Steve Woods

Getting the Most From Twitter Lists

In Social Media on October 30, 2009 at 2:08 pm

We’ve been awaiting (or dreading) their arrival, and now they are finally here.  I’m not talking about the Kardashian babies – no, I’m going to take a little bit of time to discuss the new Lists feature on Twitter and how you might want to think about using (and when not to use) it.

Last night I received my offer and stared at the screen, wondering how to proceed, while my fiancée stared at me warily from across the table.  I hadn’t put any time into thinking about how I should sort my followers, or even if I should.  As my mental clock thunked loudly away, knowing we had to get out the door and buy a few essentials for the house before getting the kids ready for bed, I began with trepidation to type in my first list name….

Just about everyone should have their List option by now.  If you haven’t, here are some basic changes this will make to your Twitter page:


Changes due to the list feature

The Listed Link — You will see this on the  upper right-hand corner of your page, just to the right of your followers link.  This was real estate typically utilized by the number of tweets you made, but Twitter has moved that to just under your username.  Clicking on the Listed link will provide you a list of lists you have been added to by other list users.

The Lists Link — This is where all of the very helpful lists you make show up for you.  It’s located on the lower right-hand area of your page, under your Saved Searches feature.

Those lists that you decided to make public will be visible to anyone coming across your Twitter page.  Those that you made private will show up here for you when you are logged in; otherwise they are invisible.  Nobody else will ever be able to see your private lists.

Creating a List

You can make up to 20 Twitter Lists, with up to 500 people on each.  When you create your lists you are given a few options or attributes, each having their individual personal weight (and possible consequences.)  The very first time you make a list will be from that special window that shows up at the top of the screen, which is when you discover you have the feature.  Click on the Create List button to begin…

List Name – What you name a list is important, because its occupants may emotionally slide along the scale from elation to nonchalance to anger based merely on the name.  I know it’s a name that is meaningful to you; just remember that it may not have the same meaning to the individuals whose usernames reside in that list.  The list you just created  and named Silly People might say to you “These are people that I think are funny; they exude a jovial vivacity that I adore.”  The same list might say to one of its occupants “I don’t take these people seriously.  They are Twitter’s equivalent of the class clown.”

Description – You get up to 100 characters to add a short description of why this new list is meaningful to you.  This is a fairly new addition to your Lists feature, so if you  previously made your lists, you might want to go back and add this…

Menu for creating/editing your lists

Public vs. Private – This is also important.  Public lists will be displayed on the right-hand side of your profile page, and everyone on it can be seen simply by clicking on the link name.  If you create a Public list and add me to it, the number above my Listed link will go up by one, letting me know that I am on another list.  Like many, I’m likely going to check out who added me, so that I can thank them.  Twitter is all about communication, about sharing what we feel and think, about openness.  So if you added me to a list called People Who Tweet Too Damn Much, I’ll likely get the hint.


Suffice it to say that if you are creating a list called People I Care About More Than the Rest, you might want to make it Private, in order to keep from having to explain yourself to those not on it….  Of course, you will have to be logged in to Twitter, in order to see your personal Private lists.

After you have made your initial set of lists, you can make more by clicking on the little New List link under your set of lists.  Got a lot of lists? You can expand them all by clicking on the View All link next to it.

Following People vice Lists

I believe this part may be a bit confusing to people, so I’m going to cover it.  Here’s how this works…


Following lists vice people

Following a Person on a List

To see other people’s Public lists, visit their Twitter page and look at the same place your lists are shown, the lower right-side.  Click on any list to expand it and see who belongs to it.  If you like someone on it and want to follow them, simply click on their name, visit their Twitter page, and follow like normal.  That person will be added to your list of follows, and their stream will show up on your page.

Following a List of People

Following a list is a little different, and needs to be grasped mentally.  If you follow a list, that list will show up under your set of lists on the lower right-hand section of your Twitter page.  Your lists all start with your name.  My first list is @_stevewoods/techies and the first list that I follow belongs to Jason Pollock and is called @Jason_Pollock/rising-stars It’s important to understand that in order to see what people in that list are saying, you will have to click on that list to view that particular stream, separately from your normal stream.

