Three Reasons Twitter Lists Are Great (and Two Areas for Improvement)

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It would seem that this week Twitter has been releasing Lists to everybody. A lot has been written about this move and the differences it makes to Twitter and the way people will use it. For me, it makes a significant difference to the way users will use Twitter. It allows you to segment the people who are interested in on Twitter and group people who write about similar things or that you know for similar reasons or from similar places.

It will be interesting to see how the embedding and adoption of Twitter Lists will change the way that people are using it. Will people stop following people and follow lists instead? Will people share lists with friends and colleagues? How will lists be used to support events and discussions.

There are lots of questions, but from just 24 hours of using Twitter Lists I have some personal observations – three reasons why they’re great and two areas where I’d love to see some improvement.

Three reasons Twitter Lists are great

  1. They let me keep up with people who Tweet less often. I follow a lot of people on Twitter. Over the last couple of years I’ve slowly added the people I meet, people I respect and people I enjoy listening to and I now have quite a few of them. One of the problems with Twitter is that it lists the latest Tweets from all my friends in chronological order. Those people who don’t Tweet that often therefore get swallowed up by the mass of people who do it more often. I can put together a Twitter List of friends, for example. And now actually see what they say even if they only Tweet a couple of times a day or even less.
  2. They let me group people who Tweet about similar things. One of the real benefits for me of Twitter is that I can follow people who are interested in similar things – people who run and work in Online Communities in London, for example. Twitter Lists allow me to create my own groups of people based on my own interests. I choose people that I think are similar and group them together. If I want to know what people working in online communities in London are thinking and saying, I now have a place to go to. Twitter Lists give the List creator significant control over what the list is for and who is on it. They are my lists that I can, if I choose, share with others.
  3. They let me keep some groups of people private from others. There are lots of reasons I might want to group people together and follow them on Twitter. I’m interested in Client-Side Social Media People, for example, and have grouped them together for me and if anybody else want to follow that list too then that’s great. Other lists I want just for me. A group of friends from University, for example, who I want to follow but don’t necessarily want to advertise or share with the rest of the world. The list will mean nothing to them and I might not want to advertise this list to everybody who follows me on Twitter. That I can control which Lists are private and which are public for all to see gives me, as the List creator, even more control.

Two areas where Lists could be improved

  1. Better search of my own ‘following’. Lists highlight a real problem with Twitter as a tool for organising people you follow. There is no real search just of people I follow in Twitter. I cannot find the people I follow who are in London, for example, or even everybody I follow called Matt. When I created my list of French Social Media People, for example, I knew that I already followed a whole bunch of people that I wanted to group together in this way. I just couldn’t find them easily. Even a simple search and filter function on the ‘Following’ page would have helped me to organise people more easily.
  2. Allow me to make my List collaborative. There are currently two types of List that I can create: private ones (such as a list of people I work with) and public ones (such as my list of people who say things that make me think). I’d like a third level: collaborative Lists. Some of my public lists I’d love other people to add to. This would help me – I would find new people because others would add them to my list. It would also help to mitigate against a proliferation of Lists which contain the same core of people with a few different and new people that an individual knows. Giving the List creator the power to make some, but not all, of their Lists collaborative would still give them significant control over what they create. They could just allow other people to help them.

Image by Selaphoto via Flickr

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