Personal Small Business Enterprise

Twitter’s Most Powerful Feature for Business: Lists

Can you use Twitter to supercharge your company’s marketing capabilities? Absolutely.

We’ve already touched on dipping your toes into Twitter’s waters – please see our earlier blog entry, Getting Started with Twitter for Your Small Business, for more information. But once you’re off and running, there’s more to Twitter than meets the eye. Let’s take a closer look.

It seems simple. But there’s more…
At first glance, Twitter may seem like a relatively simple social media tool that lets you quickly share messages with your followers. While that is indeed true, its simplicity can be deceptive. Just below the surface, Twitter can be a powerful and effective means of scanning your business environment and connecting with your customers and suppliers.

One of the most powerful features Twitter offers is Twitter Lists, which allow you to easily zone in on who’s saying what, and more importantly, on what’s going on in your immediate competitive market. Here’s how Lists work:

What’s a Twitter List?
Twitter describes it as a curated list of Twitter users. You can create your own lists to make it easier to follow certain types of users – for example, all of your suppliers, all of your competitors, or all of your family and friends. Likewise, you can subscribe to anyone else’s list (so long as it’s not a private list).

Who sees them?
You can choose to make any list either private or public. If your list is public, other users can see it and subscribe to it. Private lists are just that: only you can see the list and its members. This lets you build a list of competitors, for example, without anyone knowing that you’re specifically following them. Because when you build a private list, you don’t publicly tip them off that you’re actually following them.

Can you send a tweet to a list?
No. Lists make it easier to read tweets from specific groups of users. You cannot direct tweets at all members of a list at once.

Why not just follow everyone?
If you simply follow everyone, your main Twitter stream may become difficult to manage, as it’ll be tough to pick out particular topics or people. Building a list lets you narrow down particular areas of interest, which streamlines your business market scanning activities. I’ve got individual and separate lists for prospects, clients, new research sources, and my friends and family. A quick read through each one first thing in the morning gives me all I need to know to plan my business day more effectively.

What are some creative uses of lists?
Twitter lists can be built to both simplify and accelerate all sorts of day-to-day communications scenarios. For example, you could build a list of attendees for your next conference or on-site business meeting to ensure you’re up to speed on what the attendees are talking about. Lists make it easier to keep the conversation going long after everyone’s gone home. Similarly, a list of clients can make it easy to more quickly jump on – and respond to – requests. A well-planned list strategy gives you real-time, dashboard-like vision into who’s saying what, and what you should be doing about it. Without lists, individual tweets can be more easily lost in your main feed.

How can my business benefit?
By investing a bit of time to create public lists, you can easily build awareness for your staff as well as your clients and other stakeholders. You can raise your profile within these groups and give them even more reason and opportunity to connect with you by establishing your company as a de facto curator of great Twitter talent. Similarly, maintaining and using private lists can significantly enhance your ability to spot – and respond to – market trends earlier.

Any limitations to keep in mind
For now, Twitter allows individual users to create up to 20 lists, and each list can have a maximum of 500 users. As Twitter continues to update its services, expect these limitations to be raised or even removed over time.

The bottom line
Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool for companies that take the time to learn its intricacies. Twitter lists, in particular, can provide an effective ear-to-the-ground means of learning what’s going on within your competitive space, often before your competitors do. It’s all part of an agile social media presence, and it’s easier to set up than you might think.

What Twitter lists are you making? Let us know via the comments section below.

By Carmi Levy
The Bell Blog team

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