Twitter Lists: A New Way to Organize Your Timeline and Your Time

Are you like me? Do you follow a lot of people on Twitter?

Good news: Help has arrived. The new Twitter Lists feature has now been rolled out to all users. Billed as an easy way to manage what can be a fire hose of updates from all the people you follow, lists help you break down the flow into manageable portions. They help you by organizing tweets from a single person or a group of people in one place for easy access and segmentation.

Twitter bird logo icon illustration
Image by Matt Hamm via Flickr

You can make your lists either public or private. Public lists enable others to look at your lists and subscribe to them without having to follow each of the individual users. You can group the people you follow into different categories and read only the updates that interest you. At this point, creating lists is time-consuming. You need to look through your followers, search for users, or add people from their Twitter pages.

For professionals, the most valuable aspect of lists is in the subscription feature. If you’re choosy about subscribing only to the lists of Twitter users in your industry who you respect, you can gain insights from what they are discussing. List descriptions are coming soon — these will tell others what the list is all about vs. having to rely on the list name alone.

Here are some ways Twitter Lists can provide value:

  • It’s easy to follow a trusted group of tweeters
    Before, it was difficult to follow a group of people all at once. Now you can easily create a list of your co-workers, for example, or thought leaders in your field, and follow them with one click.
  • You can separate the people you actually read from the crowd and let them know they’re valuable
    In addition to helping you by improving your Twitter experience, adding someone to a list tells them that you appreciate their content and that they are head and shoulders above the Twitter fray. Although everyone appreciates being retweeted, lists are another way to show people your gratitude for their contributions.
  • You can brand your Twitter presence
    The people you follow and the content of your tweets are part of your personal brand. Lists are another way to communicate this and to differentiate yourself. If you create lists that are specific to your field and include people you consider leaders, you can demonstrate that you are a subject matter expert and are fully engaged.
  • You can find great people to follow
    The lists of people you respect can offer insights about them and also some ideas about who you should start following. Before, you needed to look at individual timelines to accomplish this. For example, you could go to Pete Cashmore’s profile and see who he follows and communicates with. Very time-consuming. Now I see that Pete has created a list of fellow contributors at Mashable, making it easy to follow them all with one click. As more people create lists, it will be interesting to see who they value and recommend. Lists should be an improvement over the Twitter Suggested Users list and other directories.
  • It’s another way to measure influence
    Now, on everyone’s Twitter page, there’s another number included in addition to the number of people you’re following and how many people are following you. It shows how many times other people have included you in their lists. Coupled with retweet metrics, it shows how valuable your stream is to others.

Previously only available via Twitter’s Web interface, the Lists feature is now enabled in the Seesmic desktop client. It displays your lists in the left sidebar from any of your Twitter accounts. It also enables you add any Twitter user to any user list from any of your accounts. Right now, list functionality in Seesmic is incomplete. You can only see lists that you follow, not any lists that include you. And lists have to be created via Twitter’s site; you can’t create lists in the client itself. Functionality for both is coming soon. TweetDeck will also be adding list features in coming weeks, and other clients are sure to follow suit.

Twitter lists have a lot to offer. What do you think? Have you created any lists? What uses have you found for them?

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