Disclaimer: Charles Jo dared me to write this article so here I am, about to share my experience with the most important feature on twitter to date. P.S. Any tool that automates twitter lists is useless. Trust me.
Yes, you read that right.
Without twitter lists I would not be able to follow anything on twitter. The moment you start following more than 2000 accounts, twitter starts getting noisy and overbearing. This is because there are no "groups" and the closest thing you have is channels (like #startups), which are always spammy because they're dominated by the same brands and people.
I disagree with Gary Vaynerchuk that twitter has a "noise problem". No offence, Gary, but the problem is not the noise. The problem is that twitter doesn't make its users aware of the only feature that helps silence it.
If twitter promoted its lists more, people would not end up inundated and annoyed, and they would not give up on the platform because they'd be efficiently controlling the flood of information coming their way.
I can't remember the last time I looked at my home feed or followed a twitter channel. Once you convert to twitter lists, you never go back. You'll be able to create the feeds you'd love to follow. And I will help you do that.
Before We Start
Since the latest re-design on twitter (to make it look like facebook #barf) it has been harder to spot some users' lists because they don't always show on profiles (unless the user has created lists). To fix this, you can add "/lists" after their username in the browser window and see where they're listed.
If you can't see the lists on your profile, you can also access them through clicking on your profile icon on the upper right corner and selecting "lists". Then you'll find the "create a list" button on the right.
All set? Great! Two more things and we can move on.
1. As an added bonus (though some may not view it that way), everything you tweet shows up in lists, even your replies to people. Sorry if you thought they were completely hidden, but this was good news to me when I realized it because it means I will never miss anything my friends talk about.
2. Bear in mind that ideal lists contain anything between 200 and 500 people. Any more and you'll be drowning in noise again.
Now that we have all this out of the way, let's start listing! :)
People with a Specific Interest
If you follow people with varied interests, it makes sense to view their feeds separately. For example, I have different lists for: writers, marketers, photographers, nomads, data scientists, etc.
You probably don't have as many interests, but I have the tendency to dip in different things, and so twitter lists have literally saved me.
People with Certain Twitter Habits
Sometimes find it helpful to congregate people who behave in similar ways on twitter. For example, some are compulsive re-tweeters, others only share media content, and third engage more than anything else.
In any case, conversationalists are the best kind of candidates for lists.
Segment People in Your Industry
This is very important. Sometimes you want to see what journalists or influential people in your industry are talking about, so putting them in separate lists will help you do that and miss nothing.
Segment People by Location
This is especially helpful if you're moving someplace new and you don't know a lot of people. Or if you want to meet the people who share your interests and live in your town. This is why I have had lists for Rome, Bulgaria, and I just created my "tech people in London" list.
Accounts for Curation Purposes
I have a "Content" list, which includes accounts of tech media sites and any publications I follow to curate useful tweets. I also have a list called "eek" (used to be private), which has accounts that make me laugh or gasp.
And don't forget the "Inspirational Quotes" list, which I've kind of abandoned, but I can't bring myself to delete it. #hoardingproblems
P.S. Obviously, you can use feedly for curated content, but if you want to access brands and news from twitter directly, lists work all right.
When You Want to Get People's Attention
While some people don't check who follows them, they notice the "you've been added to a list" notification. So it's a useful strategy to consider.
It's usually done when you're promoting an event or a community. It's important that you add a list description, inviting people to check it out and only target relevant people, so they don't get the sticky spam factor. I have even seen lists like "people I want to Skype with" or "people I want to have coffee with", and that's always a wonderful surprise, albeit a rare one.
And you can use this strategy for practically anything: to recruit people for a particular project, to find people who may be interested in partnering or mentoring, to find new members for your slack chat, etc.
Lists of People in Your Communities
I've started doing this recently because I have joined a few communities on Slack, and it helps to have those people on separate lists, too.
So I have the Startup Study Group list, the MakerHunt list, and I have yet to create the TechLondon list, but really, if you're running a community on Slack, you should consider doing this yourself. ;)
Relevant Accounts to Your Startup
I'm talking about your competitors, potential clients, subscribers, etc.
Basically, if you're running a startup, the more lists you have, the better. (As long as the list has an end goal and brings value to your social media efforts.) It means you're in control of your business. On @amazemeet my favorite lists include: competitors, CxO stars (influencers), biz accounts (curation), and c-suite accounts, and subscribers (keeping an eye).
Pro tip: If you're planning to launch soon, consider having lists of Product Hunt hunters and journalists who write about the problem you're solving.
Why Don't You Hunt Some Lists?
Apart from creating lists, I also hunt useful lists. Though I must admit I trust my own over anyone else's, this is something you can do if you really don't have time or desire to create lists yourself. There are certain people on twitter who are amazing list-makers, so start looking for them now or check out my list of lists to see if you'll fancy - I mean like - anything.
It might seem like a lot of work to grow and maintain those lists at first, but it really pays off in the long run. (They're like gardens - you need to trim the bushes every now and then and remove spammy people.) But it gets easier once you develop the habit of adding people to those lists. Once you start doing it automatically, it takes no effort at all.
Please let me know if I've answered all of your unspoken questions. :D
P.S. Buffer also has a good post on the topic. Don't they always...