I have been a big opponent of the vanity twitter use (aka harvesting followers, hoping that “followers” equals “audience”).

In practice, this meant that from a point on,  I completely stopped looking who is following me, did not reciprocate at the cost of being perceived as arrogant and kept my follower/following ratio to 4.

Still not content, I unfollowed quite a number of twitterers (some of them pretty big names)  on the grounds that they were either producing too much noise, or were talking about things I found irrelevant to me.

For over two years now, I keep experimenting with twitter:

  • In the beginning, it was conversations. But as people kept flocking around twitter, conversing became hard, if not impossible.
  • Then it was news tracking which, although useful, it was far from complete. Yes, the news came to me, but not the news I was always interested. And with it came a lot of repetition and nonsense.
  • Then, based on retweets, it was content discovery and evaluation.
  • Occassionaly, it was polls, mini-crowdsourcing, asking questions etc
  • Grouping people allowed to create filters: filters for news, for content, for community info.
  • Finally, there came mindcasting. The most interesting use of twitter. The one I subscribe.

The grouping feature offered by many twitter clients, has, for a long time, being the single organizing factor that brought some order into chaos.

But, lately, we have another one, far too important: Lists!

Although lists look pretty much as the  groups of twitter clients, they are not the same: groups are for  the people we follow or those that follow us, while lists are for everyone! This difference is a game changer.

Already people use how often they are listed as a measure of importance, influence or popularity.

But lists have another function: they are metadata. The criteria we use to classify twitterers in lists, describe what they are or how we view them.

Also, lists, unlike groups, can be public, can be viewed and subscribed by others. And as such, they bring focus and attention from another angle.

“Ok”, you might say. “Lists bring new features. So what?”

Lists can bring back the sanity in twitter. They can undermine the follower fallacy, they can bring value to ordinary users as well as to businesses and marketers.

How?

By allowing us to make a fundamental distinction: following is an action of trust and, to some extend, intimacy. Subscribing to a list is  willingness to be informed.

So if you are on twitter to spread your message (be it news or offers or corporate messages) seek to be listed, not followed. Your very intention implies that you most likely want to use twitter for broadcasting and not for creating relationships. That is fine. You won’t have to pretend you are a ‘friend’ from now on. You aren’t. You never were. But  now message spreading can be done without undermining the everyday experience of ordinary users.

—– end of part I —–

My lists…

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