Monthly Archives: March 2011

Twitter 101 – Sorting Through the Clutter

As a casual user on Twitter, you may often find yourself wondering: “how can I make use of this service in a way that actually benefits me?”

While there are a number of more obvious ways that Twitter can benefit businesses and those that are looking to share a message (while engaging in discussion, of course), it may not be as obvious how you can benefit as a casual user. And as you follow more and more accounts, it will likely become even less clear to you.

This is where lists come in to play. Lists are a way that you can organize the users that you’re following, and filter out some of the noise. They can be extremely helpful for the user that doesn’t have time to sift through thousands of random tweets, and is looking for something more specific while they are cruising through the Twitterverse. The most simplistic way to look at lists is to see them as a means to organize the tweets that are coming in to your home feed.

By adding the users that you are following to lists that correspond with what they usually tweet about (i.e. news, entertainment, sports, etc.), you can create very specific feeds that will allow you to easily tap into a wealth of information that is of interest to you –  without spending your whole day on it, too.

For example, you may want to keep a close eye on your coworkers that are on Twitter. For that you would create a list called “Coworkers” (for example), and add them to it. Or, maybe you want to keep up on major news headlines. You would find and follow the outlets that you’re interested in and add them to a list called “News Media”.  There are a number of ways to add a user to a list, but for getting started my recommendation is that you do it directly through Twitter.com. Below is an example of how to add a user to a list there: 

Another way to make use of lists and save yourself some time is to follow lists that others have created. Likely the most widely used online tool for this is Listorious. By simply searching the Listorious database, you can find lists that encompass what you’re looking for. Try searching “News” to find a list of major news outlets. Below is a screenshot showing you how easy it is to follow a list that someone else has created: 

Once you have created your lists (which you can add other users to at any time), or have found the lists that you want to follow, all you need is a good way to view them. A web application that is very popular and widely used comes to mind right away when I think about managing my Twitter feeds: HootSuite. A brilliant (in my opinion), free web application that allows you to organize all of your social media accounts be it Facebook profiles, FourSquare accounts, and in this case, Twitter profiles, HootSuite will make managing and using your lists easy.

With HootSuite, you can easily organize your lists into columns, helping you read and sort through what’s important to you, and leaving all of the random clutter out of the picture. In the image below, you will see one of my current HootSuite set ups, and some of the various lists that I am watching through it:

Once you have a HootSuite account set up, you will see something similar to the image above: this is your dashboard. Simply click on the “+ Add Stream” button (shown above), select the “lists” tab, and choose the list that you want in that column.

As you get savvier in making use of your lists you will find that you can consume more and more useful information while wasting less time sifting through the mess – I hope that this will prove useful to you!

Thank you for reading and be sure to add your own Twitter tips for sorting through clutter and other thoughts in the comments!

@AdamWeitner