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Thursday, October 29, 2009

5 Ways To Use Twitter's New List Feature For Marketers

IMB_rohitbhargava_twitterlists There is no denying that Twitter has had a huge impact on how marketers are thinking about using social media tools for marketing. One thing that is most interesting about it, however, is how the site has managed to avoid overcomplicating itself with more features. Twitter is simple, and it just works. Of course the one overused word that has been used recently to describe Twitter is that it is a "firehose" of information, shooting out at a speed and volume that has threatened to make it unusable for many people. So when I had a chance to try out Twitter's new Lists feature (which I had been looking forward to seeing for some time), I was not only surprised, but also excited about what this will mean for all of us who use the site. Here are just a few reasons why I think lists may revolutionize how you use Twitter.
  1. You can segment your firehose. The #1 criticism of Twitter is that if you follow thousands of people and see all their tweets appearing in one interface, it's tough to manage. Searches in third party tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck have made this more manageable, but those usually only work based on keywords, which is inefficient. What if I wanted to just see all the tweets from my colleagues at Ogilvy? That was tough to do. Now with lists, I can create my own group of colleagues and just reference that.
  2. Offers a more meaningful metric of influence. You'll notice if you have a Twitter account that in the spot where it used to just list the number of tweets you have done, it now shows how frequently you are "listed." This is a new metric of influence that sits somewhere between followers and retweets - but one that indicates how frequently other Twitter users who are creating their own lists are including you on their list. In short order, I imagine that number (along with retweets) will become more influential than having hundreds of thousands of robot followers when it comes to measuring influence on Twitter.
  3. Allows you to easily follow a trusted group of individuals. One of the biggest issues I have had in the past with Twitter is that it is difficult to follow a group of users all at once. Of course, you used to be able to use services like Tweepml to do this, but that was incomplete and the lists were often anonymously posted and so the data may not be as trustworthy. Now with Twitter Lists, you can create a list of all the attendees at a particular conference, for example, and with one click anyone can follow them.
  4. Lets any user of Twitter segment who they actually read. Up until now, the greatest compliment you could give someone who you follow and read on Twitter was to retweet something they posted. Now with Twitter Lists, you can add them to a list and not only make your own experience of reading content on Twitter better (see #1 on this list), but you can also send a subtle reminder to the person you are following that unlike the other thousands of accounts you might follow, their's is one you actually pay attention to.
  5. Gives brands an opportunity to aggregate multiple accounts. Many brands have multiple accounts - for example hotel brands that have a master account and then separate accounts for separate regional properties. This phenomenon was becoming more widespread, but now with Twitter Lists, brands can aggregate all their accounts together in a list - and best of all, if each Twitter account does this, the lists will show up on the sidebar linking anyone who sees one branded account to all the others.

Clearly, I'm excited about what Twitter Lists has to offer for marketers. What do you think - is this a big deal for marketers or for anyone else?

PS - Follow me on Twitter at @rohitbhargava

UPDATE - Check out my first Twitter List of Marketing Authors on Twitter >>


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What do you think these lists mean in terms of targeting on Twitter? On Facebook right now, we can use the ads and search function to target certain audiences at a granular level.

I think this is a step in that direction for Twitter, and as you say, a more meaningful metric of influence is going to be established.

I do think creating the lists takes some time upfront, but once the lists are created it will be a great tool.

Great post. Twitter lists are a great addition to Twitter, like most people I wanted a way to target specific communities within the people who follow me. It will be interesting to see how authority/influence is measured as people look for ways to build their Twitter list numbers artificially.


Hootsuite and Tweetdeck both allow users to add individual people (like your Ogilvy colleagues, say) to a Group. Great functionality, and I couldn't live without it.

But it's the public nature of Twitter's new list feature that makes all the difference. It's a big deal for marketers because it will allow for better targeting and, as you point out, a more coordinated presence. It's a big deal for general users because it will enable more efficient discovery, filtration and curation.

Your posting was very helpful. Lists are an essential filtering tool, and it is nice to have them built into the platform.

Concerning the public nature of lists, do you think they will become a new avenue for spam? For example, adding you to a list for the purposes of getting you to click over.

I think that the number of lists someone is on will correlate very highly with the number of followers they have.

This feature is certainly a step in the right direction and I, for one, will use it without question. I wonder though, what might the negative implications be? If we all just REALLY read those trusted folks in our lists, will we be missing anything from the others? Might someone turn from a standard user with simple posts to a superstar tweeter without us knowing it?

