Twitter Lists: List Me Baby One More Time

By: Guest | November 14, 2011 | 

Adriel Hampton Today’s guest post is written by Adriel Hampton.

Forget how many followers someone has, how many likes they have, and even theirย Klout score.

The first thing to look at when making a snap judgement about someone on Twitter is how many lists they are on.

Twitter introduced lists two years ago and their effective use separates amateurs from the pros.

The thing is, any former real state agent (<ducking> – some of my best friends are realtors) can amass tens of thousands of followers, but in general, a person who’s been listed 100 or more times has achieved significant credibility.

A ratio of one list to 10 followers is gold. Most spammer-type “social media experts” on Twitter don’t bother with lists, which are significantly more work to game than follower counts.

So, what are Twitter lists?

Twitter lets you create up to 20 lists. You can have up to 500 people on each list. You can then view tweets from people on the lists as filtered streams.

We’ll go back to how to analyze credibility using lists in a second.

First, more ways to use Twitter lists:

  • Take Twitter relationships to the next level. A follow is like a nod in passing, a listing is a full “hello!”
  • Find and categorize locals using LocaFollow and Twellow, add them to geographic lists.
  • Recognize business partners and guests on your blogs, podcasts, and other media outlets (I list all guests of my Gov 2.0 Radio podcast).
  • Publicly share affinities.
  • Use topical lists to help quickly find related Twitter accounts and to help friends get started (I have lists such as “Progressives without borders,” “Global Gov 2.0” and “Good Twitter contacts” for these).
  • Add informational tags to people (I have three lists full of folks I first connected with on Empire Avenue, and a couple “Handshakes” lists for folks I’ve met offline).

Back to credibility.

There are all kinds of tricks for juicing your follower counts and ratio of following to followers. These are used by everyone from spammers to big marketing names.

Getting on a lot of lists means people have taken the time to give you some public recognition. And while there are a few services that add people to random lists (to my great consternation), in general, listings are deeply meaningful.

Scrolling through the lists someone is on gives you rich semantic cues as to what others think about them and what they do.

I’m on a bunch of Gov 2.0, political, media and tech lists. Someone else might have a bunch of peers who’ve listed them as marketers, or salespeople, or PR pros. One of my lists acknowledges people I think are social media pros.

Lists also help you to find new people to follow from whom you can glean information. If you were a gov IT vendor, how much would you pay for a list of a bunch of gov CTOs, and access to their daily thoughts? You don’t need to – I have a public list of gov CIOs and CTOs.

If you’ve not been using lists, don’t despair. Heck, you can poach from mine. And sites such asย Formulists help you to find great lists on any topic you can imagine.

If you already have thousands of people in your network, don’t spend days going through them – just come up with a simple strategy for using lists in your interactions. Set up a few, and begin adding people and new lists as you interact with folks and evaluate new followers.

Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Adriel Hamptonis chief organizer at NationBuilder, a software platform for organizing. He is also founder and producer of the Gov 2.0 Radio podcast and a prolific tweeter.

  • Adriel, thank you for the helpful ideas in here. I am now going to create a list of Spin Sucks guest bloggers.

    I especially am happy to see you make it approachable for those of us who haven’t lists to-date effectively. I have been intimidated by the time needed to go in and organize it all, but simply creating the lists, and adding them on the fly, as I interact, is just. right. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the guest post!

    • I wish we had more lists is the only thing @Lisa Gerber – try Formulists to start your lists out for you, then manually prune and edit them. Also look at the people you talk to most often, or people you’d like to talk to more. Don’t feel like you have to go figure it out in one day.

    • adrielhampton

      @Lisa Gerber Glad to write for Spin Sucks! Happy list-building ๐Ÿ™‚

  • ExtremelyAvg

    Really good post on lists.

    I have been using lists to determine if I should block a new follower for over a year. My method is simple, I look at the ratio of Listed:Followers. I haven’t actively gone out and followed people since I was at about 300. I never blindly just ‘Follow Back’, but instead look at all my new followers and check their Listed:Follower ratio. As a rule if someone is above 5% then I will follow them, because they are someone who gets it. If they are between 2% – 5% I will do nothing and below 2% get blocked.

    It is amazing how many people don’t clean out their followers. There are those who will say ‘But why block them?” The best reason to block a #Spam-A-Bot-opotamus is to punish them for their evil ways. The second best reason is to keep the denominator in the ratio low. Having someone with 50,000 followers and 873 listed following you isn’t going to provide any value at all. They won’t have a conversation, they won’t RT your stuff, and they won’t appreciate your frequent references to the Honey Badger…they just won’t care about you.

