(I know we’re not technically supposed to talk about Twitter Lists, but since Mashable let the cat out of the bag and twitter’s all atwitter about them, I figure this post is okay.) Lists are one of the most useful additions to Twitter yet. You may or may not have them enabled on your account. If not, they’re awesome. Hopefully they’ll make Twitter as useful as it’s become for me.

Public vs. Private Lists

  • Public lists are social extenders. They’re shareable. They’re a way of tagging people. Any user can see them. Any user can be added to one. Any user can follow them. You don’t have to follow everyone that follows you. Lists is a way to keep on top of groups of people you’re interested but don’t have the personal capacity to keep up with everything they tweet about.
  • Private lists, on the other hand are social organizers. I have a private list of Clients. I want to keep track of what they’re saying on Twitter, but other people don’t need to know they’re my clients.

I use both types of lists. I’ve made a majority of my lists public because my hope is that others would find value in them, but ultimately, most of them are just ways for me to tag and organize the 600+ people I’m following at the moment.

What’re the Downsides?

  • Only one person can “own” a list. I’d love to see Twitter allow other users be able to contribute and/or manage a list.
  • There’s no context to what a list is about other than how it’s named. Twitter needs to add a way for users to add a description to their lists. Some people might not understand what a list called “ee” is about.
  • You can’t search for Lists to follow. Want to find lists of people who create with WordPress? Good luck.
  • There’s going to be a ton of overlap.
  • There’s a high potential for abuse. Users can and will be added to lists they don’t want to be on. Fortunately, users can block the list creator from adding them to another, but there really needs to be an “Opt out of Lists” feature.
  • “Lists are the new follower count.” Someone tweeted that the other day, and it bothered me, but I think he’s right. I think there’s a segment of people that will equate being on a lot of lists with popularity, reach, etc. Whether you’re on no lists or a 100 really shouldn’t matter. Twitter, and social media in general, isn’t a numbers game.