Why I’m a Big Fan of Twitter Lists

I keep promising myself that I’ll make better use of Twitter lists.  It’s probably my favorite feature on the network, and to be honest, one that I underutilize.

Here are a few reasons why I think so highly of them:

  1. You don’t have to ‘follow’ a user on Twitter to track what they are saying. Twitter lets you add users to a list without following them individually, and without having to add more congestion to your timeline.
    [An aside…  I find this technique is great for monitoring subjects that don’t necessarily fit with my online persona. For example, I love soccer and enjoy lurking in on conversations regarding my local football club. I use a list to monitor that group of individuals, but don’t follow them — thus keeping my timeline a little cleaner, and a little more ‘legal’ in focus.]
  2. You don’t have to create each list by hand! Lists are public. So when you’re scoping out the people you know on Twitter, check to see if they have any lists. If you click on “subscribe“, their list is added into your account and available for you to monitor. You can’t edit it, of course; but if you wanted that much control, you’d make your own.
  3. You can see who has added you to their Twitter lists on your memberships page. Located under your profile name, like this: https://twitter.com/stevematthews/lists/memberships
  4. If you block someone on Twitter, that will stop them from adding your profile to any of their public lists. It will also eliminate them from any other form of Twitter interaction, so I’d use this one with caution! (Otherwise, there really isn’t any way to stop people from adding you.)
  5. Twitter lists help us know who to follow.  IF you trust the person who built the list, you can often find interesting people within the group’s members. Each list has two alternate views: Tweets and Members. If you click on the tab marked Members, you’ll probably see more than a few people that you recognize.

Once you start following more than a hundred people, most Twitter users feel the need to manage their participation. No one should ever feel compelled to read every tweet published — Twitter is a river, after all.  But having a few filters up can help us catch the important topics, or conversations among certain peer groups. That’s valuable.

At one point in time, I solved this problem by using Tweetdeck.  Which worked fine, but as time passed I found myself gravitating back to Twitter’s web and app interfaces. The UI on Twitter’s core products had improved, and I couldn’t find a good reason to log into another product… Part of that transition back was my increased use of saved searches (which maxes out at 25) and lists (which now caps out at 1000).

I can’t see myself using Twitter lists as a replacement for an RSS reader, as Tim Baran suggests, but I do want to invest more of my time building and subscribing.  What RSS Reader technology delivers in terms of monitoring publishing, Twitter lists can clearly deliver for monitoring individuals and companies. Using the same technology for both situations (publications vs. ideas & voices) doesn’t work for me, but both are important tools.

Regardless, whether we’re trying to segment groups of people (by interest, industry, geography), or wanting to isolate the latest news feeds from key companies, Twitter lists is one of those social networking features that is worth investing more time in.


  1. Tim Baran said:

    Good info, Steve. I also tried Tweetdeck and the rest but kept coming back to the web interface, and now with Buffer app integration, I’m staying put.

    Couldn’t agree more about valuing lists but wishing I did more with ’em – at least the public lists. Have a few private lists that I access every day and they’re very helpful, especially when managing accounts other than your own.

    And with Feedly filling in nicely for Google Reader, lists augment rather than replace RSS feeds. Phew!

    @ 6:51 pm
  2. […] Mit Listen wird Twitter erst richtig gut nutzbar – Tipps dazu gibt’s hier. Zum Beitrag: https://www.stemlegal.com/strategyblog/2013/why-im-a-big-fan-of-twitter-lists/ […]

    @ 1:10 am
  3. S. Janes said:

    Definitely agree with this – they’re incredibly useful for all the reasons you’ve listed, and more.

    I’d add another that I’ve found – you can get a feel for the number of people you’re following under each topic list you create, which provides transparency as to whether you need to find a wider range of people to follow to hear a wider range of opinions. By way of example, I thought I was following a good number of people under a certain topic. Once I’d arranged them into a list, I realised there was only a small number of voices I was hearing, and that I needed to seek out more.

    And in categorising accounts, if you need to quickly identify people to get in contact with in a particular area, you’ve got a contact list already made out to pull from.

    @ 2:17 am
  4. I agree with Tim…good info that I completely agree with. I have long been a big fan of Twitter lists, and am relieved I found them in my early days because I have been able to segment types of people in to different lists. I keep most of mine private as I sometimes change the composition of my lists based on prioritization. I have them lined up side-by-side, along with my searches, on TweetDeck, which makes for very quick viewing of several lists at once, and also have them set up on Hootsuite, but don’t care for not being able to set all of them up side-by-side there.

    @ 8:43 am
  5. […] My friend Steve Matthews (@stevematthews), founder of Stem, a web strategy and development company for law firms, shared last week why he is a big fan of Twitter lists. […]

    @ 11:58 am
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