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Take Control with Twitter Lists

Overwhelmed by Twitter? Sort it out!

Not long after I first joined Twitter, I followed an author I really like, and she immediately followed me back. I did not assume that because she followed me back, she’d actually be reading my tweets. Still, it made me feel really good — it was nice for her to acknowledge, in this small way, that my appreciation for her work actually mattered to her. I decided that I would pay this good feeling forward by following every (non-spambot) person that followed me.

My Twitter feed

My Twitter feed

Cut to two months later: I was suddenly following hundreds of people and I couldn’t sort through the noise of my Twitter feed to find anything that was actually useful.

This is where Twitter lists come in: they’re a way to filter your Twitter feed into streams that matter to you for different reasons. I have a list for coworkers, one for friends and family, and one for business contacts. I also have a list for funny people (light, standing-in-line reading), and a list for politics and news.

To create a Twitter list:

1. Click the gear icon in your Twitter toolbar, and choose lists.
2. Title your list and choose whether you want it to public or private.
3. Click the gear next to any Twitter user (either from your ‘following’ list or on their user profile) and select “add or remove from lists.”

With lists, I can skim content across all subject matters at any time. I don’t get overwhelmed with three page-loads worth of recent tweets from The New York Times, for example, which might bury any tweets from my friends. And if there’s someone I want to follow for professional or personal reasons, but that person tweets 500 times a day, I can minimize how much I see from them by not including them in any list.

Recently, I attended an interesting conference on support documentation. I wanted to follow all of the speakers and my fellow conference attendees, but I didn’t want to overwhelm my entire Twitter feed with tweets about technical writing. No problem! Into a Tech Writing list they all went.

And of course, I can still glance at my main feed from time-to-time to catch up with those folks I haven’t funneled into any list.

Once I took control of my Twitter feed using lists, I became far more active on Twitter. I missed less, I tweeted more, I replied to more tweets. My engagement went up, and so did my follower count.

Then, things got even better — I recently started using TweetDeck, which is a tool that lets you pull your full Twitter feed into any number of live-updating columns. You can create columns for your lists, for certain hashtags, for your own notifications, and more.

My feed in TweetDeck

My feed in TweetDeck

I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement for TweetDeck, though — there are tons of tools for using Twitter, and I’ve heard good things about PlumeApp, Tweetbot, and Twitterrific, among others. Plus, WordPress.com has a myriad of features to help you integrate your Twitter activity with your site.

My point is that if you’ve given Twitter a try in the past and found it to be too much noise and not enough substance, give it another shot and try organizing your feed in a more useable way! Used thoughtfully, Twitter can be a great way to expand your online network by connecting with people who aren’t already in your existing circles.

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  1. I love Twitter lists! You’ve got to have your blogging list, your bookish list, your humor list… Hootsuite is another option sorting your lists into columns. You can also schedule tweets via Hootsuite, a useful tool for days you post on your blog and want to scatter a few tweets about it throughout the day.

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  2. Good tips! I’m on Twitter for both of my blogs but don’t really go on there due to this exact issue.

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  3. OMG, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m 2 months new in to Twitter, and I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and lost with it. But if what you say above is possible, then you just may have renewed my faith in Twitter. I will be definitely creating the needed lists. I love lists. Didn’t know this was an option. Thanks.

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  4. This sounds awesome! Despite following the exercises doing Blogging U 101, I’m still somewhat struggling with building readership at a faster rate. Maybe time to pay more strategic attention to my Twitter account…

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  5. OMG!!!You’ve saved me💜 I never read flowing tweets. I do read direct ones or notifications. I will make time to sort these out. Thank you so much! 💜

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  6. Well, looking at my Twitter tab right now, it has 61 new posts. I will definitely use one of the suggested tools for organizing Twitter. Thanks for the info!

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  7. I’ve got a list of specific people I want to hear from, separate from people who have randomly followed me, otherwise it really is as you say far too much noise to deal with 😦

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  8. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve found myself ignoring Twitter lately due to the information overload. This should help me regain control of my feed.

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  9. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand Twitter’s purpose? I’ve never had trouble relating to why a trend was so popular until Twitter came along. I think I need to go back to Mood ring and CB radio fads. At least I “got” those.

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    1. Little miss menopause- are you on FB? Twitter is super different. There’s a learning curve for sure, but it’s worth hanging around.
      I love all the twitter suggestions! I’m definitely doing the lists. Thank you:)

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    2. I feel the same way. I started a Twitter simply for my blog, and I have no idea what I’m doing. It takes me about an hour to condense my thoughts into 140 characters (or whatever the limit is).

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      1. I’m in the same boat. I never really have much to say on Twitter either, mostly cause I can’t condense my thoughts into only 140 characters. I find it very hard to use. I have an account just to try to publicize my blog, and I do post lot’s of interesting things I see from other people. My own personal stuff is too large to go straight to Twitter, but I can link my blog posts, photos, etc. It comes in handy that way.

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      2. Yeah that’s pretty much what I do. I link to blog posts, and on days I don’t have a new post up I briefly describe my day/feelings or post a photo. I’m more of a Facebook person. In any matter, I only made a Twitter for my blog (I made a Twitter and a Facebook page to go along with it), so I have even less followers on there than I do on WordPress. I was thinking that maybe once I get more followers on here, some might want to follow me on Twitter for updates instead of checking WordPress. I dunno, I’m still new to this whole getting-my-blog-out-there thing. Haha

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    3. It’s microblogging really. You have thoughts, you have an audience, people can like and respond to it just like here. The only difference and probably why it took off the way it did was the character limit keeps people from saying a lot in one go and therefore increases the amount of tweets that people can read in one go.

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      1. okay, when you say “microblogging” that gives me a pretty good picture of what I’m supposed to be striving for. So is it like a “sneak preview” of a blog – – maybe one good line excerpted? Am I close here as to its purpose?

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      2. Yeah, pretty much! With blogs we usually expand on what we want to say and explain in paragraphs but on twitter you just say it in one go.
        Also it could be really short anecdotes or something funny you want to share. That’s what I use it for!

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    4. I use it in conjunction with Instagram. I love the combo of the two and I like that I’m able to follow people who blog for major outlets. It took me most of the last year to get the hang of it, really. Especially after FB- which I now loathe.

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    5. I didn’t get it for the longest time, either. I think one big advantage to it is it’s an easy way to directly contact absolutely anyone, whether you know them or not. Whether they reply to you is another thing…

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  10. Thank you for the insight. i have this challenge with my reader on the blog. There is a blog i followed. It is dominating the reader. i hardly find other blog i followed. It deprived me of other blog content. I would appreciate it if something could be done to address this.

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  11. To be fair (or unfair?), there is also the “mute” feature on Twitter when you decide to keep following someone but not hearing from them in your feed at all.

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      1. Haha, that’s good! I was thinking about the uses for the “mute” function. That is, besides when you follow lots of people for the sake of them following you back rather than because you want to read their tweets.

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    1. Yes, that’s also useful. But there are also some people I DO actually want to hear from. But just…maybe not quite as much as they tweet. 😉

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  12. Excellent suggestion; I am getting more and more followers so that should help immensely. Do you know re: TweenDeck if it can do one tweet for multiple lists? Thanks!

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