Twitter Lists: My Secret Weapon to Manage 140 Character Conversations

Step 1: Admit You Have a Problem
This week, I downloaded the Just Unfollow app and learned a few things about my Twitter follower patterns: When I travel, I binge follow restaurants, chefs, bloggers and other interesting people. When I watch TV (lookin' at you, Top Chef), I binge follow actors, directors, hosts and even characters on the shows.  During elections, I binge follow staff and candidates. And, during football season, I binge follow coaches, players and funny fans.

All of that is well and good until you find yourself following over 10,000 accounts like I did.

Twitter is just less helpful and relevant when your news feed is so cluttered that it's not interesting to you. For years, I've been generally avoiding my news feed and exclusively paying attention to Twitter through my Twitter lists.

Step 2: Make a Plan
I have Twitter lists for just about everything - cities I visit often, favorite foodies, political professionals that are interesting on both the right and the left, members of the media, digital innovators, celebs... and the most important list to me, My Twitter Posse. That's the people I actually care if I miss a tweet.

Twitter used to limit you to only twenty lists with no more than 500 people on them. And, I was hitting that limit hard. But, they've lifted the cap, so I'm recommending listmania!

Step 3: Know the Rules About Twitter Lists
First and foremost, decide if you want to make your lists public or private. If you make them public, others can view them and even subscribe to them. Twitter also notifies you when you've been added to a public list, so it's a good way to let someone know you find their account valuable or interesting. AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY TO MY ATTEMPT AT CURATION: YOU CAN ADD PEOPLE TO LISTS WITHOUT FOLLOWING THEM. So, you won't end up with a cluttered 10,000 account news feed like I did.

Step 4: Define Your Interests and Make Lists
If you're just getting started consider setting up the following lists (or make up your own based on your interests):

  • People I Know In Real Life - your friends and family (let's be real. Twitter isn't about them, but sometimes it's nice to be able to view it that way.)
  • News - your favorite news programs, anchors, reporters and editors
  • Entertainment - your favorite celebrities, musicians, actors, etc.
  • Travel - favorite places to stay/visit, travel deals
  • Business - people you admire in your industry, your customers, etc.
  • Sports - your favorite teams, athletes
  • Favorite People on Twitter - this will ensure a good mix and can be your primary viewing choice

Step 5: How and When to View Your Twitter Lists
My current favorite way to view Twitter lists is via Tweetbot on iPhone or Hootsuite on my laptop. They both just have a really simple user interface and allow you to easily toggle between lists. Yes, Twitter allows this too, just not in as few steps and not as clean to view, refresh, follow and add.

Lists for Fun:
Even if you just use Twitter for fun, consider how you might use lists to be more productive... during "The Bachelor" (or insert your fave show), make a list of contestants and your favorite folks to follow and comment on the show (if it's the Bachelor, you should be following @JenniferWeiner @SaraLang @1Chicklette and @Possessionista.) You can also follow the #TheBachelor hashtag during the show to find new funny people to add to your "The Bachelor" list.

Lists for Work
For work, you can make lists around events or key moments. Like, right now, during this government shutdown, I'm hyperfollowing my Political and Reporter lists. (I'd actually love if Twitter's product team would allow you to choose multiple lists to follow at once... but until then, I can watch the two side by side via Hootsuite.) Again, you can follow hashtags like #shutdown or #tcot (conservatives) and #p2 (progressives) to find new interesting folks to add to your lists.

Step 6: Know When to Let Go 
As I progress through my Twitter curation project, I've unfollowed over 2,000 accounts. I started by taking a look at who I follow that doesn't follow me. Just not following me isn't a dealbreaker. Tons of reporters and politicos don't follow me and I still need to know what they are talking about.

Most of what I've unfollowed are dormant accounts, people I've never interacted with, businesses that closed, people I thought had hilarious Twitter names that ended up not really being funny, Twitter memes that lost their relevance, celebrities that are boring or inactive, and a ton of people that I followed in preparation for trips to Australia and Europe that aren't relevant to me in my day-to-day. Some have been shifted to lists.

Step 7: Constantly Curate
All I know is that my Twitter won't remain relavant or interesting to me if I don't do a better job of making it that way. I don't want to turn into a follow curmudgeon. I just want it to be more about me and what I like.

Isn't that the whole point?

NOTE: Just Unfollow works for Twitter and Instagram. There are others where you can curate the folks you follow, such as Social Bro. Got a fave, tell me in the comments or tweet me @tammy


Jen Lee Reeves said...

I'll be super honest. I also have a Twitter problem. I need a day or two of account cleaning as well. But Tweetbot is the bomb for list following. If I could just build up more lists! For some reason, I'm a much better list creator in Facebook than Twitter. I should change that.

Ashley R. Lusk said...

I love Twitter lists and have found truly relevant folks to follow from others' curated lists. I was looking through your Twitter posse list and a) loving the collection of people you know IRL + celebrities (you love Scandal) + characters (Francis! Underwood!) and b) admittedly happy to see my handle on there. I think Lists are one of the few things Twitter hasn't messed around with and I can't decide if that's because they are undervalued or if they are just too good the way they are. I'm immeasurably grateful for private lists too.

Michelle @ Hey Love Designs said...

I love using Twitter lists to group my faves (can't miss tweets) and topics I enjoy following, but you just showed me more ways to make them useful for me. I especially love that you can list people without following them. Thanks for a great writeup!

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