I joined Twitter back in 2013 (sorry, late adopter). After I’d followed about 100 people, my feed became unmanageable. I’d start checking my Twitter feed in the morning, and by the time I arrived at where I’d stopped the day before, it was time to make lunch. Then, I discovered Twitter’s list function, and my Twitter usage became more efficient.
If all you get from this blog post is how to tame your Twitter feed with lists, then I’ll have contributed something magical to your life. You’re welcome. 🙂 My goal, however, is to show you how to use your Twitter lists as breeding grounds for blog topics and ideas. Part One of this post is a step-by-step demo of how to make a Twitter list. Part Two discusses how to use Twitter lists to generate ideas for your blog.
Part One: How to Make Twitter Lists
If you’re like me, you follow a wide range of people on Twitter. You follow your friends, favorite celebrities, news publications, bloggers, businesses - a whole smorgasbord of interesting accounts. Take the accounts that you follow, and divide them into groups. These groups will become your Twitter lists.
Categorize Your People
Let me show you an example of some lists I’ve created:
My lists have to do with common interests that I have with others (Writers), things I want to learn (Marketing Info), or subjects about which I write for my clients (Business Thinkers and Techy). I’ve also created a list for Friends that I can scroll through daily so that I’m keeping up with the people who matter most.
To structure your lists, write down one person you’ve followed on a piece of paper. Ask yourself why you followed that person; the answer to your question becomes a category. For example, if you followed Sports Illustrated because you want the latest sports news, create a category called Sports News. For every individual that you follow, create categories or place them into existing categories. These categories naturally become your Twitter lists.
Make Your First List
Login to your Twitter account, which will take you to your home page. In the top right corner, click on your profile picture, and choose "Lists" from the drop-down menu.
On the right, you’ll see a section with the header “Create a List.” Click "Create new list" and fill in the Title field with one of your categories. If you’d like, fill in a short description to remind yourself why you made the list. Then, pick whether you’d like your list to be public or private.
If you create a public list, Twitter users will receive notification when they’re added to your list. Also, other Twitter users can subscribe to your public lists and follow the same people that you do. For a private list, the only one who knows who’s on the list is you. Private lists are good when you’re using Twitter for personal reasons, like keeping up with friends and family, and when you’re monitoring a potential client or an influencer for outreach.
After you choose whether you want a public or private list, click "Save list." Continue making lists until you’ve exhausted the categories you wrote down on paper.
Add People to Your Lists
At the top of the lists page, you’ll see a tab that shows the number of tweets you’ve sent, the number of people you follow, and the number of people who follow you. Click the "Following" tab to see the list of those you follow. Then, for the people you’d like to add to lists, click the gear symbol on their profile square. Then, choose "Add or remove from lists."
Your lists will appear in a pop-up window. Check the name of the list to which you’d like to add this person, and then close the pop-up.
The first time you go through your Following list, set aside a good chunk of time. After this first sweep, you can either add people to lists as you follow them or check the Following list weekly and slot new people into categories. Twitter puts new accounts you’ve followed at the top of your Following list, which makes it easy to scan through them and categorize new people every few days.
Use Lists to Focus Your Twitter Time
I don’t review my Business Thinkers list unless I’m trying to generate topic ideas for a client. I might also glance at it a couple of times each week to see if I’d like to share any of the content with my followers. Alternatively, I do monitor my Friends and Marketing Info lists daily. By sorting my Twitter feed into lists, I make better use of my time.
Part Two: Using Twitter Lists to Generate Blog Topic Ideas
The content that others share on Twitter can spark many blog topics and ideas. For example, if someone shares a link containing news that’s relevant to your industry, such as a change in a law, you can develop a blog post about the news and share it with your readers. Other ways that Twitter lists spark topic ideas for me include:
- Deeper exploration. When someone interesting shares a 300-word blog post about a topic, and it’s a topic that I can explore in greater depth, I might jot down the idea and then create my own 1,500-word post later.
- Differences of opinion. Sometimes, I read an article and disagree with it. I then create a blog post - perhaps a rant - in which I explain why I disagree.
- Resource lists. If I’m developing a blog post that provides lists of resources related to blogging, writing, or marketing, I’ll save links to reviews shared in my Twitter Lists to decide what to include in my resource list.
- New angle. Someone on my Twitter list might see a topic from one perspective. If I can add an experience-based insight or new angle, I might brainstorm an outline for a blog post.
- How to do something. If someone tweets about a topic with the assumption that everyone understands it, but I think it needs to be drilled back to the basics, I’ll write a “how to” post related to the topic - like the one you're currently reading.
The key to curating blog topics and ideas is to not spend too much time judging ideas. Instead, think triage. If something from a Twitter list sparks your interest, grab the idea and send it somewhere so that you can think deeply about it later. When a tweet does nothing for you, keep scrolling. I don’t read linked articles when I’m scanning through my Twitter Lists. If I did, then I’d languish on Twitter until lunchtime.
My primary “read it later” tool is Pocket. I read through Pocket links when I’m sitting and waiting for my kids somewhere or when I have a clear block of time and a cup of coffee. I also like Flipboard for perusing Twitter List content. When you link your Twitter account to Flipboard, it pulls content from your lists and transforms it into a magazine-like feed. It’s a visually pleasing way to search for topic ideas. Both apps cost nothing, and I highly recommend them.
Once I read through links I’d like to transform into topics, the topics either go to my editorial calendar or to Evernote. If the idea has a lot of steam and I can quickly envision an outline, it heads for the calendar. Ideas that need time to percolate go to Evernote, where they simmer in both my notebooks and my subconscious mind. Bottom line: When I’m ready to write a post, I’m not scrambling for topic ideas. I have a list ready and waiting.
Two final thoughts about developing blogging topics from your Twitter lists:
- It’s okay to kick people out of your Twitter lists if they overwhelm you with repeats of the same old content or if they don’t really provide anything of value. In fact, you'll prune your lists regularly if you value your time.
- Getting blog post inspiration from other people's shares is fine. Copying their content - or rewording their ideas with out crediting them - is never okay.
Stop trying to steamroll through your home Twitter feed. You’ll end up with a headache and a waste of a morning. Using Twitter lists provides a way to simultaneously curate shareable content and come up with blog topics and ideas.
How to you get blog topics from Twitter? What other ingenious uses do you have for Twitter lists? Share your comments, and follow me on Twitter @jleewriter.