Wednesday 28 March 2012

Using lists to tackle Twitter

If you are anything like me, you follow a LOT of people on Twitter. And that means unless you are watching the screen 24 hours a  day, you simply can't keep up with everything that's happening. When you drop in, you can have missed thousands of tweets, and you may have missed a friend announcing good  or bad news, who may then be hurt that you haven't mentioned it. You may have missed an announcement from a company you follow - maybe a great offer you would have liked to take up or a competition you would have liked to enter. Or you may have missed the breaking of a major news item or a piece of juicy celebrity gossip.

If you have several different interests and follow people connected with them, you may also find your Twitter page is so jumbled up that you can't keep up with conversations. As a comper, a crafter and a foodie, I can find myself trying to keep up with discussions about problems with a competition judging,  a new set of embossing folders being shown on television and the opening of a new restaurant, all at the same time. It's sometimes like being in a crowded room with everybody talking at once, and you can only pick up snatches of conversation so nothing makes sense.

Because of this confusion, a lot of people give up on Twitter. But there is a way to keep on following the people you want to follow and yet not find it as confusing, or to reduce the number of people you follow and yet still read what they say. I find the latter very useful as there are a lot of people like chefs and celebrities with whom I never interact and yet I still like to read their tweets. The answer to all this confusion is to sort the people you follow into lists.

Once they are listed, you can go to your Twitter page and select "Lists" from the drop down menu in the little head and shoulders silhouette at the top right, then again from the new menu which will appear on the left.  You'll then see a list of all your lists. I have lots of lists - two for compers because I know so many, one for foodies, one for health issues, one for my own family, one for crafters, one for local friends, news and businesses,  one for each day of the week to show me which companies tend to run competitions on each day,  one at Christmas time for Advent competitions and one for everything else which I simply call "The Best".

If I'm running a competition I will create a list of the people who have entered, and if I am researching a topic I might create a list of people who tweet on the subject. When I've finished with a list, I can simply delete it.

To organise people into lists, go to their Twitter profile and you'll see a second head and shoulders silhouette next to the Follow/Following button on the top right. From the drop down menu this produces, choose "Add or Remove from lists" ad a pop up will appear with a list of your lists in it. Select the one you want to use, or start a new one by clicking on "create a list" at the bottom. You can use this to put people on more than one list - for instance a few of my comping friends are also crafters so they are on both my comping and crafting lists.  Once the little timer wheel stops working, the job's done.

If you choose to create a list, you can make it private or public. If it is private, only you can see or follow it. A public list can be followed by anybody, and you can follow anyone else's public lists by going to the list and clicking "Subscribe" - from then on it will appear in your own list of lists.

Organising people into lists can take a lot of time, but it is well worth it in the long run. I tend to do it just a few people at a time, but I try to remember whenever I follow someone new, to immediately add them to a list.  The only app I can find to help  you organise your lists is Twitlist  - however it locks up my screen every time I try to use it. Maybe if you have a different setup from mine you will be able to make it work. If you know of a better one, please tell me in a comment or a tweet!

Now you can start to use your lists - for instance if I'm in a crafting mood, I can read  my craft list. If I'm wanting to catch up on comping news, I can read one of my lists of compers and if I want to know what the traffic's like on the local reads, I can read my local list.

The main Twitter page of advice and information about lists has lots of step by step advice about using them. But if you are using the Twitter web page, you still have to visit each list separately. You could, of course, open each one in a separate tab so you can  watch them all, but a really great way to view them all at once if you don't want to miss anything is to use Tweet Deck, where you can add a separate column for every list.

Now you have your lists, here are a few tips for using them to make your Twitter experience better:

  • even if you have blocked somebody, if you have them on a list you will still see their tweets. So if you REALLY don't want to see what they say, unlist them. And remember that if THEY have YOU on a list they can  also still see your tweets, so don't be TOO rude about them!
  • unfollow them and free up space to follow some new people.
  • If you are following two people, you will see conversations between them both, even if you aren't part of the conversation. If you have them on a list but don't follow them, you won't see the conversation between them. This can do a lot to declutter your timeline.
  • A list can't contain more than 500 people. Once you reach that point, you will need to either remove somebody or start a second list.
  • You  can't add yourself to, or remove yourself from, somebody else's list, and nobody  can add themselves to or remove  themselves from yours.
  • You can only have a maximum of 20 lists. This appears to include other people's lists that you are subscribed to.
And finally,  I wish I had £1 for every time I have used the word "list" in this post! I'm sorry for being repetitive but there really isn't any other word for it.


  1. I had all my lists sorted at one point but now they're in a mess and I need to do them again! I've followed so many new people who aren't in lists but really want to zone in on some tweeters! Thanks for reminding me how important/useful lists are!

  2. I use Twitlistmanager (

  3. Thanks Clive, a Twitter tool I've not seen or played with before! I'll have a look at it.


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