Note: this post was originally posted in 2014 but has been updated & enhanced with more recent data.
Twitter lists can be a powerful research tool, can be a vehicle to establish authority and also can be an “influencer magnet”.
This post will explore ways you can use Twitter Lists to help grow your business.
Twitter allows you to create up to 1,000 lists, containing a maximum of 5,000 users per list. You can access your Twitter list page via your profile or by clicking here ‘Lists’ when logged in.
Twitter has provided step-by-step technical instructions on ‘how to create a Twitter list’ within your Twitter account.
We’ll let their post handle the mechanical ‘how to’s and we’ll dive deeper into how to optimize using Twitter Lists for your business.
There are two types of Twitter lists – private Twitter lists and public Twitter lists. Use both. They serve two different purposes.
With both private and public lists you are able to monitor tweets by the people you added to your lists. It’s an intimate way to get to know a precise market. Where it gets interesting are the differences in using each type of list.
Public lists are essentially about 3 things:
The first is attracting ‘influencers’ by giving someone a compliment. This is done by adding them to a list with an ego driving title like “awesome entrepreneur” which grabs their attention when they are notified that they were added to the complimentary list.
The second is establishing your brand as an authority leader. If you provide the go-to resource for your community to thrive, that adds power to your brand.
Lastly, public lists help to stay connected to a larger group. I’ve provided examples below:
- A complimentary list “Awesome Entrepreneurs” — List of cool entrepreneurs
- A list of startup thought leaders & resources — Startup Resources
- A resourceful list for a niche community “We Are LA Tech” — List of LA Startup companies
- A list of folks that tweet about Growth Hacking — Growth Hacking Tweeps
- A resource list themed on content marketing leaders — Content Marketing Pros
Private lists are for your own personal research and attention to detail.
With private lists you can track journalists, bloggers, customer activity, and other important people.
Private lists DO NOT notify someone they are on a list. These lists are intended to be an internal resource to further your company’s goals.
Private lists can also be a great way to narrow down your Twitter stream to more easily see only certain kinds of Twitter content at that time.
This is especially helpful if you follow a lot of people for marketing & other uses.
For example, here is a stream focused on content marketing from a one of my lists.
Examples of private lists I’ve created are Twitter profiles for people who have signed up for my email list, journalists who have written about the LA Startup industry, people I’ve met at specific startup events, and industry bloggers.
Another great use case for private lists is to keep tabs on your clients. The more you understand about them and what they are doing — the better you can help.
1. Create Publicity with Twitter Lists
Every company needs publicity. Publicity can happen in all forms from a customer talking about your company to their neighbor (referrals), a blogger sharing links to your website in a blog post, or a journalist writing an article about your company.
What’s the first step in gaining that publicity?
It’s tracking the ‘influencers’ who will eventually write about you, talk about you, and hopefully share your brand story. To do that, create private Twitter lists and add people in the press you’d like to build rapport with.
Get to know them, pay attention to their tweets and, when relevant, engage in conversation.
This doesn’t mean pitch them right away, it means listen to what interests their interests are, and when the time is right you’ll know how to approach them with your brand story.
After all, you don’t usually get married by the end of a first date do you?
You need to ask a person out, then meet, then talk, get to know one another, and see where your common interests are.
After all of that, you’ll begin to learn how to best communicate with one another. Engaging with the press is the same thing.
Here’s a Medium post telling the story how one startup founder in the Netherlands got TechCrunch in San Francisco to feature his new website.
If you read it carefully, it was all about understanding what types of stories TechCrunch was interested in. That’s how he successfully got a write-up. You have it within your power to do the same.
2. Educate Yourself with Twitter Lists
For the purpose of this post I wanted to show how a Twitter list can easily become sought after business education.
I came across growth hacker Zack Onisko’s blog post identifying the top startup growth experts he suggests are a must to follow. So I decided to put together a custom growth hacking Twitter list with all people he lists in his blog post.
Often when I meet with new entrepreneurs they ask me how I know the leading marketing strategies, tools, companies. My response is consistently — “my network.”
Starting my first company when I was just a teen, I built up a network of incredible business associates and friends I am inspired by, and learn from, daily.
Whenever I have a question I can just reach out and grab an answer from them. Building a circle of trust takes time. That’s the beauty of Twitter. People freely share their insights and thoughts with strangers.
By forming a Twitter list of people you want to learn from you can reach out at anytime by @messaging them with a question and most times people happily respond.
Here’s the growth hackers Twitter list if you’d like to subscribe: https://twitter.com/EspreeDevora/lists/startup-growth-experts
3. Twitter List Hack: How to enhance relationships with your email list
It’s important to me to let people who sign up for my email list on my blog SaveBusinessTime to know I care about them, that they are not just another number, a John Doe sign up.
Who they are matters to me and I value the time they took to check out my site and sign up for my list.
So when someone enters their email on my site, Aweber sends me an email notification that someone new signed up. That notification then pings me via text message by using Zapier (a super powerful web automation tool) so I know to check my email for a new subscriber.
In order to be timely, right after receiving the text I go to my inbox showing me the Twitter profile associated with the person’s email address.
Before sending each person a custom email saying hello, I click over to Twitter and add them to my private list of email subscribers so I can stay on top of what interests my members. This is a great way to consistently engage with people who have already expressed interest in being associated with my website.
4. Vetting the Quality of a Twitter List
When I read blog posts on the best Twitter Lists, it is hard to know what to trust and why these lists are credible. Give it a try, Google “Best Twitter Lists” and you get this crazy amount of random mishmash.
Instead, why not make a list of people you know you trust, business people you look up to, and see which lists they follow?
Here are some inspirational entrepreneurs with a good list of Twitter lists:
- Dave McClure: https://twitter.com/davemcclure/lists (11 lists)
- Kevin Strasser: https://twitter.com/kjstrasser (4 lists)
- Liam Martin: https://twitter.com/vtamethodman/lists (2 lists)
- Larry Kim: https://twitter.com/larrykim/lists (22 lists)
- Eric Ries: https://twitter.com/ericries/lists (3 lists)
- Greg Isengerg: https://twitter.com/gregisenberg/lists (2 lists)
- Chris Curran: https://twitter.com/fractalsound (13 lists)
5. Two Examples of the Most Organized Twitter Lists
One of the best Twitter List profiles I have ever come across is by Shane Mac, CEO of Assist. His past experience includes being on the executive team for both Gist and Zaarly.
- Shane Mac: https://twitter.com/ShaneMac/lists
Another incredibly well managed profile with a ton of Twitter lists is FUWeekend founder, Andy Keil.
He organizes work accelerators in Austin, Texas, to bring people procrastinating on their web projects together for a weekend to be in unison and kick their excuses to the curb, and complete what should have been completed long before.
- Andy Keil: https://twitter.com/alwaysunday/lists
6. What Twitter List Needs to be Built in Your Community?
Think about your market, what Twitter list would add value to your community that you can create?
I had the blessing of flying to Boulder TechStars to watch startups graduating from the program, pitch their companies to a roomful of investors and journalists.
They all had convictions to become the greatest of the great rather sooner than later. These founders spoke with confidence, traction, and poise that are often a rarity at demo pitch nights in other cities. The companies TechStars is curating are filled with people to watch and companies to be inspired by.
Lists are a great feature that Twitter has not pushed enough and thus people have not utilized enough. But you can use this to your advantage.
Putting Twitter lists to use is a helpful addition to your social media marketing toolbox.