Twitter List Etiquette

By now, Twitter Lists should be available to pretty much everyone and will soon be coming to a third party app near you.

There are mixed views on Twitter lists, many say they are a good thing and help to organise your feed, and others who say they are nothing more than a popularity contest.

So what does the new feature mean for Twitter users and the way they interact with each other?

There are two strands of Twitter List Etiquette as I see it, when you’ve been added and when you’re doing the adding.

When You’ve Been Added

Being added to a list is, to me, very similar to being retweeted. It is the acknowledgement that for one reason or another, another user thinks you are adding value to a particular way in which they use Twitter. This is not to say if you’re not on any lists you’re not adding value. Some people will be on 1500 lists, some people may be on 1. It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that you take the time to thankyou for being included and maybe even have a look through that list to see who else is on there that you might like to follow, if not following the whole list. And there is of course no need to follow that list – it’s your user experience after all.

When You’re Doing The Adding

Each user will have their own reason for creating a list, cool folks, fellow workmates etc I think it’s important that each list has a purpose. For example I’ve created a list of the Spook team at Edelman so that I can keep upto date with their latest tweets without always being glued to my feed.

You don’t need to tell people when they’ve been added – I think they’ll probably notice when their lists count has gone and i think that if you do send out 100 “hey you made my Twitter list” messages, those users that follow you and aren’t on that list will get pretty annoyed pretty quickly and unfollow.

I don’t think there is any harm in tweeting “I just created a Twitter List” with a link – I would hope that any list i made was useful and would be of interest to other Twitter users.

Keeping a list private vs. outing it in public is interesitng. If you make your list public, there are bound to be people who may think “why am I not on there”, and I think that for subjective lists, private may be the way to go whereas if a list is ‘factual’, there is no harm at all in making it public.

Personally, I will try to avoid creating “top xxx to follow” type lists – as Chris Brogan so brilliantly points out:

I realized what I’m not going to like about them: they will exclude people. Sure, on the one hand, they’re a great way to group people and information together. For instance, I might make a list for news feeds. I might make a list about travel, like hotels and airlines.

But the minute you move into the people department, things get sketchy quick.

And I tend to agree with him. There is no reason for me to alienate any followers or people I follow – Twitter is, by its nature, an inclusive service, and that is how I want my experience to remain.

This is only the beginning of Twitter Lists and the way they are used is sure to evolve, and hence so are my brief thoughts on etiquette. I hope that these initial ramblings are useful and help to contribute to the place we will get to in 6 month’s time.

Thanks to Anna Hardman, Dan Lazarides, Laurence Borel and David Noble for inspiring this post!

UPDATE: Naturally, as always I forgot someone, sorry Jacqui!!

What are your thoughts on Twitter Lists and the way they will evolve?

8 thoughts on “Twitter List Etiquette

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Twitter List Etiquette « The Seldom Seen Kid [] on

  2. I think that’s why I haven’t got involved – it’s pigeon holing people. And that’s not nice. There’s always going to be someone you offend by not adding them to a list, or someone who doesn’t like that they put you in a list but you didn’t do the same. And then it gets petty, and a bit dull.

    Except if someone puts me in a list that says “pretty girls”. Then I change my mind :-)

  3. Hi mate,

    Great post, some useful learnings.

    However, saying thanks for being added to each list in every case I don’t think is achievable. If you’re on 100+ lists like someone like @jangles is then do you expect him to thank each individually? I’m not so sure i’d like to see his / my stream filled with his thankyous, although I can understand where you’re coming from out of politeness.

    Some people think that lists are going to be the new follower count, but let’s think that Lists have decentralised power from Twitter themselves and the SUL (suggested user list) to giving the power to the masses and allowing the collective intellect of everyone on Twitter to decide a new metric of influence. I’m excited by the value of Lists and how it’s proving to be a new way of content discovery (the content being people in this instance)

  4. It is interesting to see the pigeon holing or positioning that is happening. Perhaps if twitter had started with lists it would be different, but I am not about to start categorising my 1200 followers.

    There are some twitter folk I tend to check up on from time to time and read back through their tweets. Having lists with say 20 people on where a few send lots of tweets and a few not so may means that tweets can still get lost.

    I actually believe that a way of sharing favourites would be more beneficial in finding new followers- find out which tweets have been favourited the most and see why. I have found more new followers from scanning through other people’s favourites, or retweets than from going through lists!

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  6. I agree with Chris Brogan, that there’s a risk of alienation and causing inadvertent offence by omission, and also inevitably there will be a lot of duplication of lists.

    However, I also look forward to seeing how these lists develop – you make very important points about what one should be doing when one finds oneself added to a list.

    I also think there’s still HUGE potential in sharing and showing stats on twitter favo(u)rites – publishing lists of favourite tweets from a particular month have drawn huge traffic to my blog in the past.

  7. @David I can’t wait to see how the twitter community develops the way that lists are used, i agree that there’s huge potential!

    @Fifikins Interesting point about sharing favourites, indeed it would be logical that that would have been easier to roll out than lists

    @Mike It’s all about giving power to the masses – indeed, getting that metric might just be the most important development of the entire platform.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts guys!

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