One of the things that we preach (and practice) at The Content Factory is how important managing Twitter lists is to your social media marketing strategy.

When we’re training new social media managers (either on our team or as part of a client training package), one of the most frequently asked questions we get about using Twitter for business is, “What is a Twitter list?”

Ask any of our social media managers – or SMMs, as the tweeps call them these days – and they’ll tell you that being a savvy Twitter list manager is one of the cornerstones of our intensive Twitter marketing training.

While TCF is far more than just a Twitter marketing agency, we do consider Twitter to be the most effective channel (overall) for social media marketing and PR purposes.

There are several reasons why we place so much emphasis on properly setting up and managing Twitter lists. We’ll highlight a few of the most important reasons before teaching you how to become a killer Twitter list manager yourself in this step-by-step guide.

But first, let’s start with the Twitter list basics.

What Is a Twitter List?

Twitter’s Help Center defines Twitter lists as curated groups of Twitter users.

In other words, it’s a simple way to organize multiple Twitter accounts into separate groups that make sense for you. This enables you to read and interact with tweets from users based on criteria that you choose, which cuts out the irrelevant tweets and greatly improves the signal to noise ratio.

For example, you might have a list for friends, a (hidden) list of competitors, a list for networking with thought leaders in your space, or a list for journalists that cover your industry. The Twitter list categories are up to you, but we’ll cover some more suggestions in this post.

Why Are Twitter Lists Important?

The main reason that we insist our social media managers create and use Twitter lists is because they save marketers and PR pros a ton of time and searching.

This helps you to more effectively target and engage with the journalists, influencers and customers who matter most. In the competitive world of publicity, generating warm leads and building meaningful relationships with the reporters who cover your field is crucial to getting placement for your product or service.

"Twitter lists save marketers and PR pros a ton of time and searching. #SMM" - The Content Factory

7 Benefits of Creating Twitter Lists

  • Gain not only new Twitter followers, but the right kind of followers — journalists, influencers and thought leaders
  • Improve the signal:noise ratio of your Twitter timeline
  • Streamline your digital PR workflow to pitch reporters
  • Boost the efficiency and effectiveness of tradeshow and conference marketing by pre-grouping event attendees
  • Promote events, sales and Twitter chats to the right audience
  • Dive into industry conversations quickly to offer expert insights and newsjack just in time
  • Competitive analysis: quickly scan what the competition is up to on Twitter

How Do Twitter Lists Work?

Twitter can be a fast, chaotic environment. Working from aggregated Twitter lists reduces the signal-to-noise ratio of your busy Timeline and helps you to see only what the people who are important to you at that moment are tweeting about. This allows you to focus on increasing engagement with targeted high-profile users and filter out the ramblings of friends and followers who aren’t relevant to the task at hand – marketing your business on Twitter.

Think of Twitter lists as a way to separate your disparate circles into logical streams of tweets so that you can follow and jump into conversations with the people who are important to your goals – in this case, marketing your business on Twitter.

If you’re serious about using Twitter to market your business but can’t afford to spend hours every day on social media, these lists will help you target your strategy to focus on things like:

  1. Live tweeting events (check out TCF's guide on using Twitter for event marketing)
  2. Pitching a specific topic to journalists
  3. Promoting events (like a sale or a Twitter chat) to followers who’ve previously shown interest

"Working from aggregated Twitter lists reduces the signal-to-noise ratio of your busy Timeline. #SMM" - The Content Factory

Do You Really Need to Use Twitter Lists?

If you’re a social media novice or wondering if using Twitter lists for marketing is really necessary, the short answer is no. But since they’re free, easy, effective and save you time in the long run, the smarter question to ask is why would you not want to learn how to use Twitter lists effectively?

If you don’t learn how to use Twitter lists for business, chances are you’re wasting your valuable time searching for influencers to engage with or relevant content to retweet every time you log in to your company’s Twitter account.

We’re not judging. Twitter can be a fun place to kill a few hours, but it can also be a dangerous wormhole when you’ve got important things to do – like running your business!

How to Create Twitter Lists

The actual creation of a Twitter list is as easy as 1, 2, 3. There are several ways to do this, but we’ll show you one of the simplest – how to create a Twitter list from your computer:

1. While you’re logged into your Twitter account, click on the little “Profile & Settings” icon in the upper right corner of your screen. This brings up a drop-down menu where you’ll click on “Lists.”
2. A new screen will pop up with a button that prompts you to “Create new list.” Click that.
3. This will bring up a small box in the center of your screen where you’ll be prompted to name your list. Here’s where you’ll want to keep it short, sweet and complimentary.

