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The Emerging Twitter List Arms Race

I use Twitter a lot, but I was not among the very first to see the new Lists feature. I can now, though. And what I find much more interesting than actually using the feature myself is the fact that I woke up this morning to find that I was on dozens of other people’s lists. (In fact, while I was writing this, I turned up on four more!)

Even though the irony is that Twitter introduced lists about a year after I stopped wanting such a feature, I do think there is some value in having other people put me on their lists. Braggadocio. Oh yes, braggadocio. I’m talking about the incredible hubris that comes from knowing I’m on Ezra Butler’s list of people he’d take a rubber bullet for, the chutzpah of telling everyone that luminary Tim O’Reilly’s list of Government 2.0 people includes me among its few members, and the extra swagger in my step that comes from the radiant energy of being on professor Jay Rosen’s list of the best mindcasters he knows. I always knew I was awesome, but now I can prove it.

I’m joking a bit, of course. But when getting retweeted has been boiled down to a science (“Adding ‘please’ increases retweets by 12.3%!”), every maven is in search of a social media metric that shows who has “authority.” Being on someone’s Twitter list is a difficult thing to game because it’s about organic usefulness to a community. I recently read Gary Vaynerchuk’s inspiring book Crush It, and to me, Twitter lists have the potential to be a metric that measures how generous you are to the communities you’re a member of.

So forget about counting your number of followers, or how many retweets you get, or the many “Follow Friday” mentions you land – Those metrics have been blown out for a long time now. The new high fidelity for my vanity is the Twitter list.

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  • http://www.packingserviceinc.com kim cluadio

    I love the new feature I actually just made a twitter account yesterday and its worth it. Good for your business and for any other things you would want people to catch up on. If they are following you cool and congrats to twitter.

  • http://twitter.com/chrisfizik ChrisFizik

    yeah, could see this coming from a mile away…

    but what do you mean it’s going to be difficult to game — what’s to stop every SEO idiot and social media jerk from creating massive lists of ppl..just so it shows that so and so is on 200 lists.

    It will suffer the same problems as Follower counts and RTs. See the post Scobelizer wrote on it last week I think

    http://scobleizer.posterous.com/twitter-lists-limitations-bugs-impact-and-bri

  • http://suda.co.uk brian Suda

    If lists were an attempt to balance the signal to noise ratio it is a pretty formulaic response. Facebook did it a few years with GROUPS, now twitter does it with LISTS. Rather than address the problem of following hundreds of people you can’t possibly read, the only solution they come-up with is, put them in a list and ignore them. The social pressure of unfollowing them is too great to deal with. Another solution is to move to a competing service and start your list fresh!

    I do like the way you can name a list, you can see how people are effectively tagging you and how they think about your stream, but for a management tool, it’s greatly over-rated.

    There are some very smart folks working at twitter, I would have preferred any number of other solutions that don’t focus on the pissing match of how many LISTS and I on, and ones that focused on the problem of too many tweets. A 30 minute MUTE button, filtering by keyword or hashtags. Or some sort of throttling of people who post every 10 minutes. (Or even a MORE button that let me see NOT just the next 20, but to the last tweet i saw.)

    Lists might hold back the tide of noise for awhile, but it isn’t a long term solution. In a few months we’ll be back to were we started still searching for a real solution of how to deal with the pressure and sizes of our connections.

  • http://markdrapeau.com Mark Drapeau

    Chris: It’s very hard to game getting on (say) Robert Scoble’s or Tim O’Reilly’s lists of “the most amazing people know” – So, some lists will be very coveted and nearly impossible to game. This is of course related to trust, authenticity, etc. of people like Scoble and O’Reilly. Mark

  • http://empoprise-bi.blogspot.com/ John E. Bredehoft

    While there certainly is the flattery component in lists, Mark Trapp has pointed out two potentially serious issues.

    First, there’s the possibility that someone could put you on a defamatory list (such as a “douche bag” list), and because you have no control over how you are placed on a list, there is nothing that you can do about it. It would be nice if Twitter gave you the power to “mini-block” your inclusion in a list.

    Second, even being put on a “good” list has its own issues. Let’s say that I’m a spammer who wants to target Government 2.0 people with a way to make money fast by becoming a social media expert. All I need to do is access Tim O’Reilly’s targeted list and I have it made. Perhaps, however, this is just the price of being online.

  • http://empoprise-bi.blogspot.com/ John E. Bredehoft

    While there certainly is the flattery component in lists, Mark Trapp has pointed out two potentially serious issues.

    First, there’s the possibility that someone could put you on a defamatory list (such as a “douche bag” list), and because you have no control over how you are placed on a list, there is nothing that you can do about it. It would be nice if Twitter gave you the power to “mini-block” your inclusion in a list.

    Second, even being put on a “good” list has its own issues. Let’s say that I’m a spammer who wants to target Government 2.0 people with a way to make money fast by becoming a social media expert. All I need to do is access Tim O’Reilly’s targeted list and I have it made. Perhaps, however, this is just the price of being online.

  • http://markdrapeau.com Mark Drapeau

    John: I completely agree. I pointed out elsewhere that Twitter seems like a net-plus for Twitter, and for marketers, but it’s not clear if it’s a net-plus for users. You point out some of the reasoning behind that. Thanks! Mark

  • bowerbird

    i was gonna make fun of your shallow need for approval.

    but hey, if this makes you feel good, then good for you… :+)

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.twitter.com/ice_mouton Francois Wilhelmy

    @Brian : Most desktop clients have an option to see up to whichever last tweet you read. However I hardly see how that makes it less time consuming to go through hundred if not thousands of tweets.

  • http://www.hourcalculator.com Ajeet

    “Adding ‘please’ increases retweets by 12.3%!”

    Just when I thought that Twitter was the most overhyped social “phenomenon,” this only increases my incredulity (if that is a word :)

  • Jerry

    Twitter lists keeps adding new lists every time I log in. Twitter support does not respond. Getting tired of deleting lists I did not create. This feature sucks and needs to be stopped! :(