The secret power of Twitter: lists

Are you suffering from Twitterstream overload? Too much noise simply irritating you? I’ve been there, until I figured out the secret power available in Twitter that is totally underused, lists.

I believe the problem with lists on Twitter is that unless you use a tool that lets you manage them easily they are pretty useless. The web interface is a bit clunky and just takes so long to load. The tools that I have been using before I discovered a very specific one weren’t able to handle lists well.

On my iPhone I tried all sorts of apps and settled on the native Twitter app as it did what I wanted to do best. But for some unknown reason you can’t do any list management at all. I was getting more frustrated because following 700 people makes for a busy stream.

But then I found Tweetbot for the iPhone and that all changed. I was actively looking for a tool that would help me with the list management and even though Hootsuite does that I just find their app clunky and cumbersome. The next step was to configure my lists in a meaningful way and that took I’d say a couple of years actually to figure out.

How to create useful Twitter lists

Like most people I guess I have started to put people on lists by interest groups. People in SA, people who are marketers, people who like theatre, etc. But the problem is, that these people don’t always talk about just one topic, and a good thing that is. That kind of topical segmentation just didn’t work for me. So I thought a bit harder as to what would make sense and then the lightbulb went on. Segmentation by strategy was my new idea.

I use Twitter personally as a means to keep up with what’s happening in the world, stay informed and educated on my professional topics, to get inspired and to stay in touch with other people. From a business point I want to use it to engage with a relevant audience. And that’s when it suddenly hit me, the best will be to segment the people I follow into groups of “why” I follow them.

There is generally a specific reason why I follow someone, if I don’t know them personally then they either tweet interesting articles educating and informing me, send updates that inspire, are on the pulse of what’s happening or are simply interesting people I’d like to engage with.

And thus was my new list segmentation born and with it a completely new Twitter experience. No more stream overload, instead I read streams depending on my mood and time available. Tweetbot makes it really easy to read one list’s stream after the other and manage memberships.

twitter listsThe picture on the right shows you my current lists and how I use them, perhaps they inspire you to some segmentation of your own.

By the way the funny numbering is purely to trick Tweetbot into my preferred order of lists. I now read my Tweetstream from the top down.

Twitter list segmentation

I start with the first list “Engage”. In that list, by the way they are all private, you will find people I want to engage with, get on their radar, help them, etc. This is my top priority list and one that I always go through in search of Tweets I can reply to, or RT, or favourite. There aren’t many people on that list. I’m very specific in who I want to engage with and it’s also constantly changing.

Once I read that stream I move on to “always read”. That’s self explanatory. It’s my VIP list. Again this is a list of only a handful people. Very few make it on here. One example is Andrew Evans, @WheresAndrew, his stream is just awesome and feels like I’m travelling with him wherever he goes, I simply don’t want to miss any of his tweets.

Sidenote, do you agree with this:

I would rather only have 10 followers who have me on their VIP list than 10,000 who couldn’t care less what I say. (Tweet it)

After those two lists, which I always check every day, I move on to the next ones if I have time and am in the mood. There are the “influencers”, people who I admire, who have inspiring things to say and who I generally listen to and who I respect for their opinions. In this category we have Chris Brogan as an example. He tweets a lot so I wouldn’t necessarily read everything he tweets, but he often responds personally and is just whacky in an awesome sort of way. At any rate he is one of the top influencers certainly on Twitter and so his spot in this list is firmly cemented. In this list I have about 50 people. Many more than in the first two, but this stream is very busy, as they all use Twitter actively.

The other lists I read when I have time and am interested. For example my “political SA” list is a list I’m not always in the mood for, so I often skip it. It includes people who mostly tweet political things or who help me get a feel for what’s happening in our beautiful country. There are people on it who I actually don’t follow. I’m not a fan of theirs at all, but I added them to the list (you can add anyone to a list without having to follow them) as they do help me be more objective and keep a balanced view of local opinions.

The “on occasion read” (misspelled in my list!) list are all the people I do care about but who I don’t need to have in my space every day all the time. I often check that list when I lie in bed and “read my Twitter”. That’s when I dive in there and enjoy it for all the diverse topics that come up here.

Twitter list maintenance

All the other lists I guess are self explanatory. When I find a new person to follow I often start them out in the engage list to see if there is any common ground to engage with. If not then I move them around into other lists. I constantly move people around. Tweetbot makes this really easy and I manage my entire lists all via this great iPhone app. Unfortunately I have no idea which other apps on the iPhone or other OS’ do it the same or similar way but if you know of one for any OS please leave a comment below so we can all benefit.

My Twitter experience has become so much better since I’m using this approach of segmentation and I’m busy transferring this framework of lists over to my circles on Google Plus which are in dire need of reordering. I hope I’ve given you some ideas to do some segmentation of your own.

Oh and on a last note, I’d like to mention my one public list I curated. It consists of 50 specially selected Tweeps based on a list that Forbes published in 2012. They used a specific method to find out who are the 50 most influential Tweeps in the social media scene and listed all their Twitter handles. I then took them all and put them into this list. If you ever want a special stream of mainly social media news and updates look no further than that list. I also added it to a paper.li stream which curates interesting stories from this stream only and gets published around 6 pm SAST every day.

Please leave a comment with your recommendations for apps to curate and manage lists on Twitter effectively or any other questions or comments you might have on this topic.

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