Imagine yourself on the receiving end of the notification that you’ve just been added to the ___ list. (Yes, Twitter automatically notifies people when they’ve been added to a public list. For private lists, only you and your fellow Twitter account admins will be able to view).

The description of these Twitter lists is your chance to briefly explain what the list is about.

Again, keep in mind that you should describe it as something your new list guests will be proud to be on, like being invited to sit at the table with the cool kids in the cafeteria or having the velvet rope lifted allowing you access to the V.I.P. section.

Once you choose whether to make your list public for the world to see or private, for your eyes only, click the “Save list” button. While naming your Twitter list is important, don’t let perfect get in the way of done.

Pro tip: you can always go back later and edit your Twitter lists (including names, descriptions and privacy settings).

Hand holding a cell phone that has a Twitter logo in the screen and the other hand is on a laptop

7 Twitter List Targets

  • Journos who cover your field
  • Experts and thought leaders in your industry
  • Competitors (make sure to keep that one private!)
  • Complementary, non-competing businesses
  • Potential customers/clients that you really want to work with or sell to
  • People at a specific event/trade show/Twitter chat
  • Anyone whose radar you want to be on

Why does this work? Namely, the psychology of human ego – that little rush of validation your targeted account gets when they see the notification that they’ve been added to your list will leave them feeling good about your brand.

2 Quick Case Studies That Show the Power of Twitter Lists

  • TCF moderates a monthly Twitter party for our client, Fairtrade America and uses a public Twitter list named #FairtradeChat Friends to keep track of the hundreds of participants that we like to send reminders and sometimes rewards to. Read the full SMM case study here!
  • When we live tweet #TheBachelor for our health and beauty client, we use Twitter lists to keep track of who engages with us (so we can make sure to interact with them throughout the season).

Should You Subscribe to Twitter Lists?

Jacking other people’s curated Twitter lists is practically an art form unto itself. Hey, somebody else did the work, so you don’t have to, right?

Well, yes and no. You’ve still got to create your own lists for all of the reasons outlined in this post, but clicking that little “Subscribe” button on a list that someone else created is a smart social media strategy when marketing with Twitter.

Here’s why:

A) It might let the creator of said list know that you appreciate their work in the field. Who knows? If you’re a fit, they may even add you to the list for additional networking juice.

B) It automatically adds their list to your list of Twitter lists so that you can easily monitor the tweets in their list when you’re managing your own lists. Did you follow that?

C) By scanning the tweets of accounts in someone else’s Twitter list you can more quickly decide which accounts you’d like to add to your own lists and which accounts you don’t care to follow.

How to Find Out If You're On Any Twitter Lists

If all of this talk of Twitter listing has got you wondering whose list you might be on, there are two simple ways to find out. First, as we mentioned in the section on how to create a Twitter list above, when you add someone to a list it sends them a notification. If, however, you may have missed such a notification (hey, it happens to the best of us) there’s a quick 2-step way to find out whose list(s) you are on.

Step 1 - Click on your Lists link.
You’re now looking at your own Twitter lists and those you’ve subscribed to.
Step 2 - To see what Twitter lists others added you to, click on the “Member of” link.
Here’s one of the less frequently asked (though no less important) questions in regards to marketing on Twitter – is it possible to have too many Twitter lists?

The answer to that is nuanced and different for each person but, in general, when you have more lists that you don’t use than those you do use, it’s probably time to do some house cleaning. Those older lists aren’t necessarily hurting anything, but they could present enough clutter to deter you from digging in and using them.

So this one’s up to you, if you feel a list has outlived its usefulness, don’t be afraid to delete it (or at least make it private so it doesn’t show up when other users are checking out your lists).

Aside from engaging in real time with accounts from within the environment itself, there are a host of third-party Twitter managers (also referred to as Twitter management tools) to help you stay organized.

What Are the Best Twitter Management Tools?

Tl;dr: Hootsuite and Buzzsumo.

A quick online search for something like “What is the best Twitter management tool?” will bring up a wide variety of (sometimes conflicting) opinions. From helpful, concise articles like Ronda Bowen’s Rock The Deadline piece “6 Twitter List Tools to Help You Maximize Engagement” to Kevan Lee from Buffer’s comprehensive “91 Free Twitter Tools and Apps to Fit Any Need,” there is no shortage of impressive online tools to help you step up your Twitter list management game.

Here are the two essential tools that The Content Factory’s social media managers use and recommend:

1) Hootsuite

Hootsuite  has been the foundation of TCF’s Twitter list management for years.

While it does many things besides managing your Twitter lists, its intuitive interface allows you to simultaneously look at multiple lists as “streams” so that you don’t have to continually go back and forth between lists to engage.

