Lists Will Kill the Unfollow Star

video killed the radio starAll the rage of the blogosphere the last few days has been the launch of Twitter “Lists” to the 5,000 or so “lucky” accounts, enabling users to organize and sort their friends, as well as subscribe to large lists of friends, one list at a time.  While not yet available to the masses, lists will revolutionize the way we receive content and the way we organize our communication on Twitter.  As Scoble puts it, this is the best thing Twitter has launched in a long, long time.  I propose we’ll see a new culture from all this – the death of the “unfollow”.

So many people have complained that building “numbers” is an ineffective means of using the Twitter service.  We even talked about it in a panel I was on yesterday at BlogWorld Expo.  I think the net result of the panel was that the end result of using Twitter should be about building relationships, converting followers, and encouraging clicks.  If numbers help that, then good.  They usually are far from the only factor that goes into that end goal though.  Because of the focus on relationships, many people and brands (I can confirm this as the Founder and CEO of SocialToo.com) auto-follow.  This does one of 2 things – it “initiates” a relationship between individuals, highlighting what could become a potential real-life relationship in the future, and finally it enables users to DM you since you have to be following an individual to send them a direct message on Twitter.  For any reason, users usually auto-follow for at least the DM capability.

Now that Twitter is launching lists, I predict a new layer will be added to all this.  I predict the stigma of “auto-follow” being a bad thing will go away.  People will soon be able to “not follow” as many people as they want while still not offending them because they will technically be able to auto-follow them, but keep them in a list they do not check as often.  Now, with lists, you can create lists of potential relationships, and then organize other lists of people based on various categories of how you like to follow.  There will soon be no reason to “not follow” anyone any more (unless they are truly a spammer, which SocialToo will help you identify) because if someone is not interesting you can just add them to another list.  Now they can still DM you and you don’t necessarily have to pay attention to their tweets mixed in with all the tweets you want to pay more attention to.  The entire landscape of Twitter is about to change.

With Twitter’s introduction of lists I predict an entirely new Twitter.  I predict an environment where you don’t have to unfollow anyone.  I predict an environment where everyone can be a potential relationship, and we’re finally able to listen to the conversation in ways we were never able to accomplish before.  Our relationships have officially been organized.  I don’t yet have lists at the moment, but you bet I’m checking out Twitter’s API on the matter.  How do you plan to use Lists?

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24 thoughts on “Lists Will Kill the Unfollow Star

  1. When I get lists, I'll probably think about my FriendFeed and Facebook experiences before deciding how, or if, to implement them.

    In FriendFeed, I quickly organized lists right after real-time was turned on by default. But once I figured out how to change the default update setting to off, I used lists less and less.

    I'll use them occasionally in Facebook, but primarily if I'm searching for something in particular. For example, I have a Facebook list of my co-workers, which I'll probably be referring to a lot in the next few days as our company hosts a conference for our users.

    But frankly, lists require that extra step to put the person in the list. Not that the extra step takes forever, but it IS an extra step. With Twitter, when I choose to follow someone, I'm done – I don't have to worry about whether they're primarily a music tweeter, or whether I work with them, or whatever. Perhaps I'm better off leaving Twitter as a single list, rather than segregating it.

    Oh well…at this point it's all academic.

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  2. For smaller scale users (which is to say, for most of us), I'm seeing the potential here as being almost exactly the opposite. Lists mean I don't have to follow *anyone* personally, but can still tap into the general patterns, and can do so much more efficiently.

    Now, if I run across something interesting–or troll other folks lists for interesting individual accounts when I'm not feeling the urge just to follow a list in its entirety–I can add that account directly into a list without following the person individually at all. I like that.

    The new race among the gurus, of course, will be to see how many lists they land upon. That should prove amusing for about two minutes. I wouldn't predict that the gurus currently inclined not to follow will be any more likely to follow the great unwashed than they ever were.

    For users like me, lists make Twitter better at being what it always has been: a broadcast mechanism. Now, the thing is finally behaving like the feed widget it is. Quite unlikely that any product or entity is likely to care much about me as an individual apart from my very small value as someone who might tick a number up or down. Add in twitter search, trending topics, and all of the other tools that make it pretty simple to fence and fraction twitter, and it would be perfectly possible now to make great use of twitter without ever following any one as an individual.

    Welcome to Twitter, modular/granular version.

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  3. I'm one of the lucky ones who already has lists. It doesn't work anything like I expected. I do like that I can switch to all the tweets from users I've listed for a particular subject like affiliate experts, SEO, expert bloggers, copywriting, etc. If we are selective about who we put on a particular list we can filter out the clutter and catch the Tweets most important to us.

    For those who wonder, we still need TweepML to make lists that are easy to follow because at least for now you would have to manually follow those on lists created by others one at a time.

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  4. Lists are a great concept. A new group of people will become influential not by creating content, but by re-mixing it. Also, marketers will come up with creative ways to use lists to get their point through.
    However, the UI that twitter released will not satisfy power users. We are working on making it easy to create, share and promote lists.
    Here is a sample list created by our user: http://www.mustexist.com/twitter_groups/mikhaill-nvc
    New features will keep coming over the next several days.

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  5. You don't have to manually follow, Eugene–you can just follow a whole list. I've done that with quite a few, already. Only the manual follow into a list if you just want to cull some of someone else's list into a list of your own, but don't want to follow the whole thing.

    I'm finding it useful that I can place accounts on multiple lists, too.

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  6. Of course, now we need lists of lists to make things really interesting . . . Truly, though, I like this.

    I think it could really help kill off (praise be) the RT, though. And that would be a good thing since so much of the RTing is of folks people tend to follow, anyway.

    I like the lists' potential for cutting down significantly on the echo chamber effect.

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  7. Eric, you don't get the point – now you can get their messages and choose to see them whenever you want. You just now have the opportunity to separate the less-interesting posts into separate lists. You can always surf the less-interesting lists at any time and find more interesting people to add to the lists you follow more frequently. The advantage here is you don't need to unfollow them any more – just add them to a list, check that list occasionally, but the people you really want to pay attention can be in an entirely different list. That's powerful.

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  8. I doubt that much will change considering that owners of said lists can “unfollow” a user by removing them from said list. However, lists would encourage people to follow more since it won't be a bunch of random names all clumped together on Follow Friday. Instead, it would be an organized list of names already vetted by user. Anyways, just because someone is on a list doesn't mean that a “relationship” is made. A “relationship” isn't just auto-following any nutbag or spambot in the place, it is about reading and responding to what someone is putting out there. Lists aren't going to change that. Sorry to burst your bubble marketers and corporations. You have to be an active human to pass my test.

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  9. I doubt that much will change considering that owners of said lists can “unfollow” a user by removing them from said list. However, lists would encourage people to follow more since it won't be a bunch of random names all clumped together on Follow Friday. Instead, it would be an organized list of names already vetted by user. Anyways, just because someone is on a list doesn't mean that a “relationship” is made. A “relationship” isn't just auto-following any nutbag or spambot in the place, it is about reading and responding to what someone is putting out there. Lists aren't going to change that. Sorry to burst your bubble marketers and corporations. You have to be an active human to pass my test.

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  10. Of course, now we need lists of lists to make things really interesting . . . Truly, though, I like this.

    I think it could really help kill off (praise be) the RT, though. And that would be a good thing since so much of the RTing is of folks people tend to follow, anyway.

    I like the lists' potential for cutting down significantly on the echo chamber effect.

    Like

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