    So folks, let’s all get out there and block and possibly block and report spam all the sucky people who think Twitter is for giving away free ipads.

    • I believe in blocking and cleaning – I block for spam so much the Twitter spam account was following me. True story. @ExtremelyAvg

    • adrielhampton

      Thanks! And I like your strategy on blocking spammers.

  • Not only are lists harder to game, but if you do, you get put off them right away. I also look at which lists people are on and who listed them. I had a 1 to 4 ratio until I went from 2k visitors to 9k a couple of summers ago. I try not to cry about it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • How do you keep track of who’s listing you Adriel? Do you manage it like you do new followers or do you have a separate approach?

    • adrielhampton

      @hackmanj I actually monitor them closely, yeah. I’m always bummed when new lists are just spam from Formulists.

      I find it really interesting and helpful to my social media strategy seeing what I’m manually added to. Like, when I shifted a bit from Gov 2.0 when moving to NationBuilder, I did start getting added to less gov lists and more about entrepreneurship, startups, organizing and the like.

      • @adrielhampton this is why I look to you for answers about Twitter Adriel. You really immerse yourself. Glad to see your post here on Spinsucks ๐Ÿ™‚

        • @hackmanj Uh!!! speaking of which! it’s all b ecause you you, Joe. Thanks for having @adrielhampton on your podcast with ericamallison . I immediately contacted Adriel for that blog post. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • @Lisa Gerber@adrielhamptonericamallison hey that’s awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚ That was a great episode, Erica is a natural host….

  • Lists are something that have really got my attention recently. I love the fact that it’s pretty hard to game and those lists tend to have more credibility than a lot of other social media tools … off to create some and hopefully get recruited to some kick *ss ones too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • @Ameena Falchetto Oh! I’ll add you to our guest bloggers list right now!

  • Good reminder about lists lending credibility. I’m a vocal advocate for Twitter lists and find them essential to tuning your listening.

  • I am on something like 50 or so lists. Which is really good considering I have about 645 followers. I am just me. I am on social media lists, sales lists, and cool people to talk to lists.

    Now, if only I could get on the “hire for work” lists…that would be great.

  • I never understood lists. Thank you for this great post. Formulist is creating a list for me now!

  • StefanoBossi

    Excellent! thank you for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚ @adrielhampton spinsucks

  • lindyireland

    Well explained!

  • davidsanger

    very interesting, never thought of lists this way. I’m on 366 so must be doing something right

  • Great to see you here, Adriel, and a wonderful post about twitter lists. Thank you.

  • lacouvee

    My challenge? I think in lists – true story. Thus, when lists came out, I immediately set up 20 and started adding people to them. Ran out of lists on the first day…..And, since you can only add 500 people to a list – with over 5000 followers, it is not possible to list everyone I might want to list. My geographical lists have been full for well over a year – and since I have no more lists – well, you get the picture.I find list maintenance to be a real pain – I’ve “unfollowed” a fair number of inactive accounts but that doesn’t mean they come off the lists they were on.What are you using as a tool to manage lists Adriel?

    • adrielhampton

      @lacouvee I WAS using a tool called TweepML, but then it went down for a really long time as new owners tried to redo the app. It looks like it’s back up finally – – so I need to explore it again. I, too, ran out of lists, so I started making them on secondary accounts, like my @gov20radio.

  • Good tips Adriel. I like formulist (I use the free version).

    I mostly use lists to publish daily papers via

  • DL101

    Helpful information as always Adriel. I learned something new today, thank you!

  • Some absolutely dynamite information here, in particular for me the geographical lists services.

    And you are very very very right that it isn’t how many followers, but how many lists somebody appears on. If someone has gone to the trouble of creating a list and adding you to the list it means they have deemed you worthy of being listened to.

    • adrielhampton

      @YasinAkgun Absolutely.

  • RebbecaPomplun1

    @danlamanski NAUGHTY I challenge you to see this sexy hoe and dont jerk off

  • SmallBizCounsel

    Thanks for the tips. I have not really used Twitter lists as much as I would like, but this is a great idea. I think I will start to get my lists more organized. Thanks Adriel!

  • pmross

    The thing about twitter lists is that to be listed you really have to use your twitter account as a specialist. I’m a techie. And a web designer. And an SEO guy. And a writer. And a blogger. And a photographer. And a mountain biker. And an all round nice chap for whom social media isn’t some sort of “magical ability” but merely a channel of communication that people either “get” or they don’t.As a guy who does pretty much everything I’m happy not to be a specialist and to not be listed so much means I’m not expected to only talk about a narrow field. If I’m on any specialist list then there’s going to be a lot of noise and less signal as I talk about anything and everything.