When you see a tweet from any of your Twitter lists that you’d like to engage with, you can do so from within the Hootsuite environment, either instantly or by scheduling out your response.

Hootsuite also lets you add accounts to your Twitter lists as you go so, for example, you see a tweet in one of your streams from an account you’d like to follow – you can follow and add them to one of your Twitter lists without even logging into or looking at your account on

It’s worth noting that you do not have to follow an account to add them to your list.

2) Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo offers a very slick way for you to build effective Twitter lists.

In the “Content Research” section of the Pro version of Buzzsumo, you can pull up a list of the “Most Shared” stories from around the web pertaining to a keyword or phrase of your choosing. Then you can sort these top stories by network (in this case Twitter) to see which posts that include your keyword have been shared the most on Twitter.

Here’s the coolest part – as long as a piece of content has been shared at least 40 times on Twitter, you can click a button called “View Sharers” that will pull up a page showing specific stats on everyone who shared that link on Twitter.

Then, you can pick and choose which of these people you’d like to add to your various Twitter lists and add them to any of your lists directly from that page! Because science.

To see everything we use and recommend for Twitter marketing (plus how much it all costs), check out our post outlining all of the professional social media marketing tools that we use here at TCF.

When to Start a New Twitter List

Now that we’ve covered the basics of why Twitter list management is important and how to create Twitter lists, let’s address when it might be time to put a cap on one Twitter list and move on.

The answer to this dilemma, though more of a “feel” call, should be quite logical when you remember the whole reason you created your Twitter lists to begin with. Since the purpose of making Twitter lists was to filter the tweets you view into systematic mini-timelines based around specific topics or criteria, if the number of members on any given list becomes excessive, you’re back to experiencing the same problem that you set out to solve.

The more you experiment with creating and actually using Twitter lists, the closer you’ll come to finding your perfect balance of how many lists you can effectively manage and how many members make a list worthwhile but not too busy. Remember, the ultimate goal of this entire exercise is to more efficiently target and find the audiences you want to engage with most (so you can spend more time interacting, and less time on finding people to interact with).

How to Measure the Success of Your Twitter Marketing Strategy

While the purpose of creating and using these lists is to focus your Twitter marketing strategy we know you may be asking yourself, “Seriously, what’s the ROI of all of this Twitter list creation business?”

Unlike reviewing ads on Twitter or analyzing traffic from your Google Analytics, there’s no metric that immediately says “Because of your Twitter list, this result happened.” Where you will see direct results of your list outreach in the short term is with things like RTs or mentions from the journalists and influencers who you remembered to engage with because you saw their tweet in a targeted list.

The longer reaching upside to this comes when you’ve built a rapport with people way ahead of hitting them up for any sort of pitch or favor.

If the purpose of your list is to stay in contact with people who’ve participated in your Twitter chats, then you can analyze the reports of your hashtag through services like Hashtracking.

Use Hashtracking to see if there’s a steady growth in chat participants, likely due in part to your Twitter list management. If you’re ever stuck for ideas on content to tweet about but you’ve carefully curated a list of Tweeps who share tips and news relevant to your followership, then your Twitter list will provide you with a quick source of RT-worthy content.

Case Study: Using Lists for Twitter Marketing

One of the most successful recent case studies in this Twitter marketing agency’s fun and flexible use of Twitter lists is how they facilitate other tasks, like live tweeting events.
3D rendering of Twitter Icon

One of our clients enjoyed a surge in social activity when TCF created a Twitter list for Best Bachelorette Tweets. We filled this list with accounts that got a ton of retweets while the show was airing, accounts that had high follower counts, and even current and past contestants from the show.

We then kept a close eye on the list while live-tweeting episodes keeping interaction largely within that group. This helped us rack up mentions, retweets, and other engagement  from high-profile Tweeps including the official Twitter account for The Bachelorette, as well as NYT bestseller Jennifer Weiner.

Go forth and create some Twitter lists!

In the fast-moving, transparent world of marketing with Twitter, you can’t fake it – but you can organize it.

Twitter lists allow you to reign in the chaos that is the Twittersphere, filter out the irrelevant noise and hone in like a laser on the accounts and tweets that will help you meet your social media objectives. Whether you’re the Social Media Manager of a Twitter marketing agency or an individual looking to step up your Twitter marketing game, we hope you learned some valuable tips from this article on how to create and use Twitter lists. If so, please share this post with your followers.

Does this all sound like a lot of work? That's because it IS a lot of work. If you'd like to outsource social media marketing or even get social media training to bring you up to speed, TCF has you covered. Contact us today to find out more!

By Kari DePhillips

social media marketing, Twitter lists, Twitter marketing

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