Twitter is not known for feature-creep, but last week it introduced a significant new feature that will have real impact on how Twitter is used: Twitter Lists.
So what are Twitter Lists?
They are named groups of people who have Twitter accounts. I created a list for folks who write about Open Source (link) and did the same for Marketing (link). I made these list public, so anyone can see who I track in these lists. I also subscribed to a list called “foss” by Stephen O””””Grady. It is a humble start, but it gets the idea across. I will work to move my TweetDeck groups over in the coming weeks.
Twitter says that Lists are “A great way to organize the people you follow”, but I could add people who I do not follow to my lists. I suspect that this will be a big disincentive to following people in Twitter. Seeing the messages in the context of the list in which they occur will make them more meaningful than the generic stream of messages from all people I follow mashed together.
I am sure the folks at the Twitter ranking systems are already busy recalibrating their algorithms.
Apart from the convenience of the Lists for following what is being said in the Twitterverse, what do Twitter Lists mean for you if you want your message to be heard and your brand to be known?
- Get used to the idea that the value of the number of followers you have will quickly deteriorate in terms of your social capital. If you are not on someone”s list, (s)he will not see your posts, even if that someone is a follower.
- To be included on someone”s list, you”ll have to be recognized as an authority or at least meaningful contributor in some field. If your messages are all over the map, no one will know what list to place you on.
- At least for now, the number of individuals who can be followed in a list is restricted, so the placement on a good list is a premium event. Thank the list owner, return the favor if possible, and promote the list.
- Use the reports of the lists that include you to learn how you are categorized. Does that match the brand image you want out there?
- Create lists that reflect you brand. Choose wisely, express your thought-leadership. Do not just list the Twitter superstars like Obama and Spears, everybody can do that. Find topical experts who really contribute, and ideally ones who include positive messages about *you* (your organization) in their tweets.
- Promote your lists on your blogs and other web assets. These will be great content generators, with 24×7 up-to-the-minute information on your topics.
Some of the major Twitter brands like Guy Kawasaki are being added to hundreds of lists per day. Soon there will be a recognized elite in the Twitter List Universe. The expected brands will be there, but many cards will be reshuffled. Make sure that your brand creates a presence there too.