Making a List…

If you’re like me you’re on Twitter. If you’re one of the few dozen million Twitter users following more than a few dozen people you may have noticed your Twitter feed fills up pretty quickly. One thing I have discovered is that Twitter is all about interactions. It’s not about how many people follow you, it’s about who you follow, and most importantly the people with whom you choose to engage.

Twitter = Engagement.

How some people following thousands and thousands of accounts can keep up and actually engage is beyond me. I love seeing celebs or “experts” following 50,000 people. There’s absolutely no way that’s practical for anything and I suspect that those accounts are at best a person (or team of people) just scanning the @ mentions for something worth replying to or at worst just self promoting pseudo spam churning out links or 140 character insight in a robotic “look at me!” sort of way.

As someone who is reasonably compulsive about keeping things in order, as soon as I started following more than a couple hundred people I knew I needed a system. Maybe you don’t need a system, maybe you have one of your own, but in order for me to maximize my Twitter interactions and engage as effectively as I can I have come up with something that plays out like this:

First things first – I almost always use the Twitter app for my iPhone when I’m mobile and just want to check something quickly (mentions, direct messages, trends, searches, etc…). At home, I’m almost always on my laptop and I’m using Hootsuite (free). I have a system for how and what I tweet as well, but that’s a separate post altogether, for now we’ll focus on organizing the 486 people I’m following.


One thing Twitter has done that’s a great idea is lists. Their implementation of lists is clumsy and getting at them from the web or iPhone app takes too many clicks but fortunately there are other apps out there that help with this. Now on to the system…

It’s really quite simple. Everyone I follow goes into a list. Heck, even if I don’t want to follow someone I can add them into a list (they won’t clog up my main feed and they’ll still show up when I look at my list). One follow, one list. How many lists do I have? Good question. I have 13, and here they are (along with what each one is):

  1. Friends (self explanatory)
  2. Tweeps (these people interact with me on Twitter most often)
  3. Tweeple (I like what these people have to say)
  4. Community (people in my community or other local communities)
  5. Writing (people who write)
  6. Personalities (famous people, celebs, and personas)
  7. Sports (athletes and sports journalists)
  8. News (traffic, weather, headlines)
  9. Music (musicians, music journalists)
  10. Visual Arts (photography, painting, other forms of visual art)
  11. Geek Stuff (social media “experts”, science, geeks and nerds)
  12. Businesses (twitter accounts for businesses I support/recommend)
  13. Causes (charitable organizations I support or generally agree with)

Now, this is where Hootsuite comes in really handy. I can display dozens of tabs at once and up to 4 streams on a single tab. A stream can be anything I want, including searches, hashtags, and lists. I order my lists in terms of how much I want to see those tweets and put them on tabs, and voila!

Yes, it means I’m effectively putting the people I follow on Twitter into a hierarchy, but that’s just the way it is. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen to what my writer friends are up to. Many times I’m not concerned with what a celebrity is doing. Quite often I want to know what’s going on with my friends and in my community. Here’s how my tabs are broken down:

  • Tab 0 – mentions, direct messages, my re-tweeted (yes, I’m narcissistic so that’s why it’s first)
  • Tab 1 – friends, tweeps, tweeple, community
  • Tab 2 – writing, personalities, sports, news
  • Tab 3 – music, visual arts, geek stuff
  • Tab 4 – businesses, causes
  • Tab 5 – hashtags (trends and topics I like to follow)

Here’s what it looks like on my laptop and on my phone (click to enlarge):

But what about maintenance? Another good question. There are a bunch of non-Twitter apps and websites that will help you manage your lists but the one I like to use is found at It’s free and does a pretty good job of managing lists, list members, and other twitter followers/following. The only downside is it will only load 500 of the people you’re following on any given screen. Once a month or so I go through my followers/following and start to clean things up. I get rid of the spam-bots and unfollow people and shuffle the list participants based on recent interactions.

So there you have it. My Twitter system in 1000 words or less. I’d be interested in knowing what you’re doing to manage your Twitter environment. Use the comments below to share or post links to other systems that work.

2 thoughts on “Making a List…

  1. Graham

    Thanks for a practical post! I like your list for list suggestions. A friend gave me some good advice. Rather than get stressed that you're missing something, treat twitter as a river. Whenever you get the urge, stick your head into the river and look around. When you've had enough go back to your regular life and breathe. That was great advice, but my twitter relationship is completed. I think I have several rivers.I've been meaning to clean up my feed with lists, but didn't have a clear idea on what I wanted to do. Until I read your post. Thanks! (btw I use tweetdeck and am pretty pleased with it for managing a twitter account and facebook page)

  2. Andrew F. Butters

    Thanks for the comment Graham. I will serve up something useful from time to time here at Potato Chip Math :)I found Tweetdeck to be a bit limiting and switched to Hootsuite more than a year ago. It's a Canadian company and their free app/web interface does everything I want without any hassle. To each their own. Glad you're getting it sorted out and thanks for reading.


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