Another important concept to grasp is that the users on lists you follow will not be automatically added to who you are following!  If you want to see them all of the time, rather than when following a particular list, follow desired people from your chosen lists one by one so they show up in your stream all of the time.  So in a way, you can follow someone’s Twitter list until you’ve sucked it dry of all desired people, then unfollow it.  I know, it sounds like using someone, but it’s not.  You’re getting great follows, and moving on.  If you feel guilty about it, thank the person whose list you followed for awhile.  Think of it this way – if you love everyone on one of my lists and I delete the list, you won’t see their stream any longer. Grab ’em while you can!

Desirable lists to follow are those that are comprehensive in nature, and would be difficult (or impossible) for you to assemble due to knowledge or time constraints, and are just plain irresistible.  You’ll find a great resource, Listorious, below under Resources.  They are assembling a great number of these sort of lists, like the TEDsters list, with people who have presented at TED, the Technology, Entertainment and Design forum.

Please note that if you block someone that is on one of your lists, they will also disappear from your list, and your name will disappear from any lists they have with you on it.

Are Lists Doing Away With Follow Friday?

I’ve read a few comments on Twitter from folks saying “Thank God, with the Lists coming, we won’t have to do Follow Friday anymore!” Although I understand the sentiment involved with getting rid of the endless @ lists on Follow Friday, Twitter Lists don’t effectively replace the personal level of shout-outs that we give each other on those Friday mornings.


A great #FollowFriday -- Thank you!

Follow Friday shout-outs allow us to tell all of our followers that we think they ought to follow a few others.  It’s a day also to state WHY you should follow them.  Oh, I think the concept of how you should properly do a Follow Friday shout-out has been more than adequately covered.  Simply said, make it personalized, and honestly tell us why we should follow someone.  Exhaustive lists really don’t help much, and are often ignored.  And don’t try to fit everybody in all at once; maybe you can spread your Follow Fridays out over the span of the day.

Twitter Lists don’t replace a good Follow Friday because they are passive in nature.  For me to discover the incredible wealth of information that @Zaibatsu provides on a daily basis, I would have to stumble across his name on someone’s list.  Of course, with almost 100,000 followers, there is a pretty good chance I’ll run across his name eventually.  Even if I did come across his name, however, I would have to follow long enough to see his content, in order to decide I like what he says.

What about the woman with 257 followers, whose daily tweets reach deep inside of me intellectually or emotionally, but has only tweeted for a few weeks?  Even on a friend’s list of must-follows, odds are against me “discovering” her, unless I spend hours trolling lists.  And sorry, I just don’t have the time.

Follow Friday works because our friends actively shout out accolades about those whose steady stream of information makes them laugh, cry, think and more.  I scan the most thoughtful #FF’s and then give people a try.  It’s how I meet people who have 100,000 followers, and those with even less than 257.

Using a List


My Thrown-Together Lists

Twitter Lists have their place, and are quite useful in that niche.    Use it to produce a steady stream that fits your current (or desired) mood.  Use it to strengthen the stream of great links to news articles, technology information, fashion advice, religious uplifting, loving fellowship.  Use it to make sure you never lose a dear friend’s tweets amongst your thousands of follows, to aid in maintaining that wonderful relationship.

If you are serious in trying to replace your typical method of Follow Friday with Twitter Lists, then create meaningful lists with less than 20-30 people in each of them. Click on the list to get the address for it, and copy the address.  Send out a meaningful #FF with a link to the list.

So go ahead and follow other people’s lists.  Follow a lot of them.  But take the time to find out who on those lists makes them desirable to you, then personally follow those individuals yourself, so you see them all of the time.  Because seriously, are you going to flitter back and forth between your Twitter Lists all day?

Emerging Twitter List Resources

Even though the Lists feature has only been around a little while, programmers have already begun working hard to bring desirable lists to you.  As I come across them, I’ll put my favorite List Tools here:

Listorious – (brought to my attention by Jason Pollock) They call themselves the Directory of Awesome Lists.  Here you can find lists based on popular tags, look up lists from a particular user or by keyword, and follow them with a single click.  You’ll have to provide protected access to your Twitter Account to get full use of it.

