3 Essential Twitter Lists for Any Entrepreneur

Twitter has been one of the chief catalysts of my business success. While I’ve wasted plenty of hours on the platform, I’ve also used it to infiltrate the “cool kid” crowd, perform market research, and stay ahead of trends in my industry & beyond.

Twitter has been one of the chief ways I’ve built an engaged audience that is eager for each piece I write.

But you won’t create those kind of results if all you ever do is stare at your main Twitter stream.

Over the years, I’ve developed 3 key categories of Twitter lists that every entrepreneur or aspiring blogger using Twitter needs to have if they prefer making progress to wasting time.

These three lists are based on common business needs & strategies and can be applied across any industry. Bringing your attention to these three strategies on a platform like Twitter, means that you’ll also have more focus when engaging any social media platform, on your blog, or an in-person networking event.

1) The List You’d Like to Be On

We all have role models that we look up to. We all have people online, in related businesses, we’d like to get to know more personally. We all have more than a few people we’d like to shake hands with some day as colleagues & friends.

If the only people you associate with online are at a similar “success level” to you, you’re missing out on the chance to up your game. It’s nearly impossible to get ahead when you’re lacking real information about what “ahead” looks like.

Burst out of your social bubble by surrounding your digital self with people who challenge you, even from afar.

Create a Twitter list that’s full of your entrepreneurial role models, mentors, and just kick butt people doing interesting things. The goal is for this list to be the kind of Twitter list others would put you on as you progress towards your goals.

2) The List You’d Like to Serve

It’s no secret you need to have a clear perspective on who your ideal market is. One of the ways I tell my clients how to get a deeper, more nuanced view of who these people really are is to create a Twitter list full of them.

You need to know so much more about who your prospective readers are than their age, gender, and profession. Understanding what’s important to them, how they spend their money, what they do for fun, and what kind of media they enjoy can tell you exactly what you need to know to irresistibly position your next offer.

These are all things they’re tweeting about. Creating a Twitter list of potential customers you have your eye on will put that information all at your finger tips.

You can answer their questions, engage them in conversation, find inspiration for blog posts, and discover needs you didn’t know they had.

Whether these particular people end up as clients or customers is immaterial, what’s important is that you’ve got a newfound understanding of who will buy from you. You might even get a few new brand evangelists!

3) The List of People Who Keep You Thinking

Many business owners spend most of their time learning about business: how to get more customers, more attention, more dollars. But it’s also incredibly important to stay on the informational edge of your industry. There are people who are thinking about & reporting on your little corner of the world of commerce everyday.

How can you know about future trends? How will you find out about technological advances? How can you discover new opportunities? Ask these people.

Keep a Twitter list of people who have the answers to just these kinds of questions. What they share will keep you ahead of the curve when it comes to serving your audience. You’ll also notice other benefits like becoming a super source for journalists writing about your industry.

Will people know they’re on my lists?

That’s completely up to you. I’ve experimented with both private & public lists. I use a mix. But if you’re going to call one of your list “People I’d like to sell to,” I’d suggest keeping it private.

How do you keep track of these lists?

My Twitter client of choice is HootSuite, both for desktop & mobile. I set up my dashboard so that my mentions are on the left column and my three lists are to the right of that, followed by other columns like DMs and certain searches. Rarely if ever do I investigate Twitter beyond those lists.

How do you use these lists?

First, don’t be intimidated by the people you’ve put on these lists. The beauty of Twitter is that it is so egalitarian! People of all different shades can & will talk to you, and vice versa. So talk. Answer questions, relate your own experiences, retweet, offer opinions. Once you’re on the radar of the people you admire & the people you seek to serve, it’s easy to create opportunities to go deeper, work together, or just mutually support each other.

You won’t spam your new list members if you keep your eye on always adding to the conversation and never extracting. Plus, you don’t need to spam. When you’re using this strategy, your entrepreneurial heroes, your rock star role models, and bestselling authors will take note of you & what you’re doing. Give it time. Be patient.

As you get to know the people on your lists better, you’ll notice that they talk to people you don’t already know. Investigate those @mentions and discover who these people are. Chances are good that they are people you should get to know, as well, and they just might need to be on one of your new lists.

No, Twitter won’t make you much money directly. And it won’t boost your blog traffic overnight. That’s not its purpose, nor should it be your purpose in using it. But leveraging Twitter to truly network with your role models, prospective customers, and industry thinkers will help you to up your street cred, build an engaged audience for your work, and keep you on the cutting edge of your field.

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  • http://careergreenlight.com Hashim Warren

    Thanks for this! I’m going to organize my lists this way.

