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Understanding Twitter: How To Use Twitter Lists

By Garrett Moon on April 26, 2011 in News.

[This post is part of the ongoing series The Complete How To Guide for Twitter Marketing]

Lists were introduced by Twitter a couple of years ago as a way for you to group and organize similar Twitter users together. Each user is allowed to create a list, and add other Twitter users to it as a way of grouping them into common categories. For example, you often see lists surrounding location (ie. North Dakota Tweeters) or a profession (ie. Social Media).

A few of the lists that I follow.

Reasons For Using Lists

The primary benefit to creating your own lists is that you become the curator for that tweet stream. You choose who is a part of the list and who’s tweets you want to see together.

A couple of reasons you might create a list.

  • To monitor a selected group of Twitter users from your home city or state.
  • To group people that all fit a certain category, like ‘Bloggers.’
  • To group friends and/or people you chit-chat with on a regular basis.
  • To honor people that you feel deserve a specific label such as “great people.”
  • To group coworkers or people from a club or real-life group.

Twitter lists are a simple way for you to organize the people you follow. Rather than sifting through your entire tweet stream, you can group users into categories that make sense to you.

How to Create a List

Creating a list is very simple. To get started simple click ‘Create a list’ from the lists drop down menu on your Twitter home screen. You will then be asked to define a few fields such as a list name and a description. Once you click OK, your list will be ready to go. You can start adding new people to the list immediately.


Be aware that you can create either public or private lists.

  • Public lists are visible by anyone on Twitter.
  • Private lists are visible only by you.

Once you have created a group and added a few people to it, you will be able to see all of the Twitter activity from those people in one stream. If your list is public it will be available for other people to view or follow.

Following Users

Adding users to your list is simple. Next to each follow button, there is a little drop down menu with a list icon. When you select this, you will see all of the lists that you have created. Simply check the box for the list that you want them to be a part of.

Here, I added Todaymade to my Voices of Change list.

Being Listed

When you add someone to one of your lists, they become ‘listed.’ This works the same way as following but is tracked separately. It is very important to understand that following someone via a list is different than the normal way we follow them on Twitter. Lists are viewed and tracked separately.

Being 'listed' is different from being 'followed.'

Keep in mind, that if you add someone to your list, you will not automatically be following their tweets. Following them and adding them to your list are treated as two separate actions on Twitter. You will still need to do both.

Following Lists

If you find a list that you like, you can choose to follow that list, and it will be added to the lists your following page. Again, just like before, the lists you follow and the people you follow are treated completely separately on Twitter. If you follow a list, you will not automatically follow all of the people one the list.

Mentioning Lists

You can also link to any Twitter List as you tweet by mentioning it as you would a Twitter user. All you need to do is add a forward slash “/” followed by the list name to list owners username. For example:

@/ (example: @garrett_moon/voices-of-change)

What should I do with lists?

To be completely honest, lists are not something that I use a lot on Twitter. I am on several lists and sincerely appreciate the sentiment, but they simple aren’t a part of my everyday Twitter activity. This varies though. Just because they aren’t right for me, doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. I know many people that use them everyday and find them very valuable. There are also many that say they can be powerful for social media engagement.

Lists can be a good way to organize your Twitter following activity in a way that is easier to digest and to read. For me, I have always used programs like Todaypulse to manage my Twitter reading – thus I have not needed the list capability for this.

Being added to lists is still an important part of social media engagement and Twitter etiquette. I try to follow back lists that have added me when I can as a common courtesy. If you are added to a list, it usually means they think you have something important to say, and that is always a distinct honor.

Lists and Metrics

Lists are a factor in many of the metric systems that track Twitter engagement and influence levels. One of the metrics that we have discussed before is which is the current authority in Twitter engagement tracking. The more lists you are on, the higher your score will go. While lists are not the primary factor, they can positively influence your score.

Take Away

Twitter lists are an important part of the Twitter platform, but have received mixed reviews. My advice is to try them out and learn to understand them. They are definitely a big part of what makes Twitter, Twitter. You may find them extremely helpful, or you may not. Either way, they are worth figuring out.