Seconds after I added a well-known writer to my “Journalists I Admire” Twitter list, a little blue notification popped up.
[Well-known writer] followed you.
Soon after, I direct-messaged him to ask for writing advice. Our conversation moved from Twitter to email, and now he’s agreed to meet me for an informational interview when I arrive in NYC this summer.
My five-minute Twitter technique for getting people to notice me via quotes is super effective — but it’s not the only one I have in my arsenal. I also love using what I call “the list trick.”
First, What’s a List?
As Muse writer Lily Herman explains, “Twitter lists are really underutilized by a lot of tweeters, despite how totally awesome they can be.”
A list is a curated selection of Twitter users. Each list is like its own mini-feed. For example, if I added 10 writers to a list called “Lifestyle Writers,” when I clicked on it I’d only see tweets from those 10 users.
(Check out Twitter’s guide to creating lists for more details.)
The List Trick
Lists are great if you follow a bunch of different types of people and want to quickly and easily sort all their content — but that’s not how I’ve been using them.
Instead, I’ve been using them as an indirect compliment, a way to pique a user’s interest.
Because — and this is key — when you add users to a list, Twitter notifies them.
So when I added that well-known writer, he got a message saying, “@ajavuu added you to list Journalists I Admire.”
I’m not surprised he clicked over to my profile. Who doesn’t love being admired?
Why This Works
Important people are used to being told they’re awesome. They’re also used to getting lots of requests: for their time, for their money, and for their energy. But when you add them to a list with a flattering title, you’re not requesting anything or even fan-girling out — you’re sending a subtle compliment that requires zero action on their end. Not even a polite “thank you.” Plus, it feels more genuine, because lists were designed to exist for your benefit, not theirs.
So rather than sending tweets like:
@joelgascoigne I think @buffer sounds like an amazing place to work!
You can add people to lists.
One caveat: I never add people to lists on which they don’t belong. Let’s say I saw a job listing for a business I’d never heard of before — I wouldn’t just find a random employee on Twitter and add him to an “Inspiring Executives” list. That would be manipulative and disingenuous. And, if the list isn’t well-curated (i.e., it’s just a hodge-podge of people), the chosen person’s much more likely to be confused, rather than complimented.
So, who should you target? I’d go with people who have fewer than 5,000 followers.
As with any Twitter strategy to get attention, it’s not as though this doesn’t have any chance of working with people who have, say, 10K+ followers — however, the chances of them seeing your notification among the thousand or so they get each day are slim.
This method is great for everyone from bloggers to PR reps to potential employers to industry trendsetters. Once you have a few list themes in mind, it’s time to come up with the name.
One option is to incorporate a job title. Maybe you start a list for “Marketing Experts,” or “Successful Communications Specialists.”
Another option is to play on your lists’ unique skills or abilities. For this method, I look to Twitter and LinkedIn bios. For example, if someone calls himself a “seasoned brand storyteller,” I might make and add him to a list of “Fantastic Storytellers.” Or, if a CEO prides herself on her ability to “get things done,” I’d put her on a “Powerful Women” list.
The last option (for now) is to use more of a catch-all title, like “Inspiring Professionals,” “People I Admire,” or “Thought Leaders.”
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this has the biggest chance of working if your title is complimentary. In other words, a user will be more intrigued by being added to a “Career Experts” list than a “Career Writers” list.
Also, make sure you’re not creating too many lists! Your lists are public, so if you make 20 lists, all with just one user each, it’ll look a little strange. I’m limiting myself to 10 lists, none of which have more than 15 people.