone’s tweet? No.

My purpose to tweet today has not changed since creating an account on day one. I tweet to enrich myself, to learn, and to share. Twitter lists, as helpful as they are to showcase people around categories, are less effective (to me) as a means of following and conversing with people.

But these are my thoughts about lists. How do you use lists?


  • March 30, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your experience, observation and changing strategy, Ari. I thought the concept of Twitter Lists was a good way to organize, but never put time, energy and effort into that task. I agree with and have been following the strategy you describe, finding Twitter a great way to share information, albeit changes on the platform over the last 3 years refocused my application to more efficient use.

  • March 30, 2011

    I have a list of all the guys and gals I know who are internet marketers because that’s my passion online and I love to read the tweets of this demographic! I also have a chess players list. It allows me to focus on one interest at a time otherwise I would lose all these absorbing tweets in the general throng on my home page. I’m not addicted to lists, it’s a good opportunity to organize, in moderation.

  • March 31, 2011

    I still use lists but really only need 2 now. The two best things about lists for me right now: using them to monitor and RT peeps on my lists; and, using lists to create my 2 publications.

  • March 31, 2011

    Wow… where is my OLD photo being pulled from???

  • March 31, 2011

    Lists, by definition, are great for tasks and organization and monitoring what changes — but for assembling people on a list for other people to follow the list daily?

  • March 31, 2011

    And, Susie, I don’t know where the photo is coming from.

  • March 31, 2011

    I agree, I embraced lists early on and tried to categorise my followers into certain sections – and I have to say I haven’t looked at them since. I always check to see what lists I have been added to but that’s about it. I certainly don’t use them to converse with people and don’t place much value in them.

  • April 1, 2011

    Lists should be used to keep track of people you want to watch. Instead of watching timelines using apps and 3rd party tools, you can keep in touch with people without having to watch your main timeline.
    My VIP lists are people who like to follow back, chat and interact.
    I daily promote my lists to help others build their followings.

  • April 2, 2011

    My own lists are my main avenue for managing the firehose. I’ll reciprocate follows for anyone I even vaguely know–or who looks like they’re vaguely connected to my fields of interest–but only include a fraction of them on my lists.

    I then watch my four main lists on Tweetdeck and only occasionally glance at the complete stream. That allows a wider set of people to interact with me on Twitter but focuses my streams.

  • April 3, 2011

    I actually use lists to have easy and fast access to niche information when – for example – I fire up my Twitter for iPad app to spend 10 minutes reading and getting up to date.
    In this light, yes lists are still very valuable to me.
    I never used them as a way to follow people, those I list are always people I already follow. What I believe is that lists are ultmately made to ease the life of Twitter users, and it’s up to each of us to find the best use for them according to our very personal needs.

  • April 3, 2011

    This is good… I like your strategy, Ari…follow to enrich, learn and engage. People following followers and unfollowing non-follwers are missing the point… it’s a big conversation, jump in the pool, start splashing around..folks eventually find the stride and friends.

  • April 3, 2011

    I was pressured by society to create lists and then pretend they’re useful. Thank gooness I came across your blog posting! (Wow,…that’s a huge weight off my shoulders lol!)

    In all seriousness: Great article; I can totally relate!

  • April 3, 2011

    It is also essential to follow and unfollow. My blog explains more of why this is necessary to work Twitter in such a manner.

    Also behind the profile is blogged there and other tips that I use on my clients accounts, which currently stands at 450,000 followers across all accounts.

    Twitter works when you follow and unfollow, chat, retweet interesting articles and peoples adverts, vips n shoutouts and have a bit of fun too! :-)


  • April 6, 2011

    This is areally interesting way of approaching it andaat the moment I’m experimenting with lists

  • April 7, 2011
    Laura Gaulke

    I could not disagree more with the value of lists. As soon as I follow someone, I determine the list they belong on. I agree with Melanie’s comments above that having a VIP list allows you to really watch, retweet and have conversations with a “short” list of people you really want to keep up with. I think the lists help keep you focused on the topics you want to hone in on and are a place to go when you are particularly wanting to see what the buzz is around particular topics. I get some of my best information by going to the list and seeing what people are talking about there. Not having the lists for me puts Twitter back to the nearly mind-boggling and almost random uselessness I felt about it in the very beginning.

  • April 7, 2011

    Lists are good. Communities are better. Check out

  • April 9, 2011

    As soon as I follow somebody I add them to one of my lists. It’s a simple way of keeping track of different communities – recruiters, HR professionals, career services professionals, jobseekers, and smart people (everybody who didn’t make it on one of the other lists). I use these lists to generate publications, advise jobseekers on who to follow, and monitor responses to emerging issues in the hiring issue.

    In fact, it was only when I started using lists that I realized how often HR and recruiters have opposing opinions, and could advise my clients more effectively on how to deal with the various stakeholders in the hiring process.

  • April 12, 2011

    I miss the twitter of 2007, was a place to just talk. Now the many commercial interests are becoming increasingly complicated.

  • April 13, 2011

    Amazing article! Yeah! :D

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