How to Use Twitter Lists

I’m going to say right upfront: I live and die by my Twitter lists.

Which is why I found it surprising that some people don’t even know what a Twitter List is.

After last week’s post on Three Quick Twitter Tips, a few people asked about Twitter lists and requested a quick overview on them.

Your wish, my command.

A Twitter list allows you to segment who you follow into groups. If you’re currently following 500 people, it’s almost unfathomable that you’re going to see every tweet that’s important to you. Breaking your followers into Twitter lists allows you to more easily scan tweets to find tweets relevant to you.

For instance, if you run a charity organization like Step Up Women’s Network, you might want to create a list of the people who volunteer and contribute to your organization. You can watch that list to see only the tweets they’ve sent rather than the tweets of all your followers. This keeps your brain from exploding by trying to keep up with hundreds of people at once.

Sound good? It gets better.

By seeing only their tweets, you can keep up with everything they’re saying and take opportunities to interact with them. This is important because Twitter is mainly for building relationships.

Let me say that again: Twitter is for building relationships.

Can you promote your cause or your blog there? Sure. But if all you do is send 20 tweets a day telling people about your latest post, it turns into white noise. Your followers will not listen. They will not care. They will be unlikely to retweet.

Instead, if you interact with and engage them, they will be much more likely to engage with you too. Which is why Twitter lists are so helpful. How can you actively engage with hundreds or thousands of people at once? You can’t. Use a List.

So, to create a list, it really depends on what Twitter platform you’re using. I’ll walk you through how to do it in If you want tips in a different platform like TweetDeck or Hootsuite, shoot me an email at taminginsanity{@}ymail{.}com.

To create a Twitter list, navigate to your profile. You’ll see a screen that looks like this:

Click on that drop down arrow and you’ll see an option to Create a List. Choose Create List and name it. Now, you’re ready to start adding people to your list.

To add people to your list, go to their profile. Click on the dropdown list (which looks shockingly similar to the one on your profile where you create the list) and check the box next to the list you’d like to add them to.

After you’ve set up your list(s), you can then choose which list you’d like to read through. How many lists you set up is completely up to you.

I have a list for people I like to keep up with personally, one for businesses I follow and some set up for various activities I’m engaged in. Some I check every day, some I only check occasionally but using lists makes it extremely easy for me to easily find the people I want.

If you’re using Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or other Twitter platforms you can set up a column for each list you follow. This makes it simple to scroll to the list you’re interested in and read through.

Personally, I like to keep my lists to under 100 people. I find this makes it easiest to always find someone online (which is important when the hours you’re awake are bonkers) without feeling completely overwhelmed by how many people are in your list.

In summary, use Twitter lists so your head won’t explode.

40 Responses to How to Use Twitter Lists
  1. From Tracie
    February 16, 2011 | 11:34 pm

    I like the advice to keep twitter lists to under 100 people.

    Actually making lists is one of those things I have been meaning to do forever….and in the meantime it has just gotten more and more out of control (my twitter stream full of unorginization). I'm thinking the sooner I do it, the better.

    Anything to prevent an explosion of my head, because that would stop me from being able to use twitter at all.

  2. The Blue Zoo
    February 17, 2011 | 2:15 am

    I need to go through and update my lists. In fact, I really need to devote an entire day to just organizing my Twitter crap. Hhhmmmm, now if I could just get a maid and a nanny and a chef – I might actually have time to do that!

  3. Michelle Saunderson
    February 17, 2011 | 5:15 am

    Thanks, I really need to do this. Still trying to figure out Twitter.

  4. Doll Clothes Gal Pal
    February 17, 2011 | 5:57 am

    This is pretty useful! I'll try this out. :)

  5. Jessica
    February 17, 2011 | 6:20 am

    I love your info posts, I totally need to do this. I don't have a single list made and I am slowing getting lost in a twitter sea as my tweeting addiction grows. Great tips.

  6. Nicole
    February 17, 2011 | 6:41 am

    This is SO helpful! I had not had the opportunity to look into the lists – even though I had read they were pretty important to help filter your follows. Now….I just need to get on one of your “my peeps” list ;-) Thanks for sharing this information!

