After my post introducing Twitter to newbies, I thought I’d follow up with a second post for those who have dipped their toes in, but wanted to know a little more about how to get the best out of Twitter. This post spells out the secrets behind Twitter Lists – a feature that is under-utilized, but which puts you in control of your Twitter stream. It is particularly powerful if you use Twitter to connect and learn with others across a number of different topics. It helps turn your Twitter stream from a hodge podge of random posts into an orderly, organised tool!
Why use Lists?
Twitter lists is something that works best once you have spent a little bit of time familiarizing yourself with the tool, and identifying a reasonable number of people to follow. It basically allows you to break down the group of people you follow into different categories, so that you can more quickly tune into the stream most likely to meet your needs at a given time. For example, I have a Tweet List of people who tweet about using Social Media in Academia, as well as a list of people who tweet about Academic Writing (among others). Rather than going to my general Tweet stream when I am looking for specific information, I use my lists to cut down the flow, and increase the likelihood of finding the information (or person) I am looking for. So when facing a case of writer’s block, I go to the Academic Writing list, as I know that I am most likely to find a post by someone who has experienced the same thing, or discover a tip or strategy for getting started again. If I am searching for specific information on research articles recently written about social media, I then go to the Social Media in Academia list; this is where I have grouped all of the academics and researchers that I follow who work in this field. If they have posted, I am much more likely to find it by looking through this targeted list of 28 tweeters, than searching through my general Twitter Feed, where all of the 1763 people I follow post.
How to Construct Lists
So how do you construct lists? It’s pretty easy, but the problem is that on each interface, whether on IOS, Android or Web, it is slightly different. For this reason, I’ve included instructions for the Web interface here, and direct you to the Twitter Help Page for the mobile instructions. These change fairly often, so this page is much more likely to provide up to date information, and it’s quite easy to follow.
On the web interface, click on your Avatar image to access the drop down menu where the Lists feature hides:
Subscribing and Membership
Once you have clicked and opened up the Lists page, you will see the lists you already have subscribed to, and those you are a member of. If you are fairly new to Twitter, this will be blank, but you may find that if you have been tweeting regularly, others have added you to their own lists; you can see who’s included you by clicking on the “Member of” link at the top (next to Subscribed To). Here you can see that others have included me in their lists, depending upon what I was tweeting about at the time.
Subscribing to Others’ Lists
You can subscribe to others’ lists, if you don’t want to compile your own to begin with. To do so, go to the person’s profile page, by clicking on their avatar, and then, along the top, click on their lists. You can see for example that Doug Belshaw has 18 lists that he either has created or has subscribed to. If any of his lists look appealing, you can click on the list title, and hit the subscribe button on the left hand side.
Creating your own Lists
Your own lists are going to be the most helpful, however, as being curated by you, they will most closely reflect your own needs! So click the ‘Create New List’ button, and give your list a name (no more than 25 characters, and not beginning with a number) and a brief explanation. You can choose whether to open this list for others to subscribe to or keep private here also.
Then, you can either add by name (if you know who you want in the list) or go through the list of those you follow, and add them, as per the screen grabs below:
Your Twitter lists are something that usually grows as you use Twitter. Adding people as you use the tool is much easier than creating a list from scratch in one go. However by having useful and meaningful lists, you can definitely save time. Sometimes you just want to scroll through the riches of everything Twitter brings, but other times, you have more specific needs, and lists help bring that need directly to the surface. Hopefully having this tool up your sleeve will bring increased efficiency to your practice.
How do you use Twitter lists? I’d love to hear new ideas for this handy tool!