  • http://tresnicmedia.com Todd

    Nice Lists, Tara! I actually put a post like this together a few weeks ago on Business2Community with 6 essential lists for every businesses and have a few other categories for clients to monitor – http://bit.ly/PrdNIR

  • http://www.chadmillerblog.com Chad Miller

    I love this. Clean and simple. I keep only 2 folders in my inbox for the same reason.
    I’ve been toying with the idea of creating lists as my Twitter platform grows. This list is the perfect outline.

    • http://taragentile.com Tara Gentile

      I agree: clean & simple always wins! Glad it resonated with you, Chad.

  • http://www.omgisthatreallyme.com Clare J Fitzgerald

    Hey Tara

    Twitter is the social media channel I personally find the most tricky to deal with because I find it challenging to truly connect to people in so few characters.

    The way you have conceptualised how it can be used is really helpful to me.

    All three of your lists are areas I have in my business plans already – those I am dedicated to serving, those I admire and those who’s work makes me think.

    Putting each group together as a list for twitter is a natural extension of that.

    Thanks for the tip – its appreciated.

    • http://taragentile.com Tara Gentile

      Clare, love that you’ve pointed out that these are areas that should be in any business plan. I think we too often try to concoct social media strategies that have little to do with the way business is really done. Social media is just an online representation of what we’ve been doing for years!

  • http://themodernentrepreneur.com Daniel McClure

    This article is gold. Twitter was great at first but eventually the more people I followed, the more chaotic it became. I recently spent a day creating power lists of people that I want to directly connect with and a list of people that provide amazing content regardless. It’s made my Twitter stream useful and digestible again!

    • http://taragentile.com Tara Gentile

      Daniel, yes! I originally came up with this strategy while I was trying to make Twitter less chaotic. I bet you’ll see even more direct results from your list building soon.

  • http://whatdoyouwantmost.com Jackie Lee

    I’ve long used twitter lists… and my list of lists keeps getting longer and longer. This strategy is insightful and oh so very helpful!! I keep trying to separate people by “topic” and then so many overlap… this is just what I needed this morning. :) Thanks.

  • http://lifestoogood.net Alan | Life’s Too Good

    Hi tara,

    I really like this for a number of reasons… first, 3 lists is very accessible – 3 is a good number for a lot of reasons.

    secondly, it’s easy to get lost in Twitter. for a long time I followed back everyone that followed me because I saw it as a common courtesy. Then I realised that people look at these numbers and assume it’s the other way around (i.e. lots of people follow to get followed so when numbers are similar between Followers and Following it gives the impression that it’s just a numbers game rather than genuine connections – so I stopped auto-following back, because adding that to those I wanted to follow who didn’t want to follow me back, my ‘Following’ number was always the higher of the two, which I guess doesn’t look great).

    Apart from that, even with the people you genuinely do want to follow (for me it’s lots as I love connecting with people especially if I’ve read from them or connected with them elsewhere) it’s easy to get lost in Twitter (for me at least) so having a way to structure your lists is definitely good.

    Until now I had lists for ‘Engagers’ – people I’ve engaged with, ‘Close Connections’ and something like your first list which I think I called ‘Watchlist’ or something (not on Twitter at the moment to check).

    So I enjoyed your post and it’s served as a useful reminder that my next move in Twitter should be to use my lists more effectively, and possibly create something like the 3 you suggest,

    take care & best wishes,
    Alan

  • http://www.talktherapybiz.com Linda Esposito

    Oh, I’ve wasted many hours on the platform, as it were ;).

    I especially like #2. It makes sense to listen in a more methodical fashion, and to learn about what’s keeping people up at night. I agree with Chad–this is a clean and simple list. And maybe it’ll keep me from posting silly youtube vids of baby animals, in favor of real networking.

    Thank you Tara and Corbett.

    • http://taragentile.com Tara Gentile

      Hi Linda! Yes, having my Twitter lists has definitely kept my use much more focused and I watch far fewer silly YouTube videos!

  • http://kimberlydhouston.com/ Kimberly Houston

    As a total Twitter junkie, I love this actionable article with its top-notch implementable strategies, thanks for sharing the knowledge!

    I’ve been upping my Twitter interaction/engagement very strategically over the last couple of months and I can see the difference it’s making. For example, the first two years I was on Twitter, I didn’t do very much, or do the little I did do very strategically; it was all kind of haphazard with no goal or plan. But a couple of months ago I decided to get way more serious about Twitter, b/c it sends more traffic (and with a much lower bounce rate) to my site than any other social media platform I’m active on.

    Lists are next for me, so this blog post comes at a very good time. : ) I love all 3 of the list ideas here, but especially #2, The List You’d Like to Serve. I’m always going on to clients and friends about how great Twitter is for getting deep business intel and building mutually beneficial relationships, so creating a list of folks you can serve by answering questions and engaging these folks in conversation is the next logical step.

