Monday, October 19, 2009

Lists Add Value... and might just threaten Apps

Twitter's new Lists feature has opened up a whole new level of functionality. Not only does it allow tweeps to provide more value to visitors, it just might threaten tweetdeck and some of the other twitter clients out there, too.

Twitter's Web interface has shown a lot of improvement since I actively started using the service in March 2009. The site feels less clunky, loads a lot more smoothly, and is a lot more responsive than I remember at first. Its clunkiness was what sent me searching for an alternative, which I found in tweetdeck.

One of the reasons I liked using tweetdeck was because of the Columns feature, where you could create groups of users and have the tweets displayed in different columns on the screen. While tweetdeck has improved on that feature in its various software updates, Twitter's new Lists feature opens up a whole different world.

Following a lot of cat lovers? Put them together in a Cat Lovers list. You can choose to group users by area of interest, geographic location, language, political views, or any topic you wish. You will benefit by being able to load a customized page that shows all of those related tweets together.

But the Lists feature isn't just a handy way to organize tweets. Properly used, lists can also add value to your Twitter profile. Visitors can see your public lists and even choose to follow them. You can therefore give the twitterverse new ways to access new sources of information by creating lists of tweeps with similar interests, while at the same time giving the visitor insight into the things that you yourself find interesting.

You have the option to make a list public or private, and you can change the settings later. You can make a public list "on the fly" by making it public initially, or set it as a private list until it's reached the level of completion you prefer, since changing from private to public is a simple toggle on the edit screen.

Building a list also gives you the opportunity to promote the people you respect and admire, paying homage to their contributions to the twitterverse by including them. Visitors inevitably will review your lists, and your friends will gain new exposure as a result.

With that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when constructing your various lists.

  • Make a private lists if it's geared for your personal use only. Make public lists for groupings that might appeal to a broader audience. Personal lists are great for organizing casual groups where conversation is more social and not as content-driven.

  • Keep your list collections manageable and relevant. Given that only a few of the included users will show up on the follow list at a time, visitors are bound to lose interest After a couple of pages. 50 is probably a good maximum, although you might want to aim for half of that.

  • Be discriminate and selective. Don't include tweeps just because they're friends. Include them because they make worthwhile contributions to the list subject. If one of the tweeps in the list is a prolific poster, that person's messages might drown out all of the others on the list. That person might be more appropriately placed in a list with more frequent posters to balance out the ratio between contributors.

  • Use good descriptions in your list titles. Choose words that adequately and aptly reflect the content of the collection of tweets and tweeters. Vague descriptions likely won't encourage visitors to visit the list in the first place, let alone click through to the listing of tweeps.

  • Check your list pages to see how the final result looks. Would this list be more appropriate as a private list? Is one person's tweets dominating the display? Is the follow list unwieldy and unmanageable? Does the list title properly describe the result?

Keeping the above points in mind will allow you to create lists that are relevant and useful, and will create additional value for your twitter profile. Get into the habit of using the lists yourself, too. You might find yourself relying less on your app of choice and simply hitting up the Web for a quick check on a particular topic. Before long, you might be wondering why you're using an app at all.



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