Are you making the most of Twitter lists?


Last year I wrote a post about Twitter lists, and from talking to people it’s evidently still a feature of Twitter that’s widely under-utilised.

Remember, a list can be public or private. A private list is great for researching, whether it’s background for your latest book or keeping tabs on groups of people you are interested in following (but don’t want to look like a stalker) such as agents, publishers, journalists or reviewers.

A public list is one that other people can see and subscribe to. People who create public lists are often seen as authoritative and knowledgeable in that field, a ‘curator’ of useful people to follow and great content. But before you start a public list check out those already in existence, rather than re-inventing the wheel (see my next point).

You can of course subscribe to other people’s (public) lists. This means, for example, if you are a poet and want to follow other poets on Twitter, you don’t need to start your own list if you don’t want to, because someone like Antony Wilson has already created one called ‘Poets’ (and there are over 700 members).

When you subscribe to a list, the list owner may or may not get an alert telling them the list has a new subscriber. When you add someone to a public list, that person will generally get an alert telling them.

When you add someone to a private list, they are not notified. This is why, if you don’t have a lot of followers, it’s a good idea to add people first to a private list rather than following loads of people.

Why? because it’s a good idea to keep your ratio of followers to followees either reasonably equal, or have more followers than followees. It is one of the informal criteria many people have for deciding whether to follow someone.

Here are a few ideas about how you could be using lists:

To capture the names of people involved in an event

How often do you meet interesting folks at a conference, or a book launch or other event, and exchanged names or contact details, perhaps hurriedly, then later struggled to remember the name or find their card? Why not create a Twitter list specifically for that event, and add their Twitter name to it there and then. If you’ve already created the list, and are using a tool such as Hootsuite on your phone, you can add names at least as quickly as adding someone to your phone book.

If you take part in a Twitter chat, you could also add participants to a list and give it the name of the chat. That way you can keep in touch with them without having to follow everyone, the list keeps growing as new people join the chat, and you’ll always remember the context in which you ‘met’.

To create a helpful resource

It’s not just your peers who may be grateful for a list of fellow crime writers on Twitter – your readers will also appreciate it. They’d probably also be really interested to know who are your favourite bloggers, or literary events, or living authors who are great Tweeters. List-makers are often seen as the curators, the do-ers, the people to be connected to on Twitter, so a bit of altruism in this department won’t do your reputation any harm.

To reward or show recognition

If there are people who regularly share your tweets, or respond, or are great conversationalists, or write consistently good blog posts, you could create a list for them and give it a ‘feelgood’ title that makes it clear why you’re grateful or why you rate them – ‘Awesome writer-bloggers’, ‘Generous Tweeters’ for example (or whatever works for you – but make it reasonably descriptive, so that anyone added to it feels rewarded and anyone coming across it will be impressed enough to follow or check out its members.

One thing that has changed since this time last year is how to search for Twitter lists on Google. The way to do it now is to type the following into the search box: inurl:lists <insert search term>

(with or without the angled brackets). For example: inurl:lists crime writers

brings up the following:

Google search for Twitter lists

You can also search via the Twitter search box, and via people you already know on Twitter.

Good luck and have fun with lists – there are loads of other uses, let me know in the comments if you have devised innovative ways of using lists.


Seven things to do on Twitter this week


There’s so much more to Twitter than just posting links to your blog posts or tweeting the odd ‘what I’m up to’ update.

I’ve found Twitter to be a fantastic tool for connecting with all sorts of people I wouldn’t otherwise have met. OK, so it was easier in the early days, when there were fewer of us using it and before the marketers and scammers had moved in!

If you’re wondering how on earth to unlock the real power of Twitter then let me tell you there are no quick fix ways of doing it, but take it one day at a time and in six months you’ll wish you’d started a year ago.

It’s about small things … and they all add up. To give you an idea what I mean, here are seven tasks to set yourself, one for each of the next seven days. Come on, how hard can that be? Just remember a general point – when you refer to another person or entity in a tweet, reference them by their Twitter (@) name, because that way they will see your tweet. If you don’t know their Twitter name, use the Twitter search box to find it.

So here goes…

1) Do something nice for someone

This might be, for example, answering a question, or retweeting a question you can’t answer yourself, but one of your followers might. You might tweet how much you enjoyed someone’s latest book, or review, or poem in such-and-such magazine. Or how about starting a conversation with someone who’s new to Twitter or not very active, to encourage them along?

2) Retweet something useful and say why

If you’ve just learned something useful, or come across a resource you know your followers will find useful, or a news story people will want to know about, tweet a link to it. Add your own comment or endorsement.

3) Find THREE book bloggers/reviewers to follow

You can use the Twitter search box to search for names or keywords, or do a general search on Google – look for people who actively review work in your genre. You might find one, and then from their lists of followers or followees you might find more. Don’t follow more than three at a time, for now … if you stumble of a rich seam of people to follow, go to point 4 –

4) Start a new list

Remember you can add someone to a list without actively following them as an individual. You can then follow that list. If you’re using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, create a new column for that list and voila. (See this post about Lists if you’re not sure).

