Twitter users can now create lists that aggregate tweets from a selection of users, in effect creating a filter or stream of conversation about a select topic or theme. As an example, the PR Couture Twitter account is currently on 172 different lists, most regarding PR or social media, but some under more generic titles like "Random Awesome People" (thanks @alexisbrownPR!). Public lists can also be followed by others, and one key shift is that you do not have to follow all of the individual people included in a list in order to follow their updates, you just need to follow the list.
There are several opportunities for brands and media to utilize lists. Mashable reported that "The Times’ journalists also created lists on subject areas that include tweeps outside of their staff that tweet on specific subjects like Washington politics or Broadway shows. The Times even has a list for world news, which includes some of its competitors," and Tod Ziegler of the Bivings Report recently posted,"I would argue that getting added to a list is a bigger deal than simply getting someone to follow you."
This new functionality is also raising quite a few questions regarding the effective tracking of Twitter in terms of social media reporting for clients. For many in the social media space, one of the key metrics many agencies focus on is the number of Twitter followers. We proudly produce reports that show how our client's Twitter following is increasing month over month. In truth, this metric is as problematic as traditional media impressions. Similarly to calculating the value of editorial coverage in terms of circulation, having 1,000 followers on Twitter does not mean that there are 1,000 people waiting with baited breath to see, respond to, or engage with every tweet. With so many third party Twitter apps out there, we have no way of knowing if 999 of those people have followed us on Twitter, and then forgot to put us in their "must-read" segment on Tweet Deck, and have yet to see a single tweet. Though that example is a tad dramatic, it is partially for this reason that fashion marketers often augment reports with indicators of engagement - like @replies or retewets of content. Now, lists has now introduced yet another way for users to potentially opt-in to a feed, all without clicking that all-important "follow" button. Even worse, we have no way of tracking how often the person who created the list or the people following that list clicks on said Twitter list. Whatever shall we do!
First, we need to take a deep breath and wait to see how users are leveraging lists. However, I think we can safely say that lists provide even more reason to focus Twitter success metrics away from follower growth and more on evidence of engagement @replies, direct messages, retweets, clicks on shared links, user-generated content and direct sales. In addition, there are already too many generic lists out there. Think highly niche and begin building some valuable lists while the buzz is hot.
Here are a few more questions to consider:
- Is the goal of lists to grow followers? Of the person who created the list or the people contained therein?
- Is the list primarily a sorting tool for the individual who creates it, or are we creating lists in the hope that other people follow them?
- How can we strategically grow the number of lists our client appears in? Is this just a byproduct of having valuable content or brand name, or is Twitter list exchange the new link exchange?
- What is the value of being included in a list? Does that change based on who has added you?
- If someone, say an influential blogger, includes your client in their list, how do you nurture that relationship? Add them to your list?