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Simple guide to Twitter Lists for journalists and PRs

What is a Twitter List?

Anyone can create a List containing other Twitter users or subscribe to Lists created by others. Viewing a List will display a stream of Tweets from only the users on that List.

Twitter Lists can be public or private and you don’t need permission before including someone on a List. You can create up to 1,000 Lists, with up to 5,000 users in each list.

The URL of Lists alway follows the same format: twitter.com/my-username/lists/my-list

What are Twitter Lists good for?

Following influencers. Keep up to date with tweets from a list of prominent people or organisations in your industry, news beat or region.

Following breaking news. Many of the top news organisations have Twitter accounts for breaking news, but you might also want to set up a List of local news providers.

Tracking competitors (or companies/clients/people you want to keep and eye on). Remember, Lists can be private, allowing you to monitor tweets from specific users without a public Follow. If you want to share a private List with others, consider setting up a ‘Listmaker’ account (see below).

Monitoring emergency services. Curate updates from local police, ambulance and fire services into a single Twitter stream. Same for public service organisations.

Promoting your team. Create a List of all newsroom journalists, or individual Lists for business, sport, news etc. Invite your audience to subscribe to the list (by promoting the link) and embed the live stream of tweets on your website. (An additional benefit is that the editor can easily monitor what’s being tweeted).

Liveblogging. It takes only seconds to create a List of reporters covering a major event – an election, for example – and embed the stream as part of a liveblog.

How to create a List

Sign in to Twitter.com and go to your profile (‘Me’ at the top of the page). You’ll see Lists in the left-hand menu. In the Lists pane you have the option of viewing Lists you have subscribed to (which includes Lists you have created) and Lists you are a member of (added by other users). Remember, people don’t have to ask your permission to include you in a List.

To create a List, click the button above your Lists. Give your List a name, add a brief description and choose Public or Private.

Twitter lists

To edit a List (make it public/private, delete, rename or remove members) go to your own profile > Lists and click the List title. You’ll see buttons to Edit and Delete your List.

Twitter lists

How to add users to a List

Twitter users can be added to Lists you have created by clicking the silhouette icon on profiles and the ‘Add or Remove from Lists’ link.

Twitter lists

To search for users in an industry or location you’d like to include in a List, a Twitter search is a good place to start, perhaps combined with search operators to focus your search on a location. For example, a search for: nuj near:cardiff within:20mi looks like this …

Twitter lists

If you want to bring your team together on Twitter so you can add them to a List (without searching individually), just ask them to tweet using the same hashtag. Do a search for the hashtag and add users to the List. Similarly, if you are following a hashtag around a story or event, it’s easy to pull specific users into a List.

Here’s another option. Followerwonk is an excellent free tool for searching Twitter profiles. Simple keyword searches, for example ‘journalist’ will bring up a thousands of results, with the option to rank results by number of followers or Followerwonk’s own ‘social authority’ score. Click the ‘more options’ link under the search window to filter results by location (revealing, for example, journalists in Cardiff) or URL (trying search for ‘journalist’ with the URL bbc.co.uk to find BBC journalists).

Twitter lists

How to subscribe to Lists

To subscribe to a List someone else has created, go to their full Twitter profile and click Lists to see Lists they have Created, Subscribed to, or are Members of. Click on a List and if you like the content, Subscribe.

Twitter lists

Why Twitter doesn’t include a specific List search in its own Advanced Search is a mystery to me, but one way to discover new Lists is by checking the Lists on the profile of influencers. You could also try a Google Search to discover relevant Lists, with a little help from the site: and inurl: operators. Try a search for site:twitter.com inurl:lists nuj

How to Embed a List in your website or blog

To create a timeline, sign in to Twitter, go to the gear icon at the top, select Settings and the Widgets link in the window on the left of your screen. Click the Create New button.

Twitter lists

Select the List tab and choose a List from the dropdown menu. Customise the depth of widget, background and link colour to suit your theme. Click Create Widget. You can now copy and paste the code into your website.

Twitter lists

Lists in Hootsuite and Tweetdeck

Twitter Lists really fly when they part company with Twitter.com and form part of a listening dashboard in social management platforms like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

If you can create and manage Lists on the Twitter website, you’ll find doing it with Tweetdeck simple. To add a List to Tweetdeck, click the +Add Button link in the menu to the left of the screen and select Lists. Choose your List and Add Column. You’ll also see a button to create a new list and edit the List (including delete).

Twitter lists

Any user in your Tweetdeck columns can be added to your Lists by clicking a username or image on their tweet and selecting Lists at the bottom of the pop-up window. Searching for users is just as easy. For example, a search for ‘breaking news’ – with Users selected – brings up a good selection of accounts. Clicking the silhouette dropdown menu gives the familiar Add or Remove from Lists option, where you can do just that or create a new List.

Twitter lists

While I’m a big fan of Hootsuite, its handling of Lists could be a touch smoother.

To add one or more Lists as streams in Hootsuite, click the Add Stream button and Lists in the pop-up window. Select a profile and choose from Lists you have created or Lists you are subscribed to. Click Add stream. Job done. Follow the same steps and you’ll also see an option to create a List in Hootsuite (which will sync with Twitter.com).

Twitter lists

To organise the members of all your Lists in Hootsuite, go to Contacts in the vertical grey menu bar and select your profile. From here you can delete or drag users from one List to another. You can also enter a search and drag any resulting users into Lists from the search window.

While in the dashboard view, what I find frustrating is that you can’t add users to Lists that are not currently showing as a stream. You first have to add the List to your dashboard, as above, THEN add users (via the dropdown menu next to profile pictures, or the profile that pops up when you click a username). You can create a List in Hootsuite … but you can’t delete it.

Twitter lists

Listmaker accounts

As we know, Twitter Lists can be private, which makes it easy to track people anonymously. But what if you want to share that List with colleagues? One answer to is establish a ‘listmaker account’ with a profile that can’t be linked to you or your organisation. Here’s a good explanation and step-by-step guide to establishing listmaker accounts.

Lists to go

The Twitter and Hootsuite apps for Android and iOS make it easy to keep track of your Lists while travelling or from the scene of a story. A final tip. If you use an iPad, try Flipboard for reading Lists and discovering content in an attractive magazine style.

This Resource page was written by Dan Mason, a journalist, media consultant and trainer, specialising in digital communications and social media. Dan trains all over the world and delivers the NUJ’s social media training in Wales.

Written By...

Dan Mason

Dan Mason

Dan Mason is a journalist, media consultant and trainer, specialising in digital communication and social media (Dan Mason Media).

Prior to starting his training company, Dan worked extensively in the UK regional press and was the award-winning editor of daily newspapers including the Coventry Evening Telegraph and Birmingham Post. He was also managing director of Coventry Newspapers and a managing editor for Newsquest in London.

Over the past five years, he has trained managers, journalists and communications professionals all over the developing world as well as in the UK.

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