How to create Twitter Lists and why you might want to

One of the best things that Twitter has ever done as an improvement to its platform is to add Lists. I personally follow almost 3000 accounts on Twitter, but Lists allow me to segment who I’m following so I can easily pinpoint content that is relevant to me at any given time. There are several reasons to build (or subscribe to) really good lists:

  1. A List that has been carefully curated with excellent content creators on a particular topic can be a resource for your followers. All public lists that you create and any list you subscribe to show up on your Lists page.
  2. I create lists on various interests that I have. As I’m perusing my timeline, I will add accounts to appropriate lists whenever I think about it. Then, when I want to see what they’re sharing, it’s really easy to check for their content on a list of 20 rather than my timeline of 3000. I love being able to segment the people I’m following.
  3. Lists allow you to follow without following. You can add any public profile on Twitter to a list and you never have to follow. This allows you to monitor content on accounts without clicking the follow button. This can be useful if you like to see the news, but don’t want your timeline filled with newspaper and TV news updates. You can use this tactic for other types of monitoring as well - competitors, similar businesses in other regions, political figures, etc.

How to set up a Twitter List

Login to and go to the “Me” tab on your profile, then click on “Lists” in the sidebar. On this page, you can see lists you’ve created, lists you’ve subscribed to and lists that you are a “member of” - that means someone else has put you on their list. (Note: You can’t remove yourself from a list. If you don’t want to be on a list, ask the creator to take you off.)

Below your profile on the right, click on “Create List”. 

Name your list, describe it (if you want), select whether it will be public (viewable by all) or private (viewable by only you). Then save!

Now that you’ve set up the list, you’ll want to add some people to it.

How to add people to your Twitter List

Anytime you see a gear icon by the name of someone you want to add to a List, click on it. In the drop-down box, select “Add or remove from lists….”

This is the view of lists Lara was a member of prior to me editing the list.

Check off any lists you want to add the person to. And if you want to take them off a list, uncheck the name of the list.

Now that you know how to add and remove users from lists, you can begin to curate lists that will segment the large group you follow into smaller groups.

How to subscribe to someone else’s List

Sometimes it’s easier to subscribe to a list that’s being curated by someone else. For example, if you are a member of a business organization, you would benefit more by following the list that is being maintained by the organization rather than trying to create a duplicate list.

For example, Social Capital Conference has a list of attendees from the 2013 conference (at least those who provided their Twitter handle). If I subscribe to that list, then the people managing the Twitter presence will also update that list so I don’t have to create my own and update it.

Click on the “Subscribe” button and then you can access that list easily from your account.

Ideally, you would start using Twitter lists from the day you join so that you can organize anyone you follow into lists as you go. However, there are a lot of us who have been on Twitter long enough that when lists were introduced, we already had quite a few people we were following. The key is to get into the habit of adding great content creators/curators to appropriate lists whenever you’re using Twitter. 

Do you use Twitter Lists? What are some more ways you find them useful?

Case Study: The facts about buying Twitter "followers"

About six to eight months ago, I got this idea in my head to actually buy some Twitter followers. Not because of any desire to increase my numbers, but I was genuinely curious about the process. I wanted to be able to back up my gut feelings about this practice with cold, hard facts. I’ve been hemming and hawing about it for this long because I don’t think it’s a good way to grow a following. At all. 

In a moment of late night impulsiveness, I finally bought followers. (Just saying that makes me feel like I’m confessing to some horrible transgression.) Did this change my views on the value?

Why would someone want to buy followers?

As is pointed out in this article, there is a certain perception in having a large following on Twitter. Follower count is used to determine your score on Klout, Tweet Grader, Tweet Level, and Kred uses follower count to a certain degree, but it doesn’t seem to have the same affect on scores. PeerIndex doesn’t use follower count as a variable, but maybe that’s because the CEO has allegedly bought followers.

Even if you don’t care about any of these automated influence measurement tools, when you know that people who follow you are checking out your account, a low follower count can make you feel pretty inferior. So, do you stay the course and grow organically or do you gamble on the cheap, easy tactic of buying followers to create a different perception.

The Pitfalls

I opted for a service that I could buy targeted followers from. I wanted some degree of authenticity (if possible) rather than an influx of fake followers. I wanted to buy 1,000 - a substantial number, but nothing crazy like the 27,000 the guy bought in the link above. Part of the reason is I wanted to see if anyone noticed and said anything, so the number needed to be truly noticeable. So far, nothing unless people are chatting about it behind my back. ;)

When all was said and done, well over 2,000 followers were added to my account and they were as fake as the day is long and in no way targeted by subject matter or geographic location. But yay! I have a 1-year guarantee that they won’t unfollow. (Do you feel me rolling my eyes?)

