twitter keep calm make a listWe get it – Twitter can be overwhelming and the sheer volume of information scares away most rookie users. But what if there was a way to channel all that information into a manageable and structured format, so you could actually see what matters to you in your limited, valuable time?

One of my favorite analogies is that Twitter is just like your big screen TV at home. Imagine you come home from work, turn on the TV and it scrolls through the channels by changing to a new channel every second – like a slot machine gone wild, that never stops on anything! You would probably tear out your hair and shut the thing off, right? Information overload!

Your Twitter timeline can be similarly overwhelming. As all the messages from all the people you follow scroll by constantly all day in your main Twitter feed, how could you ever focus on anything? You can’t, and this is where people often abandon their efforts to understand and use Twitter.

So, back to your TV, what if you only want to watch ESPN? Or Food Network? Or Sesame Street? The TV gods and cable providers have made that easy by providing a large variety of channels dedicated to various interests – differentiation makes choosing manageable. Translating that to your Twitter timeline, you can create your own lists (channels!), categorizing people you are following into smaller groups, like vendors, clients, media, friends, sports, etc.

Once you’ve created your own custom lists, you can skip the overwhelming “all tweets” timeline and jump right to a list of only your customers, or competitors, or whatever category you select so you can get the news you need right at that moment. It also helps you focus, allowing you to concentrate on info you need right then.

This is the one task that could actually save you from abandoning Twitter. Are you game to take it on?


twitter lists

Where to find your lists

To create your first list, go to your Twitter profile page (i.e. and click on “Lists.” Then select “Create list”on right side of screen. Enter a name for the list, and select if you want the list to be public and seen by anyone (e.g., local restaurants, food media, food vendors) or if you want the list to be private and only viewable by you (competitors or other research purpose). Click “Save list” and you now have a list.

twitter add to list

How to add people to your lists

twitter more add to list

Adding people to your lists from “following” page

To add people to your list, follow the instructions on that screen (on right). I find it easier to go to my “following” page, and add people to lists that way. Once you are on your “following” page (bottom right image) click the small gear icon next to the blue following button, and add the person to the appropriate list.
I find it’s much easier to add people to lists as I follow them, so I can access them easily later.

To view your Twitter lists, go back to your Twitter profile page (i.e. Click on “lists” just below your cover photo. As you scroll through your lists daily, what should you be looking for?

Sample twitter list view

Sample twitter list view

You’re looking for info that might be of interest to your followers or you could compliment someone, or you could ask and/or answer questions. You get the idea. What could you share that your followers might have missed or would make them grateful to you for sharing? This adds value to your relationship, and keeps you top of mind with them.

If you see something interesting or newsworthy as you scroll the lists, you can retweet it or reply, showing your support. That’s why people are on social media: they want input and love feedback.

The bottom line is that if the massive “all tweets” feed is overwhelming you to the point of quitting Twitter, try creating some lists to organize those you follow into tidy little channels. It will make it much less stressful to find information and save you quite a bit of time – especially if you are prone to going down the rabbit hole to chase random thoughts on Twitter!


You can make life easier by subscribing to lists that others have already created (must be public lists). For example, I have a list of 500+ restaurants and chefs in Seattle and you could simply choose to “subscribe” to that list, rather than creating your own, saving yourself tons of time. Once you subscribe to my list, it will appear on your lists, so it’s easy to access later.

To find lists you’d want to follow, think about who might be an “expert” in an area you care about — look at Washington Wine Commission for a list of Washington wineries, for instance — and see if they have a public list you can simply subscribe to.

Once you are subscribed to others’ lists, they’ll show up in the same area with all the lists you’ve created. The one downside to following a list created by another person is if they remove that list, you lose the list too. So in your free time (ha ha) you might want to create your own list, so you can curate that yourself.

SO, I’d love to know how – and if! – you are using Twitter lists. Please leave a comment below and feel free to ask any questions I didn’t answer in this post. Thanks and happy list-making!