Listiti – (brought to my attention by Mashable) They will send you an alert whenever someone on a given list tweets something you are interested in.

Conversation List – If you allow it access to your Twitter account, it will dynamically create a list for you based on who you tend to converse with.

TweetML FOLLOW EVERYBODY ON A LIST! TweetML has always provided a great interface to follow groups of users.  Rather than follow someone’s Twitter list, simply type in the address for it ( like ), in the box labelled Follow a Twitter List and press the Follow button. A list of users will show up and you can follow them all by typing in your Twitter information. It’s secure!

Third-Party Clients – Seesmic and Brizzly both have support for lists, and I hear that Tweetdeck has it in the works.  If you would like a Brizzly invite, feel free to contact me in Twitter at @_stevewoods.

Found another great Twitter List resource? Feel free to leave me a comment below.

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  1. Okay here we go, list here, list there, list, list, list. My life runs on lists a list for activities on my son’s Elementary school another two for my other two son’s Middle school, grocery lists, a Costco list, a list for Lowes, well you get it. We will see what happens with twitter lists. Is probably a good thing for people with many follows. I will give it a try, time will tell.

    • And like Costco and Lowes, the bigger the variety the better, to suit everyone’s needs and style. I appreciate each and every comment you make and enjoy your friendship. You will always find yourself not only in my lists, but also my heart. ~Steve

  2. Thank you. The information on twitter lists was very informative. I only leave here with 1 question and that is would tweeps feel offended if I do not make any lists? I don’t know if I need to make lists for the tweeps I follow.

    • Hi, Shelly

      That is a good question, and I might go ahead and address it here by updating the post with your question soon.

      You absolutely don’t have to use the Lists feature. I don’t believe your tweeps will be offended if you don’t. Engage to the level that is comfortable for you!


  3. This was quite helpful as I hadn’t fully grasped the concept or even the need for lists within Twitter.
    But then I don’t Tweet regularly or often.
    Mostly follow as I learn how this works.
    So Thank You for informing,

    • Hi, Margaret

      I hope that you continue to follow, and engage whenever you feel like it. Twitter is all about sharing. There are so many things to learn about how to interact to the fullest, and with each new discovery, you will find another great reason for being here!


  4. Just what I was looking for! helps to know how things can be useful when I haven’t the time to resourcefully work it out myself – thank goodness for the internet! thanks heaps for the pointer direction via twitter @jason_pollock thanks heaps to @_stevewoods! happy halloween

    • Thanks Sharon, for your response, for reaching out and saying hello, and for the follow. Hope to hear a great deal more from you! Steve

  5. […] op hoeveel lijstjes kom je voor.  Tips  verschijnen overal, een aardige is bijv van  Dopodomani .  Handig is het om een lijstje te maken van de tweeps die je niet wil missen en die niet veel […]

    • Dank u voor uw vriendelijke bespreking van mijn artikel op uw webpagina. Ik hoop dat uw lezers vinden het nuttig! ~Steve

  6. Thank you! This was very helpful. I find I am liking being on lists, but/and I haven’t done any yet…and I will.


    • Thanks for the compliment! Yes, I have read a number of articles/blogs recently that tend to state that the list, like it or not, is becoming the new measurement of influence on Twitter. There are already contests to see who will be on the most lists, with supporters calling on us to support one person or another by adding them to one of our lists…

      • This ‘popularity’ thing is what I thought would happen–in terms of a measurement of Influence on Twitter…it reminds(bad memories)
        of high school…good thing I’m not still in high school:)

  7. Check out these amazing lists! Great Marketing tools for everyone!


    POLITICS – DEMOCRATIC PARTY Browse New Lists by state

    FOLLOW FAVORITE TWEEPS Top 200 & growing (reg. users)

    NORTH CAROLINA Best NC tweeps (or by cities)

    Thanks once again mashable… Great Post!

  8. […] to show a few of the things I've learned.In addition to my screencast, @_stevewoods wrote a great post describing Twitter lists. And, here is the direct link to the Twitter Gadget for embedding your list on a website.Please […]

  9. […] Lists – You can create Twitter lists and then tweet out the link with a description of its purpose. This will lead people to follow your […]

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