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Twitter Tips: Manage Who You Follow

Following a lot of folks on Twitter? Manage them via lists.

It’s a big, big Twitterverse out there. As of this writing, Twitter has over 100 million active users — a good chunk of them ostensibly being spammers who desperately want you to click on their links about making money working from home, video poker, and deals on prescription drugs. But even without the junk accounts, that’s a lot of people to potentially follow.

And managing social media accounts in general just keeps getting trickier, doesn’t it? An individual Twitter user is not just following friends, he’s following coworkers, professional contacts, news outlets, celebrities, and people associated with his personal hobbies and interests. A corporate Twitter user is not just following business contacts, she’s following competitors, industry leaders, vendors, tastemakers, branding mavens, technical gurus, marketing geniuses, and other movers and shakers.

To make things even more complicated, sometimes you might find yourself locked into following someone whose tweets you don’t particularly like just because they’re following you back and it would be too painfully embarrassing to deal with the fallout caused by cutting that connection.

Can you say “awkward?”

Given that the average Twitter user is following hundreds or even thousands of other users at once, it can be daunting to sift through the noise. Trying to keep track of everyone you follow from your main Twitter feed is nearly an impossible feat — the tweets often fly so fast that you’re bound to miss the stuff you’re actually interested in! What to do?

The solution, my friend, is to make yourself some lists.

Why Lists?

  1. Regulate the noise. Tired of hearing from an overtweeter, but not quite ready to unfollow him entirely? Put him on a list. Creating lists according to how often you’d like to check in on the people you follow is a decent rule of thumb. People whose tweets you never want to miss can go in one list, while people you only need to catch up with every once in a while can go in others.
  2. Filter your feed by topic. It can be a little jarring to see your sister’s tweet about how her spaghetti squash is coming along this year sandwiched in between a comedian’s colorful joke and your boss’s link to a marketing strategy report. Creating separate lists for family, humor, and work-related Twitterers, for example, will help rectify that problem — and help keep your online social life organized.
  3. Skip the gristle, get straight to the meat. Narrowing tweets by segment allows you to better focus on the content being output — and it’s a better use of your time!

Public Lists v. Private Lists

There are two kinds of lists you can create in Twitter — public and private. Anyone can see and follow a public list, while only you can see a private list. Why would you ever need a private list? Well, privacy is useful when you want to put users on a list without them knowing about it. After all, Dave from Accounting probably wouldn’t be too pleased to discover that you’d placed him on a list named “Most Annoying Tweeters,” would he?

But while private lists are useful, public lists are hands down the most beneficial. Why?

  • You don’t have to do the heavy lifting — unless you want to. Twitter has had list functionality since 2009. This means that a lot of lists have been “curated.” Looking for a list featuring leaders in social media? Chances are high that the one you want already exists.
  • You don’t have to drastically inflate your “following” numbers. You simply follow the list you want — not every user on it. This means that if you want to follow a list with 100 people on it, you don’t have to follow 100 new people.

Finding lists

Where do you go to find Twitter lists? Start in your own backyard!

Check the folks you’re following. If you’re following someone, chances are high that you share similar interests and you value what they have to say. To find someone else’s lists, visit their Twitter profile, and then click “Lists” in the sidebar on the left.

Lean on a third party. Listorious, Tweetmeme, Tweetfind, and ListAtlas are among the sites you can search for users and lists based on category or browse the most popular users and lists. And many apps like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck already have directory functionality built right in.

As always, you can Google it. If you’re looking for more people to add to a specific list, you can visit Google.com and type in site:twitter.com/*/KEYWORD. Simply replace [KEYWORD] with the search term you’d like to use (i.e., hockey, food, technology, and so on).

Making lists

To make one, just go to your profile page, click “Lists” on the lefthand sidebar, and then click the “Create List” button to the right. A dialog box will give you the option of selecting a public or private list.

Are you listed?

You might be intrigued to know which lists you’re on. To find out, just go to your profile page, click “Lists” in the left sidebar, and then click “Member of,” located next to “Subscribed to.”

Happy listing!

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