A Twitter List is another method with which one can ‘follow’ Twitter users on the microblogging website.
Traditionally, a Twitter user ‘follows’ other users by clicking on the ‘Follow’ button on the Twitter profile in question. This relationship is public, as the initial Twitter user will be listed as a ‘Follower’ of that person’s Twitter profile, and it will also be noted on their own profile under the Following tab.
Once a Twitter user ‘follows’ other people, the tweets (Twitter postings) of those others will appear in the Home Feed of that Twitter user in chronological order. Problems arise, however, if a user follows a lot of other users on Twitter, as the posts of people of interest get drowned out by the volume of tweets or the frequent posting of more vociferous users. This is where setting up a List on Twitter can become useful.
In layman’s terms, a Twitter List allows you to categorise other people on Twitter, assigning them to groups which will have their very own feed. Once set up, a Twitter user can select a Twitter List to view just the public tweets of those allocated to that list. In other words, these lists act as a filter on Twitter, making sure that you pick up the tweets of those who are of interest to you, away from the stream of consciousness that sometimes renders the main Twitter Home Feed a meaningless, discursive babble.
Aside from acting as very useful filters in their own right, Twitter Lists have several other advantages . One of them is the ability to add people to a Twitter List without having to officially ‘Follow’ them on Twitter itself. This is handy as you may want to designate other users away from your Home Feed, and into a distinct folder for whatever purpose you have in mind, whether it be a hobby or interest, or for professional reasons. A Twitter user may also not want to be publicly seen following another Twitter user, even though they may be of use or interest, because they may not want to be perceived as condoning or supporting that other user (actually ‘Following’ someone on Twitter can be interpreted as actively supporting that purpose).
Twitter Lists can be named by the Twitter user to help categorise and file other users according to interest, geographical region or whatever categorical system one wants to use.
There are two types of Twitter List: Public and Private. As the name suggests, ‘Public’ lists are visible to all other Twitter users on the Twitter profile of whoever set up that List. When the owner of the Twitter List adds another Twitter user to it, the person who has been added will be notified by Twitter either by e-mail or when they next log into the site or the Twitter app (depending on their own personal settings).
In contrast, a Private list is just that; solely for the eyes of the owner of that Twitter List. Other users who are added to a Private Twitter List will not be notified of their addition, which makes Twitter a powerful and potentially discreet tool for the market monitoring of competitors.
Twitter Lists are allocated Public or Private status at the point of their creation, so please ensure that the naming and compiling of lists are done in the correct order to avoid embarrassment to yourself and others. Once set up, the Twitter List owner can toggle between Public and Private status for that list if they so choose, but once you have made a previously Private list Public, others may become aware of its existence.
Aside from creating their own Twitter Lists, Twitter users can subscribe to Lists created by others. These can be found by searching Twitter and reviewing other people’s profiles. Under the Twitter List owner’s profile, you will be able to see the name of any Public Lists they have created as well as the membership of that List. Sometimes it is easier to follow a ready-made Twitter List of someone else rather than create a similar one yourself.
As a Twitter user, there is no way to prevent yourself being added to other people’s Twitter Lists, whether they be Public or Private, bar choosing the ‘nuclear option’ of ‘protecting’ your Twitter Feed (making it only visible to those who already Follow you on the site). This option is not desirable for most, as it will hinder the marketing potential of any Twitter profile that you wish to cultivate. The option is also a little futile, as Twitter is very much a public broadcasting medium that can be thoroughly searched with Google or Bing. In fact, being added to a Twitter List can actually add value to your social media stature and it is not something to be feared; if you are worried about being monitored on Twitter, you should be mindful of what you post on the site in the first place. This should be a Twitter user’s default approach when using the network.
The correct construction and categorisation of Twitter Lists is essential if you want to get the most out of online Social Media management programmes such as HootSuite or TweetDeck, but this will be the separate subject of a forthcoming Nick Lewis Communications blog entry.