Twitter Lists Reveal Interest of Followers

Twitter ListsWhy didn't Twitter think of that?

When Twitter lists first came out, I described them as a new mainstream media-type content channel. And maybe media companies have missed the boat on what interests readers vs. PR practitioners.

If you look at the lists from CNN, for example, you will see that the most followed list is that of anchors and reporters. I don't know about you, I just don't tend to follow people I'm not interested in building a relationship with, and it seems to me that common sense would dictate regular citizens follow stories, and not the people who write them.

As I revisit those mainstream media lists, I notice how they continue to be mostly about themselves, with a few weak attempts at building something useful for followers beyond their own publication. 

Things have indeed changed little since last November, when I did my review:

The Huffington Post seems pretty well on top of the content
it covers with its lists. Other news businesses have started their own
lists as well. Among them:

  • CNN – not
    as comprehensive as I would have thought, but they have many Twitter
  • NBC news
    – it's a bit meager, with only two lists
  • Wall Street
    – validates its paid premium content brand
  • The
    – plenty of room for content with international flavor
  • Time
    magazine – a good start and an opportunity to truly provide a curated
    media experience
  • BBC
    it's very intriguing that they would begin with just BBC channels
  • npr news
    – a bit broader than just npr people
  • Newsweek
    – not impressive given the magnitude of their follower count
  • USAToday
    – they use lists to group resources of important conversations
    happening right now
  • The Washington Post – one list
  • The LA
    – excellent example of making useful lists and following user
    lists, highest so far
  • Financial
    – plenty of room for a more creative use of financial content
  • The San
    Francisco Chronicle
    – demonstrates what's important to readers
  • Slate
    focused on its own staff
  • Wired
    ditto, about the magazine and staff
  • Fast
    – I was expecting a little better from this magazine, but
    lists are still so new
  • Inc.
    magazine – ditto, seems to be about itself
  • Atlantic
    – good use of thematic content
  • Mashable
    – not surpising that they would display a nice variety
  • TechCrunch
    – signal what's hot so far
  • Ars
    – one so far

When I took a look at my own lists, what I noticed is that those with the greater follower count were in the most altruistic and more clearly content-driven categories — #kaizenblog, our weekly chat about kaizen in business strategy, community builders and community evangelists.

If Twitter were less people- or account-centric and more topic-centric, there would be greater opportunity to crowd-source beyond iReports to the nature of news itself. Then it could become a destination for the connection of topics and the stories that inform them.

To the credit of many news organizations listening online, namely the New York Times and the Washington Post, more articles and blog posts have been published recently about content and news that interest people. I do wonder…

Why isn't Twitter organized to track topical content? (trending topics aside) Is this the reason why news organizations and and PR professionals are still thinking about social networks as extensions of the old ways of doing pitches in a vacuum? Not knowing what angle people are interested in until after the pitch and publication?

Are you experimenting with Twitter lists and topical content?

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0 responses to “Twitter Lists Reveal Interest of Followers”

  1. I’m wondering about your assumption that people following the #kaizenblog list are more interested in a topical list versus a people-centered list. I’m sure that most people that follow that list are people that also participate regularly in the chat and are looking to stay connected with those folks in a manageable way. Most of the twitter lists that I’ve followed — even for brief times — have been because a) I didn’t want to automatically follow all those people b) I wanted to stay connected with the people.
    To me, things like hashtags are better ways to follow topics. But, that’s also because I see people as multi-dimensional. Someone may follow me because I talk a lot about international sports, but I also talk a bunch about social media, journalism, PR, community management, design, wordpress, etc. If you’re only following me because of one topic, than why is there a person behind the keyboard?

  2. @Eugene – indeed, you will see that the perception follows the topical content I share and discuss.
    @Sue Ann – I’m trying to understand where in the post I suggested that content is unidimensional and not people-driven. People are what makes the content interesting and unique. I even named the other lists that have high follower count. Here’s what I wrote “in the most altruistic and more clearly content-driven categories.” Tags are somewhat helpful, if people use them correctly. However, what I noticed when I research a topic, I tend to rely on the manual curation by people on that topic, which is definitely subjective. As well, to break through, people also usually elevate one thing they want to be known for above the rest. I’m quite experienced in that department, as lots of horizontal hands-on knowledge and work vs. specialization have held me in place. Content drives relationships — online and off line. Thought it would be interesting to explore the question. Perhaps I’m reading more than you intended in the tone of the comment. I seem to detect an edge…

  3. I maintain a spreadsheet of corporate social media managers with Jeremiah Owyang, which includes you, at
    This list powers a Twitter partner bar on my blog ( ), a different way to quickly scan what is interesting to this group of social media intrapreneurs. It solves the “clutter” of streams that can be overwhelmed by a user that sends out many tweets all at once.
    We learned it’s not about how many people you know, but who you can count on. For example, our work with Twitter feeds has led us to curation tools such as a “Private @Reply” function that lets people @reply to lists of people, whether or not they are on Twitter.

  4. @nytimes has done a pretty good job of creating Twitter Lists in conjunction with major news events, like the Haiti and Chile earthquakes. In each case they incorporated a variety of sources, including other news outlets and people on location.

  5. Interesting discussion topic! Twitter has the data – most of us on the outside can only see a small part of the user behavior equation.
    @DanZarrella has done a lot of research on this – maybe he has some ideas. Meanwhile, I’ll think about how one could validate this from the publicly available feeds.

  6. @Brian – that’s really cool how you did that. It’s amazing how many different tools have been built around Twitter already. Guessing the private @ reply is tied to an email address.
    @Adam – they have also done a pretty good job at collecting background information for display on their site recently. It sounds like they do understand the digital medium.
    @M. Edward – exactly. I do wonder if they have a way of mining it. They must. Think about it, all those cues in conversations. It looks like we’re pretty much done with the shiny object phase of Twitter and are now dedicating more resources to figuring out how to harness its rich data.

  7. Reading your post and looking at the comments, I honestly feel that creating and managing lists in Twitter needs a whole bunch of work for the lay individual. Creating, viewing and managing lists is far beyond the average Twitterer if such a person really exists.

  8. Hey Cary:
    Given that you’re essentially commenting from a company that markets “doing Twitter the right way”, how about showing some thought leadership in the comment?
    There is no average person. However, there is your average marketing message, isn’t there?

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