    So lists have their uses, but like boxes and pigeonholes, some people are happy not to fit in them ๐Ÿ™‚

    • adrielhampton

      @pmross Oh, I bet people want to list you for a range of those attributes. What quicker way to find out that you’re a mountain biker who talks a lot about SEO and photography than lists? I was using a “photographers” list just for this.

  • chrisgarra

    Great post and in violent agreement with @pmross and @Tubeblogr . Love @formulists for making lists easy and integrate well with the Twitter client…and like pm stated, when I follow a “social media person” or “herbalist” etc, if all I see are posts about that subject matter and nothing demonstrating they are an actual human with other interests well, that feels a bit spammy and completely uninteresting. So for myself, I’m ok talking about my passions on my personal account and hopefully other will get something out of it too and vice versa.

  • Excellent post. I love lists and cultivate them religiously, but your post has reminded me of how I can get better use our of them. Thank you!

    • adrielhampton

      @JenJenkins Thanks, Jen!

  • I like formulists as well, but I noticed when I imported lists made with formulists into Klout lists, they only show as a single user, rather than showing the whole list. Just a note in case anyone else might run into the same issue…I haven’t figured out a way around it yet.

    • @rosemaryoneill Good tip about Klout and Formulists!

  • glennQNYC

    I have a few of List tips:

    First, you can make any list private. I use this for my “Clients” list; since I do not want that information public.

    You can add people to lists you don’t nesseseraraly want to follow. I do this for the occasions I want to follow a particular topic.

    Combining both of the above… You can create a private list, then add people to this list without following them. This can be used to ‘follow’ people discretely.

    • adrielhampton

      @glennQNYC Great tips, Glenn!

    • @glennQNYC I use the same method. Most of my lists are private. that max of 500 per list can be tough at times.

  • [Climbs up onto soap box…..]

    Ahem. Is this thing on?

    I just wish that Twitter would reconsider their restrictions around number of members of a list and number of lists.

    [Steps down off of soap box. Exits stage left]

    • @Sean McGinnisseanmcginnis That is my biggest issue with Twitter Lists. Not allowed enough of them and maybe at least 1000 people in each list.

  • SeanMalarkey

    @shellykramer @ginidietrich I heart twitter lists! Have both of you on the one I watch!

  • Cesare_Hdz

    @ShellyKramer @ginidietrich Very cultivating… Thanks for sharing!

  • adrielhampton I find Twitter lists useful for following information and people of interest. using Formulists as a tool to auto organize people, topics or find new people to follow is a huge help most of the time. Following other people’s public lists is also a resource ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • adrielhampton

      @Nakeva Ah, Formulists drives me crazy! I’m all these “like so-and-so” or “people I talk to” lists. Dearth of semantic data there.

  • Remove the auto lists generated by forrmulists and klout — and look at what’s left. Note if that list owner has ever tweeted you, replied to you, or retweeted you. If you’re like me, then the answer is a quick no. Which begs the question why you’re listed if not engaged.

    • adrielhampton

      @Ari Herzog I do think lists are a little bit of a different type of engagement. Maybe someone just *really* wants to listen to you but they aren’t big at the replies thing. And definitely, knock the auto-bot lists. Hate that stuff ๐Ÿ™

  • ginidietrich

    It’s really too bad no one liked this blog post.

    • adrielhampton

      @ginidietrich What’s WRONG with people?!

  • adrielhampton

    @ken_homer sweet!

    • ken_homer

      @adrielhampton Thnx – I’m so relieved to see that by yer reckoning, I’ve achieved significant credibility!

      • adrielhampton

        @ken_homer yes, yes you have! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • supahstef

    @ken_homer this is #awesome

  • missmims1

    As far as Twitter is concerned the list thing never really caught my attention. It did when I realized that someone else had listed me but it didn’t make me change the way I was already using Twitter. In theory, its a great addition because it makes it simple to distinguish whos who among thousands of followers. Maybe if I had a huge amount of twitter followers this would be something that interested me. Or maybe if they did like Facebook and made it to where you could privately tweet to each list of people I would use it.

  • I like your tips on Twitter lists. I originally only had one list. Now I added a bunch more.

  • KanwalNizar

    It was interesting i love reading it ..
    <a href=””>x men cosplay</a>

  • Pingback: Five Steps to Digital Spring Cleaning by @allenmireles()

  • Pingback: Five Steps to Digital Spring Cleaning()