List me on Twitter

Earlier this month, Twitter introduced a new “List” feature. At first glance, it may seem that these are simply the official Twitter version of “groups” that different third party applications have been offering users for quite a while. But there are some key differentiating factors between groups and lists.

There are some great tutorials out there explaining how to set up Twitter Lists, so I won’t dwell on that detail.

Why should I use Twitter Lists if I already have groups set up in Tweetdeck or Seesmic?

Yes, many third-party clients have offered a way to group Twitter users already. But Twitter lists have two key benefits:

  1. You can put individuals on a list without actually following them. So, they won’t show up on your main stream, and you can ‘check in’ as you wish.
  2. Like tweets, by default Lists are public. Therefore, your groupings are not tied to your device, and others can benefit from your groupings as well.

I don’t follow that many people, why should I bother creating lists at all?

Creating a list is yet another way for an individual or an organization to offer value. I frequently conduct social media training sessions for non-profit or public health sector clients, and having a list of “must-follow” folks related to that subject is a great well to help new folks get their feet wet.

The “Reputation” Factor

Social media is at its core about reputation and recommendation. We may not know precisely why people follow us, but seeing how they classify us in a group can offer some interesting insights.

I have three twitter accounts: @afhill for tech/marketing, @afhill262 for running, cycling and roller derby, and AndreaWorldways for non-profit, public health, social marketing tweets. I generally try to keep my tweets relevant to what I consider my primary audience for each account. Yet I was interested to see how my main account (@afhill) has been added to different lists:

… and on. While Twitter allows users to add their own short bio, looking at how others categorize and classify can even more useful in understanding the nature of a user.

What if I’m added to a list I don’t want to be on?

If you are added to a list you don’t want to be on (say someone creates a “tweets-too-frequently” group you don’t want to be associated with), you can simply block them. Note: it is possible for an individual to create a private list, and you have no way of knowing if you’re on said list. However, blocking that person WILL remove you from even a private list.

Twitter block

Bonus: Lists let you see who’s blocked you

If you try to follow someone who has blocked you, you’ll get an error message that says “This user has blocked you from following them”. But even before you spend that valuable time clicking “follow”, the lists feature gives you a visual indication that you’ve been blocked: you don’t have the option to add them to a list!

twitter lists blocked

Hmm.. now that I look at this, it seems Twitter would be smart to also omit the “follow” button when you’re blocked, as it leads to an error condition..

One of the primary complaints about Twitter is that it’s hard to see the value of the service until a critical mass of connections has been made. Twitter lists help with this, making it easier for people to find and filter information. The ability to see on which lists they’ve been placed also gives users some appreciation of how they are seen within the community. This is value that was NOT offered through the “groups” features offered by clients like Tweetdeck and Seesmic, which focused on organization rather than recommendation.