Tom Webster, writing and speaking

A Brief, Lightly-Held But Contrarian View Of Twitter Lists

Added on by Tom Webster.

There are 99 reasons to love Twitter lists, but here is one reason to at least think twice about them. People are making lists to try to make sense out of Twitter. Once you start following a thousand or more people, Twitter becomes a vast, undifferentiated soup. Somedays, the soup is good. Somedays, the soup is bad.

So we make lists. Lists are an attempt to curate Twitter experiences by categorizing people according to whatever topic you choose, so that viewing tweets from that list will give you a more focused view of the tweetstream. I have noticed that I am popping up on lists about media. Sometimes I tweet about media, so that makes sense, and I am grateful to be included on those lists.

But people are messy, and don't go back into boxes very well. For every tweet about media I might have three about market research, six funny videos, 25 out-of-context replies to others and 50 pictures of my son's upcoming 5th birthday party (Happy Birthday, S!) This is likely to be true of nearly everyone else on these lists, unless you just use Twitter as a blast mechanism for your business (and Twitter won't grow that way!)

So I might find myself on lists for market research, branding, radio, social media, etc. At any given time, chances are whatever list you see me on has little to do with my last tweet, and maybe my last 20 tweets. Still, let's assume that Twitter lists will impose a little order. Lists are a new toy, and people are starting to follow them en masse. When you follow a few lists, you are potentially following a lot more people than you used to. Given my thesis that most humans will not fit neatly into those lists, it may be that adding 4 or 5 "focused" lists (especially ones that you didn't make yourself) to your follower counts will make Twitter more chaotic, not less.

I prefer saved searches to lists any day. What do you think?