    Thanks Tara and Corbett for a wonderful article.

  • http://www.mobileapptycoon.com Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon

    Great idea about having 3 different lists! Right now I only have 1 Twitter list which would fall into the category of “list I would like to be on”. But I definitely see the value in the other two lists and am going to put those together for myself!

    Thomas

    • http://taragentile.com Tara Gentile

      Great, Thomas! Let me know how your list building goes.

  • http://www.bestpsdfreebies.com Mike Yasieniuk

    Twitter lists are a great way to save time and stay focused on twitter. Great way to explain this. As you’ve mentioned, it is super easy to waste a lot of time on twitter. When somoeone reads through all tweets when trying to accomplish one goal it is easy to get distracted and lose focus. Using lists you can reduce your feed to posts more relevant to one topic.

  • http://www.gwarlingo.com Michelle Aldredge

    How fabulous to see Tara Gentile guest posting on Think Traffic. Thanks Corbett! As usual, Tara, you’ve provided information that is actually USEFUL, not just inspirational. I had no idea Twitter lists were possible, nor was I aware of Hootsuite. I signed up first thing this morning, and am already finding it an effective tool to manage the various social media accounts I use for my arts and culture website Gwarlingo. I’m glad someone is paying attention to the nitty-gritty practicalities of running a small, creative business. Thanks for the post!

  • http://www.joepirolihq.com Joe Piroli

    Having Lists is the right way to go but I must admit I have never really got my head around Twitter, I don’t know why. I wish I could learn to love Twitter and then Twitter could learn to love me!

  • http://printly.net Kamil Jarmoszka

    I’ve just tried HootSuite and I already love it! Now it’s time to create some lists. Thanks for advise!

  • Lindsay

    Thanks for the great article and tips. Will definitely be setting up these lists to help me stay focused and not waste so much time.

  • http://perfectearningtips.com IGBALAYE OLAYEMI

    Twitter one of the surefire way to drive traffic to your site if you really put effort. make sure you are connect with influencer people on the twitter so as to learn more and make use of their follower. thanks for sharing

  • http://www.exceldesignhq.de Phil

    Great post. I was well aware of Hootsuite for some time but didn’t think of it that way. Thanks, Tara.

    One question though (to you and all of Corbett’s visitors): I’m currently in the prelaunch phase of a new blog (Corbett’s How to start a blog that matters program) and I have some difficulties, finding people on Twitter in my niche.

    Unfortunately my niche (Excel) as a word has two meanings (to excel; MS Excel) and in addition I am planning to launch to my local market (Germany) – any idea of good Twitter directories where I e. g. have the possibility to search for category and region (like Computer & Germany)?

    Thanks in advance and always a pleasure to read this blog and its great content.

  • http://www.matthewinsardi.com Matthew Insardi

    Tara I think you may have turned me back on to twitter… I feel like twitter is a lot of noise and moves so fast that your tweets get lost in the masses.. Most of my social traffic comes from FB and Google and Stumble…

    But I never really engaged much.. I only shared whats working for me and never got deep into my followers conversations.

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  • http://saraholeary.net Sarah | Holistic Hot Sauce

    This is timely for me because just recently I finally got to sorting out my mess of twitter follows, unfollowed a bunch of folks and sorted the rest out into lists. but there’s still too many lists! I like this idea of narrowing it down to 3 (plus finally get a handle on Hootsuite).

    My question is this: how do you find that ‘potential client’ list. Where do you look on Twitter to discover those folks? Do you just follow folks on comment on our blog and then see who they follow and are followed by? What if you’re still starting out and don’t have a lot of client comments yet?

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  • http://www.plixeo.com/about Jeremy Brown

    Hey Tara, you mentioned something that I believe is underrated when it comes to using Twitter lists.

    Adding potential customers to a list and keeping tabs on what they’re talking about.

    That’s such an awesome way using lists.

    Personally I use tools like Followerwonk to find people that I believe best represents my audience (usually based on keywords and phrases in their bios). From there I checkout what they tweet and how engaged they are on the platform. If they’re plugged in, they get added to a private list so that I can follow what they’re saying.

    It’s just way easier to manage things with lists.

    Why stare at a stream of tweets that more than likely will be random based off of who you follow (mix of celebrities, athletes, gamers, etc).

    My home stream for example is definitely one of those random ones. I tend to follow people I share things in common with. Even if it has nothing to do with business or blogging.

    Bottom line…

    It’s just an easier way to keep your finger on the pulse of your target audience.

    Great insights Tara!

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