  7. Liz
    February 17, 2011 | 6:58 am

    Not that this is an excuse for my lack of list usage, however I cannot check Twitter on my phone. I know you can and can look at just a list, and I saw a few people at Blissdom with iPads flipping between lists as a way to check in with Twitter, too.

    So maybe if I had fancier technology, I'd have more of a reason to utilize lists??

  8. MrsJenB
    February 17, 2011 | 7:14 am

    This is why people like you are in my life. To teach me, so my head won't explode. Because I had no idea. Now I know what to do when I get to work. It's important to be able to plan your day.

    I'll say it again: Twitter sherpa.

  9. Julia
    February 17, 2011 | 7:20 am

    i've tried it with tweetdeck, but didn't get very far. maybe i'll give it another shot!

  10. Veronica
    February 17, 2011 | 7:23 am

    I hadn't made any lists yet. That's what I'll do this morning, definitely would make twitter life a bit easier to follow and interact! Thanks :)

  11. MommaKiss
    February 17, 2011 | 7:35 am

    I have a list called stalking.

  12. the mrs
    February 17, 2011 | 7:36 am

    This might sound weird but is there any list etiquette to be aware of? For example, I never know what to call the lists and worry that choosing the wrong name will offend (ie you show a list called “people like me”: will people be weirded out by being included or excluded?) Also, I'm always stumped by how long I should follow someone before listing if they are a virtual stranger. Is it bad form to list too soon? Have you ever experienced list backlash? Am I over thinking this?

  13. gigi
    February 17, 2011 | 7:45 am

    I did a very similar post over at Business 2 Blogger on lists. I can't live without them.

  14. angela
    February 17, 2011 | 7:53 am

    Thanks for the quick tutorial! I am relatively new to Twitter and was getting overwhelmed. This makes my “figure it out” part of my to-do list a little shorter!

  15. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
    February 17, 2011 | 8:10 am

    I am on the fence about lists. I've made some but I find that using them is a lot of maintenance. I prefer my main stream.

  16. John and Allie Fields
    February 17, 2011 | 8:17 am

    Have I told you that you rock my world?

    I had recently created lists but never could really quite figure out what I was doing. I was too embarrassed to ask for help but now I don't have too!

  17. Amanda @ It's Blogworthy
    February 17, 2011 | 8:39 am

    I've had Twitter lists for awhile and while I always put people on them, I never really used them — until Blog Boycott Day when I added all those people to the list and could really communicate so much more effectively with them.

    My problem right now is that I tried to use Hootsuite on my phone, but it would give me connectivity issues. I tried to send tweets all day a couple weeks ago and they were all saved in the outbox. So I switched back to Seesmic, which is great but it takes awhile to get to the lists screen. I might try Hootsuite again now that I have my new (refurbished) phone.

    Great tutorial!

  18. Anne
    February 17, 2011 | 9:07 am

    I should probs start doing this. I am still just happy that I made the cut on your peeps list!

  19. Sue Campbell
    February 17, 2011 | 9:07 am

    You're on MY list, girlie.

  20. Nikki
    February 17, 2011 | 9:55 am

    Do you have a list of “People who used to tweet/blog but quit and now stalk me on email”?

  21. Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points
    February 17, 2011 | 10:38 am

    I read this and my main thought was…”Tim's name is really Dave?”

  22. Nichole
    February 17, 2011 | 10:53 am

    Please, please, will you make my lists for me?
    I've been meaning to do it, but it seems like such an insurmountable task now.

  23. Hutch
    February 17, 2011 | 11:43 am

    Since I'm still around the 200 followers/ees, I use lists more for stalking celebs, athletes and my favorite dancers formerly on SYTYCD. I don't actually interact with them, more because they never respond to my awesomeness (what's up with that), so I'll open the list every few days to catch up on their lives.

  24. WTH am I Doing?
    February 17, 2011 | 2:01 pm

    Ahh. I love you for posting this (ok, well, and for other stuff too…). Why have I not been using lists?? Ok, besides the fact that I'm a
    Twitter spaz & am only sporadically on…


  25. Jennifer Brummett
    February 17, 2011 | 3:30 pm

    I just figured this whole list business out about a month or two ago. So, thanks for being so slow in posting this blog. I mean seriously….a day late a dollar short. But I still like you. Consider yourself even more liked because you are in the only list I created. Which is basically my favorite tweeters.

