Fundamentals of Twitter Lists

Fundamentals of Twitter Lists - #TwitterSmarter chat with Rivka Hodgkinson on February 27, 2020

From global trends to bookmarks, GIFs, and chats, Twitter has a bunch of great features. One of them, in particular, is often the most overlooked of them all: Lists. They’re open to interpretation. That’s why they’re also so confusing.

We invited social media strategist Rivka Hodgkinson to help us understand how best to use Twitter Lists. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guest: Rivka Hodgkinson
Topic: Fundamentals of Twitter Lists
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to answer.

Q1: What’s the purpose of a Twitter list?

One of the reasons that Twitter Lists are so under-utilized is because they don’t have a single defined purpose. They’re so versatile, and even though it makes the feature so much more useful, it’s also become rather vague. People don’t know what to use it for.

In its essence, like Jeremy pointed out, Twitter Lists help you organize your feed in a custom manner. So not only do you get to handpick the content you want to see, you can also see content from people you don’t follow explicitly—excellent way to monitor competition and influencers.

You can use a list to compile a group of people for your own reference. It could be your weekly swing dance group, close friends, or even your high school mates. But that’s only one way of using Lists. Another way is to create a group of industry influencers so you can keep with their content more effectively instead of looking them up on your crowded feed.

That’s why it’s quite important to know what you’re going to do with your list, well before you create one.

Knowing its purpose helps you build your business plan accordingly and change course of action in case your competition did something noteworthy that you want to leverage.

Here are a few more ideas of what you can do with Twitter Lists.

Q2: How is your feed different from your list?

The problem we have most often is that our feeds are a constant whirlwind of information. Lists are the solution.

Think about it this way: your feed contains tweets from everyone you follow. Now, we don’t follow everyone for the same reason. Some we follow for their industry news, some for family matters, some because they’re colleagues and it’s awkward to walk past them at work if you’re not following them on Twitter.

Add Twitter’s algorithm of “suggested for you tweets” and “similar profiles,” and the struggle is real.

On the other hand, with a custom list, you have complete control over whose content you see and engage with.

Our friends from OnePitch explained how a list is a great way to have a focussed conversation on one particular industry or interest.

Imagine your feed is a large party, where as the host, you know everyone and genuinely want to interact with each person. However, in any party, you’ll have clusters of people with similar interests engaging with each other. That’s what Lists are for. It doesn’t mean that you’re disrespecting other party-goers, but it just means that you’re allocating time and effort to each group that you care about.

Avery summed it up quite well.

If you’re looking to learn more about Twitter Lists and how to use them, check out this article from Madalyn.

Q3: How do you add someone to a list?

The easiest way to add people to a list is right when you decide to follow them. If you already have established goals and lists, you can categorize this new person into one of your lists.

Sometimes, though, as is the case with our guest, you don’t know right away if someone fits your list. That’s why it’s so important to dedicate time to developing relationships with people on Twitter. The more you engage with someone, the more you learn about their interests and areas of expertise.

Chris also pointed out that you can add people to either private or public lists based on your relationships. For instance, you can create a public list of all #TwitterSmarter chat regulars, and a private list of potential clients you might want to reach out to later for business.

Q4: Do you need someone’s permission to add them to your list?

Nope. If they have a public profile on Twitter, it means they’re comfortable with you adding them to your list. All content is public anyway.

As our guest suggested, if you do add someone to your list, you can let them know as a way of initiating conversation. It’s a good way to develop friendships.

However, be aware of the difference between a private and public list. When you add someone to a public list, they automatically get a notification. If you’d rather keep quiet about checking out someone’s content—like your competitors or certain campaigns—you can use a private list instead. Another reason to understand your purpose before you create a list.

On the flip side, if someone you don’t know adds you to their list, consider it as a gesture of respect. As Rita said, they want to hear what you say—accept the honour with pride.

Q5: What’s the difference between a list and a moment?

In Taylor’s simple terms, Lists are for a group of profiles, whereas Moments are for a group of tweets.

Although you can use Lists and Moments interchangeably, they’re fundamentally different. For instance, you can use a Moment to share snippets of content from the top 10 people in your industry. However, that Moment is a one-time thing. You’ve chosen these tweets and, in a way, you’ve monumentalized them.

With Lists, though, you collect not just one tweet, but the person who wrote the tweet.

To understand when to use which, consider Rivka’s suggestion. Use a Moment to showcase a theme—an event, a chat, or a news item. Gather tweets that directly relate to that theme and put them together in a Moment.

Use Lists to create a group of people who always discuss the same thing. Like smartphone makers or software vendors.

Q6: Should you subscribe to other people’s lists?

Of course. If someone’s gone to the trouble of compiling a list that’s useful to you, subscribe right away. There’s nothing wrong in it—social media is about sharing.

Besides, it takes quite a lot of effort to do it all yourself. If someone else has done it already, why wouldn’t you respectfully take it? Just make sure you thank the owner for all the benefits that you’re garnering from their list. It’s a great way to promote a culture of sharing.

Nick also supports the idea of subscribing to others’ lists. As an example, he told us that he subscribes to NFL’s list that tracks their teams. This is an excellent way to keep up with a brand’s activities. A lot of software companies like Google, Microsoft, and Zoho have multiple products with separate Twitter handles. A list of all official handles is such a huge help for customers.

Q7: How can you promote your lists to other users?

There’re many ways to go about promoting your list. First, tweet it out. It’s basic, but it’s a wonderful way to share with your community that you’ve been working on that list.

That’s what Madalyn does. She made a list of her guests on the #TwitterSmarter chat and podcast. Talk about your list during relevant Twitter chats. People would’ve easily missed if Madalyn hadn’t mentioned it.

If you come across a conversation on Twitter and that person would benefit from your list, send it to them as a personal recommendation.

Even better—let your email subscribers know about your list. And always keep your lists updated.

Like Dr. Hecht said, make sure your lists are public. Every person in your list gets a notification, and you can even give them a shout-out, prompting them to spread the word.

Q8: What is the biggest success you’ve had with Twitter lists?

Rivka shared an excellent piece of advice. She often creates location-specific lists so that when she’s travelling to that place, she could set up meetings and catch up with her online friends in real life.

Although Twitter is a great way to establish relationships, an occasional face-to-face meeting goes a long way in maintaining those relationships. In that regard, Lists can help you effectively communicate with the people who matter most to you.

What’s more, as Gabriela said, Lists help you create micro-communities. Just like with influencers, communities are also far more efficient when they’re smaller and hyper-focussed. Not only that, you also get to make new connections, learn new tools, identify prospects and opportunities, and so much more!

Well, folks. That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading and for more insights from our chat with Rivka, check out this Twitter Moment that our team member Joana put together. Hope to see you on Thursday for our next #TwitterSmarter chat at 1pm ET.


About me, Narmadhaa:

I’m a writer of all things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

Say hello: Personal blog | LinkedIn | Twitter

FREE Twitter Guide

 Do You Dream of Being a Twitter Rockstar?

Get my FREE guide and learn 26 rockstar tips on how to be Twitter Smarter.