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Twitter Lists 101

Lori Halley 16 October 2009 18 comments

Twitter has been gradually rolling out a long-awaited new feature to selected users — Twitter lists! If you can see a Lists section in your sidebar at Twitter.com, you’ll know all about this, but it won’t be long now until we all have the ability to create custom groups of Twitter users.

Twitter did ask its beta testers (selected at random) not to tweet about this new feature yet… but who really expects to keep a secret on Twitter? The news broke last night (October 15th) on several high-profile tech blogs and has been widely tweeted — including by the Twitter team itself — so let’s take a look at Twitter Lists, how they work, and what they can do for you.

Twitter Lists announcement


Twitter Team list screenshotIntroduction to Twitter Lists

Each Twitter List is like a mini-Twitter stream, composed only of tweets from the users who are included on that list. 

Any user can (or will be able to) create their own lists — and at present there doesn’t seem to be a limit on how many lists you can create up to 20 lists [see updates at the end of this post].

Lists are a useful way to sort out and make sense of the Twitter “noise” — especially if you’re following many people — and viewing other people’s lists is a great way to discover new people who share your interests.


“Quick Tip Sheet” for Twitter Lists

Create lists

create Twitter lists screenshot

There are two ways to create a new list:

  • Click on the “new list” link at the bottom of the Lists section in your sidebar, or
  • Create a new list as an alternative to adding a Twitter user to one of your existing lists.

In either case, you’ll be able to choose a name for your list and whether you want the list to be public or private — viewable by everyone, or viewable by nobody but yourself.

Add users to lists

A drop-down menu on  your “following” or “followers” pages, or on the person’s profile page, lets you choose which of your lists you want to add that user to — or you can create a new list to add them to, on the fly.

No matter which methods you choose,

  • You can add one user to multiple lists.
  • You can add a user to a list even if you are not following them.

Tip: When you’re viewing a Twitter user’s profile page (e.g. http://twitter.com/username), look just below the avatar picture at the top of the page — you'll see links to any lists to which you’ve added that user.

Remove users from lists

To remove a user from a list, it’s a toggle. Simply uncheck the checkbox beside the list name — just the opposite of how you added that user to your list in the first place.

Edit list

While viewing any list you’ve created (the URL format will be http://twitter.com/username/listname), you’ll find an”Edit list” link in the Lists section of the sidebar.

You can change the name of any list you’ve created.
You can change the list’s status between private and public.
You cannot edit someone else’s list, and they cannot edit yours.

Delete list

While viewing any list you’ve created, you’ll find a “Delete list” link in the Lists section of the sidebar.

Follow/Unfollow lists

Following a list will add it to the Lists section in your sidebar and to the page at http://twitter.com/username/lists (lists you follow).

And you can see what lists you’ve been added to by other Twitter users at http://twitter.com/username/lists/memberships (lists that follow you) — this is easily accessed from your profile page. Look at the top of your sidebar, just below your Twitter bio, for a “lists” [updated Oct 17] "listed" link right next to your “following” and “followers” links.

. . .


October 17-18, 2009:

  • The "lists" link at the top of the profile page sidebar has been changed to "listed" but still goes to the same page (lists that follow you).
  • You may create a maximum of 20 lists.
  • List names can be a maximum of 25 characters long.
  • No more than 500 people can be on any one list.
  • Beta testers were chosen "pretty much at random" according to a Twitter "insider": so, if you have not yet been given access to lists, it is no reflection on who you are or how you're using Twitter! :)

October 23, 2009:

  • When you're viewing another user's list, there's now a link in the upper right (below "Username created this list") to "block list owner" -- when Twitter lists are extended to all users, this should be very useful for clearing out spammers!

October 28-29, 2009:

  • The "block list owner" link, mentioned in the update above, has been removed again.
  • Blocking a Twitter user will remove you from inclusion on any lists the blocked person has created.
  • According to the Twitter team's Nick Kallen, 25% of Twitter users now have lists 50% of Twitter users now have lists enabled.

October 30, 2009:

  • There's a List for That : Twitter's blog officially introduces Lists, now available to all users.
  • List streams do not show @-reply messages directed to one specific Twitter user -- only those tweets that do not begin with the @ symbol.
  • Twitter says there's a plan to add a description field to lists -- so we're not totally dependent on a list's name to try to figure out the rationale behind the grouping of users!

Meanwhile, what have I missed here --
and what have you discovered about the new Twitter Lists, so far?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 16 October 2009 at 4:20 PM


  • Twitter Trackbacks for Wild Apricot Blog : Twitter Lists 101 [wildapricot.com] on Topsy.com  said:

    Friday, 16 October 2009 at 8:44 AM
  • Rajeev Edmonds said:

    Friday, 16 October 2009 at 9:38 AM

    I'm sure soon third party apps (primarily desktop clients) will start supporting native twitter lists replacing the groups feature. Great post. Makes it so easy to understand the whole concept.

