Twitter Lists: courtesy, classification, trust

Following someone back on Twitter validates a two-way connection. It confirms mutual interest.

The rhetoric of courtesy
Everyone online is entitled to be selective with their follows. In fact, some of the most successful networking efforts are deliberate and executed with clear purpose.

So if someone follows you but you’re not sure if you want to follow back, what do you? Most people will likely do nothing because they’re not obligated to follow back.

But if you want them to know that you actually  find their twitter account interesting but you’re not quite prepared to follow their stream, should you care to let them know that?

The question’s meant to be rhetorical, but yes, I think so. And you could do so by listing them.

icon sourced from

Classification versus influence
Twitter Lists allow you to group your follows according to the various categories (types) of follows you’ve created. Some argue that the number of instances in which you are listed reflects your scale of influence.

I respect certain aspects of that view, but have yet to see a clear explanation of how the metric is designed to show the correlation between number of instances listed and what “influence” is suppose to represent…I digress.

Your intent to tag someone under one of your lists demonstrates your interest in their request to follow you. You’ve not actually followed them back yet, but since you’ve actually bothered to ‘tag’ who they are, what they represent into your personal library of connections, it means you’ve acknowledged their presence. If they really want you to follow back, they should be able to tweet that intent and let  you know.

Trust—an organic build
Being selective on social networks is not an attitude; it’s actually a practical way of building a trusted group of connections with whom you want to interact, converse and form communities.

Tagging new follows (listing them) is an ideal way to organize your follows and show appreciation for someone’s interest in your online presence.

New follows always get me psyched. But I do tend to expect a level of interaction from them, be it random or planned online conversations through @’s or DM’s.  That’s like me saying, “Okay, now earn my trust and confirm the value and credibility of our connection.”  How else am I to get to know you?

How do you approach building your social network? What values do you personally bring that strengthen both your personal and professional brand?

15 thoughts on “Twitter Lists: courtesy, classification, trust

  1. Autom, Thanks for the post. I agree that “listing” can be a sign of respect but unfortunately I am starting to see lists being used as another methiod of spam. Twitter has done a good job stepping up to other types of spam, let;s see what they can do with this too. If one of my true followers “lists” me, I always try to write a DM to thank them for this courtesy.

  2. Mark – it’s curious but I’ve not experienced this level of spam on lists before, apart from perhaps one random tweet by a non-follower that looked like they were mining 1 of my list types.. thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts A

  3. Thanks for this Autom. I must admit the list phenomenom has overwhelmed me and I have gone into denial on it. One level I find it curious how I am classified, though not always surprising. Sometimes I am very humbled, and at others shocked. I should have thought to DM my thanks. I have consciously chosen not to create them as that’s how I use Tweetdeck (albeit private lists) and I didn’t want to get into the complexity of how I use a list, may not be how others perceive it. I don’t hesitate to contact, engage, DM, endorse, refer others to the tweeps I really find valuable though. I’m just not a list gal. That said, what’s next on the to-do list? Oh yes, start DMing some thanks : )

  4. Jen – i must admit that i’m not automatically compelled to DM my thanks. i think it’s because i see someone listing me as part of a scientific’s just part of the information organizing process. although my suggestion on this post does offer up using lists as a means of showing interest to someone i’d want to potentially follow

    when Twitter lists were first issued, it was no big deal to me as I’ve always felt that grouping/classifying follows was just part and parcel of the social networking experience — whereas some bloggers (e.g., Scoble) served up such fanfare over Lists ‘revolutionizing’ how influential we are perceived..and i’m like really?? how do you figure that? next post will be on Google Wave (been postponing it for so long) but now have ample data/observations to share : )

  5. Autom, a great topic – thanks for advancing it. I have found lists to work well with our Twitter profile. I’ve observed instances where followers find value in adding us to lists of monitoring vendors, and others who find value in our tweets. Admittedly, I don’t find myself DM’ing as much, and you certainly raise enough compelling reasons to mix it up to build organic trust.


  6. thanks Joseph! i thought you would appreciate the reference to the notion of measuring now collecting my thoughts on #wave and may need you and Charlotte to help refresh my memory..thanks for stopping by! thumbs up : )

  7. Hi there, awesome blog, just want to ask you what spam program you have on your site for cleaning up comments since I get lots on my site.

  8. Great post! I think you’re totally right re: influence. There’s no way to measure if the number of lists you’re on correlates with your online influence. Yes, numbers tell a story — I would suggest that the more followers you have, the more lists you’ll appear on, and that relates (to an extent) to influence (pretty obvious). However, I think lists are more for the individual creating the list. There are few that I follow, even when I’m listed. I do try to thank people when they think of me though. I definitely appreciate when people list me. However, I use my lists to organize myself. I don’t do a great job; I have two and really only use one, but the one I use is really helpful for me. I was actually thinking earlier today that I should take the lame one I never think of off until I have time to flesh it out. But I do like the concept, and appreciate your thoughts on the subject. Thanks for sharing!

  9. @laurieanderson ok maybe not ‘the’ laurie anderson but a great example of spam-in-cheek

    @bryn great to tweet with you today too – thanks for stopping n…shopping and staring? (funny that)

  10. hah most of the observations people put up are a bit spacey, in many instances i think about whether they honestly read the articles or blog posts and items before placing a comment or if perhaps they simply look at the titles and write only the first thought that pops into their heads. in either case, it really is nice to read through smart commentary occasionally in contrast to the exact same, classic oppinion vomit that i more often than not see on the internet

  11. Possibly I am not helpful enough, or I just have no idea the best way to market myself personally but I truly cannot get hold of any kind of followers. I’ve tried following individuals to get a warm and friendly follow back, assists to some degree but it just appears everybody who does that wants the identical detail as me, someone to browse their day by day drivel.

  12. wow this entry is getting its fair share of spam – gotta love the faceshmook zynga comment and ramirez‘s ‘drivel’
    advice to bloggers: check your comment streams often for SPAM – there are some pretty clever ones out there and i am retaining a few as examples

  13. Autom, I joined Twitter after seeing a bumpersticker telling me it was a “Twitter thing” that I wouldn’t understand. Thanks for your blogs. They’ve helped.

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