Why Twitter Lists Matter

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Last week Twitter debuted a new feature that lets you group your followers, Twitter calls it Lists. To learn Twitter List basics, Josh Catone’s Mashable post HOW TO: Use Twitter Lists is a good place to start. 

Why do lists of Twitter accounts matter? 

Twitter Lists are an efficient way to find Twitter-people that you don’t know, but should. Consider this list of 500 entrepreneurs, founders, startups, CEOs, and influential business people put together by Peter Urbanski. When you subscribe to a list like this, the updates of everyone in the list appear in your Twitter feed—You don’t have to subscribe to each individual account. You may not want to subscribe to a list with 500 active Twitterers, but take a quick look and you may turn up a handful of interesting, thoughtful people you do think are worth following.

More important, Twitter built Lists into its API, so its users can design new features. Already there are new products and services building on the Lists API, among them Listorious, a directory of “the best Twitter Lists” and TLISTS (currently in private beta), which promises a set of tools to help companies curate their Twitter Lists.

Enabling user-generated innovation and then getting out the way is something Twitter does well, as Eric von Hippel, MIT Sloan’s Professor of Management of Innovation, as points out in Twitter Serves Up Ideas From Its Followers:

“Twitter’s smart enough, or lucky enough, to say, ‘Gee, let’s not try to compete with our users in designing this stuff, let’s outsource design to them.’”

Are you using Twitter Lists? What do you think is the most important thing about the new feature? What’s still missing?

Update: via Wilson Raj and Guy Kawasaki, comes this article from Daniel B. Honigman on


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Comments (7)
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True... hadn't even really thought of what by gained by the list owners themselves. A very valid point and a whole new reason to be! Going to get my GreaseMonkey search on and starting building some lists someone else might find interesting.
Sean M. Brown
Skip, I agree. The vetting/curating of lists presents an opportunity for curators to gain significant social capital.
Twitter lists add a magnitude of manageability for the PowerTwit, from an inclusion and exclusion perspective.  The ability to subscribe to public lists that have been honed, vetted, and otherwise tuned for content will inevitably provide Twits, again, a magnitude of value greater than traditional sequential tweet feed.  There is nothing like simple, yet elegant, implementation.
Sean M. Brown
Thanks for your comment Richard. 

Lists will help new Twitterers find people to follow, but could they also make Twitter less social as David Armano writes in his Six Social Media Trends for 2010."
Twitter lists should also help new users get value out of Twitter quicker. One of the biggest problems for the new Twitter user is figuring our valuable people to follow. By using lists focused upon a topic, this task is made easier. As a fyi ... I maintain a list focused upon folks who manage internal collaboration projects for corporations. http://bit.ly/zmLsk