  26. Karen Peterson
    February 17, 2011 | 3:34 pm

    I've got lists, but I really don't use them. I should do that more. Thanks!

  27. Jessica Anne
    February 17, 2011 | 3:56 pm

    Great post. I love my lists, having recently figured out how to get them to show up on HootSuite.

  28. Craig
    February 17, 2011 | 4:07 pm

    This was like having a twitter expert (a twextpert?) sit you down and walk you through a tutorial. It was a nice thing to do. Thank you.

    I'm not at the point where I follow so many that it's an issue. Being a man and writing in this community I can't just go out and “follow” everyone. It's ok for women to do that – men don't mind the attention. If you're a guy doing it – well I don't do it because I'm afraid it'll seem kinda creeper-ish. So unless I met a woman IRL (i.e. Blissdom) I don't follow uninvited.

    Still someday this. And it was nice of you to do it.

  29. Sherri
    February 17, 2011 | 5:17 pm

    You rock…I HAVE to do this! I log on in the morning CA time and have already missed fun stuff going on in the other zones. Same thing when I come home at 3:00, since I can't tweet at work.

    I'm on it, and thanks for the help! You are all sorts of techie awesome.

  30. MiMi
    February 17, 2011 | 5:49 pm

    So I should have started this BEFORE my head exploded? Damn!

  31. julie gardner
    February 17, 2011 | 6:39 pm

    Okay – I was one of the many people who read your previous post and didn't know how to make lists.

    So thanks for this. I tried (before, on my own, lamely) and kept getting a message that said there'd been an error.


    Will be trying again because lists do seem to be SO much better…

    Thanks. From me and all the lame…

  32. Wombat Central
    February 17, 2011 | 7:35 pm

    I have one list that I think I started kinda by accident. I'm also giggling at the “keep your list under 100 people” thing. Only because I don't know 100 people on Twitter! :D Someday when I figure out Tweetdeck, I'll come back and reread all your wise words about Twitter. *shuffles back to cave*

  33. C.Mom
    February 17, 2011 | 8:09 pm

    I need to update my lists…there is really only one that I use effectively. I also need to figure out how to deal with the tweets about new posts and lack of other tweets during the day since I work (and cant really tweet while teaching). Thanks for the tips!

  34. Natalie
    February 17, 2011 | 9:11 pm

    @MommaKiss please tell me I'm on your stalking list???

    I only have one list – and it's all the people I want to keep track of regularly…people I already have relationships with, I guess.

    Maybe I should set up different lists for businesses, charities, etc…

  35. Kelley
    February 17, 2011 | 10:24 pm

    Good advice!! I have a few lists but need to update them. Thanks for kicking me in the butt about it!

  36. Copyboy
    February 17, 2011 | 11:29 pm

    Thanks, I need to go spring clean my twitter lists now. :) BTW…I made you new blog of the day.

  37. Ms.Wasteland
    February 18, 2011 | 6:48 am

    I need to work on my lists because I have them but I don't utilize them effectively. Also, you are awesome.

  38. Lauren
    February 18, 2011 | 11:07 pm

    I never knew how to use Twitter lists, so I just ignored them. But from your explanation, lists sound like a great way to connect with people. The other Twitter mystery now solved. Thanks for posting this. Ms. Wasteland told me to stop by and I did.

  39. Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip
    February 20, 2011 | 5:59 pm

    You are a genius. I've been taking a Twitter break lately, mostly because I just can't keep up with everything. I feel like I can barely keep up with my own email right now and I feel bad when I get messages I can't respond to. I love making friends on Twitter. It is amazing how fun it is. But right now I feel like I am drowning and my family feels like I've deserted them for the internet. I need to find a balance again. Maybe you can write a post on that? With some tips on how to balance blog life and real life? I bet a lot of us need a post about that topic.

  40. Laura
    February 22, 2011 | 12:12 pm

    Thank you for the reminder. I've been meaning to make a list for months. It's really hard to go through and look up the people whose tweets I want to read. (Seriously, I do that sometimes.) But I'm overwhelmed now b/c I don't know where to start. I guess just go back through all of the people I'm following and start adding them to a list, right?

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