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When I talk about using Twitter to people a very common question is;

“How do you make sense of it? I only have (some number) of followers and when I go onto my Twitter stream it’s just a random stream of content, yes some of it is what I’m interested in but I struggle to get a real consistent value.”

I can sympathise with this point of view and it only gets worse the more you use Twitter and the more connections you make.

So what’s the answer?

Well, Twitter has built-in functionality that allows you to filter, search and generally slice up the huge firehose that is the main Twitter stream.

The most useful of these are Twitter Lists.

I use lists to create smaller more focused Twitter streams that contain accounts that are within and specific community or domain of interest, I also subscribe to lists that others have curated for similar purposes.

Now using lists within the native Twitter platform, regardless of device or OS, is not particularly useful; other than for discovering new accounts that others have already added to a list. The real value of lists comes when you combine them with another Social Media management tool; my platform of choice is Hootsuite, but I also use lists within TwitterFall and Twitterific (on mobile).

Using these tools, you can create views/streams that only contain the content from accounts in a list. This means I can review my overall Twitter stream in manageable slices that are relevant to whatever I am interested in at that particular time.

Hootsuite using Twitter Lists

This screen shot shows a subset of my Hootsuite set-up; three lists are shown, Marketing, Analysts and Tech, as well as a stream that is based on the hashtag #Marketing – Hashtags are, arguably, the most powerful ‘feature’ of Twitter — this post talks more about how I use Hashtags.

Back to lists…

To make use of Twitter lists you need to create and add accounts to them. You can do this on Twitter or other platforms like Hootsuite or a follower management tool like Statusbrew. This can be onerous if you try to do it in a huge batch, but it’s worth doing and necessary if you’ve yet to build your own lists.

The easiest way to do this, and it requires some self-discipline, is to place new accounts in lists when you follow them or when you get followed, by the way – you don’t have to have a direct connection to an account to add it to a list – so if you are micromanaging your Twitter profile in terms of who you follow etc then this doesn’t prevent you from maximising your use of lists.

For more technical help on using Lists, here is the Twitter Help page on