5) Find a writing-related hashtag and use it

There are so many great writing hashtags, many of them are ‘slow chats’ – in other words, it’s an ongoing conversation around a theme. Well-used ones are #amwriting, #selfpublishing and #kidlitchat. But there are many, many more –  here’s a mammoth list of Twitter hashtags for writers!

6) Take a long hard look at your profile page

When did you last refresh it? Could it do with a makeover? The new profile pages allow for a wonderfully big header image – make the most of this space. Look at how other people are using it, get some inspiration. What about your profile picture? Looking a tad tired? And your bio – are you making the best use of your 160 characters, with key words for people to find you by?

7) Thank someone

Ah yes – we so often forget to this. Who doesn’t love to be thanked? Just think for a moment – is there someone you follow on Twitter (who perhaps you’ve never met) who often tweets useful things, or answers questions, or retweets other people’s posts? A ‘thank you’ out of the blue from a relative stranger is a wonderful thing.

Have a great week on Twitter – who knows, you might set yourself another #7things for the week after, and the week after …

Twitter Lists – a great (under-utilised) resource for writers


What are Twitter Lists?

Anyone can create a Twitter List, and Lists can be public or private. They are a way of grouping Twitter users, in any way you wish, for example, ‘Poets’, or ‘Literary Agents’ or ‘Workshop Friends’. Think of a list as a segment the people you follow on Twitter.

A Public List can be seen and subscribed to by anyone, but Private Lists are not visible or searchable by others. You might create Private Lists for research purposes, or if the subject matter of your list is sensitive (for example, competitor activity).

Where to find Twitter Lists

Where to find Twitter Lists from a Profile page

Why you should think ‘List’ first, ‘Follow’ second

When you add someone to a List, they won’t get a notification, so adding someone to a Private List is a way of following someone without their knowing. This is one reason I recommend new Twitter users to get into the habit of adding people to lists.

Let’s say you want to follow Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Times. The point at which you click ‘Follow’ may be your one and only chance to get his attention. If he decides to check you out and finds you haven’t tweeted yet and your profile isn’t complete, he probably won’t follow back.

So instead of openly following him, you could add him to a private list of ‘Literary Journalists’ and follow the list. At a later date when your Twitter profile looks more active and you’ve done some interesting tweets, then you can hit the ‘Follow’ button and who knows, you might get a follow back if you’re lucky.

Why follow Lists?

As the number of people you follow grows, it gets harder to see everyone’s tweets, especially those outside your time zone. But a List is a much smaller group, which makes it easier to monitor those people’s tweets.

Lists in Tweetdeck

If you use a social media dashboard like Tweetdeck, you can add your Lists as columns which make them easy to follow, separate from the main Twitter stream

Don’t forget you can also follow other people’s lists, which is much quicker than creating your own from scratch, although you’re not in control of who’s on the list and therefore whose tweets you’re exposed to.

How to find lists

I recommend a multi-pronged approach, the same way that you would search for new (good) people to follow:

1.  Twitter search box – search by key words, names of publications or individuals. Although you can’t actually search for Lists, if you go to a profile page of a relevant individual, then check out the lists they are on, you can strike gold. For example, I searched for ‘literary editors’ and randomly chose Olivia Cole (@OliviaCole1), Literary editor of GQ & Editor of Spectator Life. Turns out she’s on hundreds of lists, from ‘Editors Worth Following’ , a List curated by Vincent Dignan,  to ‘Poets, Writers’ by David-Glen Smith.

2.  People you know – always check out the Lists of people you follow as it may throw up all kinds of great Lists already in existence. And if not, you’ll at least find more of the same kinds of people you want to follow and you can start your own List.

Guardian journalist Nicholas Wroe is on a useful list of Arts/Culture Journalists

By looking at what Lists Guardian journalist Nicholas Wroe is on, I found a useful list of Arts/Culture Journalists

3.  Google Search – in the search box, do a site-wide search of Twitter by typing the following:*/keyword

– replace ‘keyword’ with your search term and Google will find you Twitter Lists with that word in the title.

Search for Twitter lists on Google

A Google search for Twitter Lists which have the word ‘Publishers’ in the title

Some examples of how to use Lists

*       Follow a list of literary magazines and never miss a submissions window or important launch.

*      Seek out conversations around your writing genre/niche and add key participants (readers, reviewers, writers, enthusiasts) to a List. By following their conversations you’ll get to know their likes, tastes, buying habits, events they go to, etc. You might want to make this a Private List and call it ‘prospects’, for example.

*      Make a list of journalists, reviewers, books bloggers and other ‘influencers’ to find out what they are working on and see any relevant calls for contributors, expert quotes or interviews. Again, this could be either Public or Private, it’s up to you.