Status People made this nifty little Faker tool that tells you what your mix of followers looks like. I checked before I bought the followers. I had 93% good, 5% inactive and 2% fake. In the last year, I have been blocking obviously fake accounts, so the 2% must have followed prior to that time.

Now that I’ve got this influx of new “followers”, here’s my score:

I think it’s safe to say that my assumptions about this process were correct, despite those who still see it as a legitimate marketing practice

Other ramifications to consider

1) Impact on influence

Let’s return to the topic of influence measurement tools from above. Do you care about those numbers? Buying fake followers can actually have a negative impact on the ones that look at follower count. Because many of those accounts mass following you on Twitter are fake, you’ll undoubtedly lose followers as the fake accounts are deleted or blocked. Mass unfollowing will hurt your influene scores in the short term. 

Assuming you don’t care about influence tools, if you care about your audience, you don’t want to get caught trying to fool them. Although buying followers as a prank did amuse me, but for all the reasons I’ve stated I wouldn’t do that to someone else.

2) Financial vulnerability

There is something inherently unethical about buying Twitter followers. It’s cheating the system. Even if you buy from a service that truly targets the following to genuine accounts, it still gives an false impression to those who later choose to follow you. Even worse, if you happen to choose a disreputable service (and let’s face it, these services aren’t known for ethical practices), you could be handing your credit card information over to someone and regret that decision later.

3) Biggest red flag of all - it’s not allowed

Most articles I’ve read about this topic would lead you to believe that there’s nothing in Twitter’s terms of service that would prevent you from legitimately buying followers. Unfortunately, they’re incorrect. The terms of service state:

Spam: You may not use the Twitter service for the purpose of spamming anyone. What constitutes “spamming” will evolve as we respond to new tricks and tactics by spammers. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be spamming are:

  • If you have followed a large amount of users in a short amount of time;
  • If you have attempted to “sell” followers, particularly through tactics considered aggressive following or follower churn;
  • Creating or purchasing accounts in order to gain followers;
  • Using or promoting third-party sites that claim to get you more followers (such as follower trains, sites promising “more followers fast,” or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account);

Like others who’ve performed this experiment, I don’t have any intention of hanging on to my new “followers”. Thank goodness there are many tools I can use to force them to unfollow!

What do you think of people/businesses buying followers on Twitter? Should it be allowed?

10 Don'ts of Twitter Etiquette: How to engage without annoying

Officially, there aren't many rules on Twitter, but there are definitely a lot of best practices that can help you fit in to the community a little more easily. Think of it as Etiquette for Twitter.

Here are ten practices for savvy users to avoid (in no particular order):

  • Don't send automatic direct messages (DM) - people don't like them because they are impersonal.
  • Don't fill your feed with only broadcasts of your message - engage others. A good rule of thumb is that less than 1/3 of your feed should be new messages from you and the rest should be replies and retweets.
  • Don't call someone out for unfollowing you, most of the time it isn't personal. And often, there's a twitter bug. Politely ask if it's someone you regularly engage with, but don't make assumptions that it was intentional or that they will resume following.
  • If you're having a personal discussion with someone don't move their name to the middle or end of the tweet with every reply.  By keeping it as the first thing in the tweet only people who follow you both will see the tweets. Those who see both sides of the conversation can follow along (if they want) without losing the context of what's being said.
  • Don't reply to every tweet by retweeting (RT) and commenting. This breaks the thread of the conversation and it can be frustrating to your followers when there isn't enough context to understand what is happening with a RT.
  • Don't beg people to follow you. People will generally follow you back if you engage with them in some way. It would be far more meaningful if you replied to something they were talking about instead of simply asking them to follow you.
  • Contrary to what some experts believe, you don't have to follow back everyone who follows you. Twitter is about creating your own unique user experience.
  • Don't use Twitter to complain about every bad experience you have with businesses, services or products - social media isn't meant to be a place to air every grievance. It doesn't look good when a business owner uses it that way.
  • Don't autofeed from other social networks unless you're sure your tweets won't be cut off. People don't want to have to go elsewhere to see what you're talking about. More importantly, it is obvious when you're feeding from other services and it can give the impression that you can't be bothered to take the time to tailor your message to more than one social network (because it doesn't have to take that much time).
  • It isn't necessary to thank everyone who follows you. If you want to make a point of acknowledging them, go read their profile and start a conversation. Make it natural. The thank you is a nice gesture, but it isn't impolite to skip it. 

The most important things to remember are to be friendly, personable and add value. The practices above are "frowned upon" because they are perceived as not adding any great value. Spend your time finding other ways to connect so that followers stay actively engaged with you.

What other Twitter Don'ts would you add to this list?