  • mousewords said:

    Friday, 16 October 2009 at 7:18 PM

    Great post, and great sneak-peek! The only thing I've discovered about lists so far is that if you don't have them, you can't see them on others' pages. Curiosity was eating me up. ;-)

  • Mitchell Allen said:

    Saturday, 17 October 2009 at 2:33 AM

    This is a very good post. I think Twitter needed this for a long time.

    The one thing it has over similar features found on 3rd-party applications like TweetDeck is the capability of viewing other people's lists.



  • Justus Lipsus said:

    Saturday, 17 October 2009 at 8:52 AM

    Waiting for articles like, "top 8 Social Media Gurus -lists on ratemytwlists.com" and "10 tips how to get into over 10 lists under 10 days."

    Also in b4: "You can get into my high profile MarketingMavens-list by getting my e-book and video worth over $5000 with just...".

  • Bou The Caribou said:

    Saturday, 17 October 2009 at 12:10 PM

    Thanks for the great post. I think twitter lists will be an awesome addition. I can't wait to use it. I agree, adding RSS feeds would make it even better.


    a woodland caribou living in Ottawa

  • Chris Dattilo said:

    Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 11:24 AM

    I've found Twitter lists so difficult to use. They are extremely slow and you cannot search on and quickly add a @username to a list. Instead it makes a call to their Profile page, then you click to add them to the list, then you wait......, and then you go back to Home - Search for people, and do it again. Each addition takes several minutes.

    I've been trying to make a nonprofit/socialmedia/community manager list for days and spend only about 20 minutes at a time. So far I have 14 people on the list, that is how slow it is for me.

    They need an implementation more like Tweetdeck. Give you all those you are following and let you quickly click on names to add them to a list. Quick being the key word.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 1:06 PM

    I've found it quickest to add from my "following" list rather than a user's profile page, Chris, unless I'm actually looking at someone's profile and think, "Oh, he/she belongs in such-and-such a list" and add them to it on the spot.

    I agree, it would be nice to have a little checkbox next to each entry on your "following" page, so you could tick off a bunch at once and then choose a list to add them to. TweetDeck Groups are easier to make, in that regard, as are Search results and Groups on HootSuite. But then, the trade-off is that there isn't the same social sharing aspect...

    Twitter does welcome feedback on the lists feature, and no doubt will be refining its operation based on the most common user requests.

  • Rick said:

    Monday, 19 October 2009 at 4:59 AM

    Great discussion.  I like the Twitter List feature of Twitter.  Very easy to use.

  • Clare said:

    Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 11:59 AM

    I created a list but when I click on it from my home page I don't see any tweets.  Is it because no one on my list has the list feature yet?  I'm confused.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 9:07 AM

    Twitter is giving lists to people really quickly now, Clare, so very soon all users will have that feature - but no, it's not necessary for people to have lists in order to be on a list.

    Your empty list stream just means that, since you created the list, no one on there has tweeted anything new yet. As soon as one of those people sends an update to Twitter, you'll see it on your list page.

  • @GumpB said:

    Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 3:31 PM

    Is it possible to to delete one or more categories from a list. I don't want to delete the entire list.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 4:57 PM

    GumpB, it's not actually categories you're creating, but a bunch of separate lists. Deleting is no problem -

    When you create one or more lists, you'll find them at http://twitter.com/GumpB/lists. Click on any list name there, and it will take you to the "list page" e.g. you might (hypothetically) have created a list called "People I Know" - in which case it would be found (if it existed) at http://twitter.com/GumpB/people-i-know.

    In the sidebar there, right up at the top, you'll find "Edit" and "Delete" links. "Edit" lets you change the name of the list, or change its  Private/Public access setting. "Delete" will delete that list - and only that list, not any of the others that you've created.  

    Does that clear things up for you?

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 30 October 2009 at 6:47 PM

    Now that there are Lists for all, watch for the quick release of third party services built around lists, such as the brand-new Twitter List directory at Listorious.com and various TLIST tools for list management and distribution.

  • Lauren Cochrane said:

    Saturday, 31 October 2009 at 4:44 PM

    Until Twitter releases RSS feeds for Lists - this tool appears to be a good workaround:


    You simply enter the URL of the List you want to follow, and it will generate a feed. For example, my Australian Non-profit and Social Good list


    Can be accessed via this RSS feed:


  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Saturday, 31 October 2009 at 4:54 PM

    Lauren, thanks for sharing that tip - yes, I've been waiting for RSS feeds for Twitter lists, and this will do nicely for now! :)

  • tweep said:

    Friday, 06 November 2009 at 9:57 PM

    I love the LIST, lol.  They are better than #FF and all that messy tweeting... if u get listed, it appears in that person's sidebar and easily accessed... my growth rate was really high since i started using them.  U can find good ones at Listorious.com in different categories or you can follow mine which is in the top 170 lists thus far at http://twitter.com/elucidmarketing/socialnetworkers  Once u start to follow the list we put you on the list to network with ones already listed.  Thanks and great post here, see u again, Elucid !!!!

  • Milan Svec said:

    Sunday, 11 April 2010 at 4:44 AM

    At last I've found what I need to know for Twitter lists management.

    Thank you for your clear guide.

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