Anything to help Twitter be more functional. Lists is a great addition. Can't wait for Tweetdeck to incorporate this.

There's a 6th thing - I'm a laid off ad exec - I've been using Twitter to find a job. Now with Lists - not only can I create a list and add agencies that I'd like to work at or people that I'm interviewing with - Lists also allows them to see me if they aren't aware of what I am. And, I also created a List of other ad peeps looking for work. The positive feedback I'm receiving is equal to the feedback I received when real jobs were posted on Craigslist a decade ago and people were beyond impressed you knew about the site.

Lists do hold new meaning for marketers, but any new feature will get gamed as well. I'm interested in hearing how this new meta-data can improve search results and browsing within Twitter. There has to be some association with it in regards to each of us right?

Nice information. I will do it.

Along with listing multiple company accounts, the lists with a companies employees on twitter is also cool. Twitter has also posted such a list!

This is a landmark development for Twitter! It's exciting to be able to observe how this will change the cohesiveness of Twitter!

Thanks for this - I haven't tackled the Twitter lists yet (a bit intimidated quite frankly!) but this is a great motivation for me to start breaking down my followers! Thanks!

Great post. I feel the best value is the public nature of these lists. It is great to check out specific people to see who they chose to add to a list and uncover great people to follow.

I think the most significant thing about the lists feature is #2 on this list. It reminds me of when search engines leaped forward from "number of instances of a keyword on a single page" to "relevance of the keyword." No longer will "number of Twitter followers" be a bragging right - now it's "number of people who think you're valuable enough to want to actually read your tweets."

You make other good points about the marketing implications of lists, too, but the fact remains: I can create groups on TweetDeck, Seesmic or HootSuite, so once those services add an "import Twitter lists" feature, what's to keep me coming back to Heck, it's *their* marketing strategy I'm most interested in.

Ok, so maybe this is just a neat new feature, but I'm wondering when the big change is coming - the one that generates revenue for Twitter...

Thank you for these ideas for marketers, Rohit! I think Twitter's new Lists feature will help the Twitter application be more relevant (ie. usable) for people following more than about 100 people. For marketers, those that want to build relationships with their customers/consumers will find this new feature assists them in staying top of mind with customers that matter most (too easy to get lost in the Twitter noise!). For those marketers looking to find another way to advertise to consumers, I am sure they will figure out how to take advantage of lists to do that.

Thanks again!

Thanks for this post. For me, the jury's still out on the Lists, but I certainly agree with you on its potential. One issue Chris Brogan brought up in his blog today about the Lists is their exclusionary potential that can be counter-productive to relationship-based marketing. Anyone have thoughts on that?

I haven't tried to segment people using a Twitter application, but I have done that now with Twitter lists and it is great. I can not only prioritize, but I can skim tweets much faster because I've grouped people by topic. Skimming those comments is easier when there is some continuity concerning subject matter.


I hope I'm not double posting here, but had trouble posting my last message.

I haven't tried to segment people using a Twitter application, but I have done that now with Twitter lists and it is great. I can not only prioritize, but I can skim tweets much faster because I've grouped people by topic. Skimming those comments is easier when there is some continuity concerning subject matter.

Matt Lourie: Don't be surprised to see people trading for, or even selling, inclusion on Twitter lists, much like people used to spam each other asking for blogroll links.


Really good post. I think you covered most of the things marketers can do with lists.

I'm actually afraid spamers will benefit from this feature the most. You can easily create lots of lists via just one account and make it appear as if you were listed on hundreds of lists thus gaining "authority".

That's why I don't believe these lists will be considered a relevant authority metric.

Great post! I am the CEO of a membership based trade organization. Lists are a great way for me to create an easy follow mechanism for the media, policy makers and other stakeholders who want to keep track of what movers and shakers in my industry are doing.

Thanks for the detailing the benefits of the new twitter lists. From my perspective i can see list improving twitter's usability, I will be able to review tweets from business, sports and other areas of interest with way more ease. List will leave many tweets unread in the twitter wilderness though? I hope it won’t get in the hands of the spammers.

Hi Rohit,
I think its important that we name our lists carefully, as it seems that there might be an implication in SEO and eventual search in Twitter, to make sure your list names comes up.

saw that Twitter list the last time I went there and haven't had the chance to sort out my list because I figure it will be very time consuming for me. (Just imagine those hundreds of people I need to cross reference! scary!)but yes, I think I need to get down and dirty with it this time to boost up my "listed" number so people will know I belong to some group! lol.

thank you, very good post! :)

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