Twitter’s new Lists functionality rolled out last week to a certain amount of fanfare in the blogosphere, and in media circles. It’s designed to help users track groups of people, topics or trends without further clogging up one’s main feed. Some might see this as a virtual school lunchroom, where the cool kids get even better tables and nerds become literally listless. Social media consultant and immensely popular blogger Chris Brogan is concerned about the exclusionary aspects of stuffing people into little boxes. He has a point that drier things like travel, airline and workaday newsfeeds work well in Lists when you need a quick look at a niche universe.
Adding to Brogan’s take, Twitter in my opinion was a messy but fun replacement for RSS for some users. Now Twitter Lists can replace them altogether if one chooses. For example, with a few clicks you can create a List of news sources covering China, or a List to track the best deals on electronics with nary a complaint from the personally branded.
Poynter believes Lists could change the way Twitter is used altogether, by adding new elements of customization, discovery and curation (the buzzword for the fall), making Lists “something for every journalist, editor and news organization to keep a keen eye on.”
What about for the public relations business?
Our quick take is that Lists will create a new layer of lobbying for clients and PR people themselves as they ask to be included on the more prominent ones. Clever PR people will also use the function to track their clients and competitors, and to keep an eye on issues bubbling up that may require a response. More paranoid users and aspiring astroturfers now only need one account as you also have the option to create closed lists.
More after the jump:
Initially I felt that excessive segmenting and microtargeting would take all the fun and thrill of discovery out of Twitter. It is key to remember however, you can follow feeds on your Lists without following their feeds directly. A person with a head for curation can actually get a lot more out of Twitter by cleaning up the static.
I checked with mediabistro.com’s own Community Manager and guru of curation Seamus Condron who runs the nearly 50,000 follower feed for the company. He mostly agreed and honed my meme tracking idea:
Those are good points, although the lobbying thing scares me. My advice is be as niche as you can. Especially with PR, there are going to be tons of these lists. I wouldn’t think in terms of trying to create a meme, but be creative. Think of interesting angles. Create lists that are timely (one around a PR crisis) and ones that are more evergreen (a “power 50″).
Condron agrees with Poynter that once everyone starts using lists, the whole Twitter landscape will change dramatically.
Mashable has the most complete guide to using Lists, of course.
MuckRack already has a guide to finding interesting Lists. It’s called Listorious.