Using targeted Twitter lists to fine-tune your online monitoring

The micro-blogging platform can be overwhelming, but smartly narrowing the scope of your attention can help you home in on influencers and other key social media players. Here’s how to get started.


There are currently 321 million active users on Twitter and 500 million tweets are sent every single day.

It’s impossible for a communicator to sift through every tweet published, so it is important to use tactics to surface the important tweets you want to see. One of the best tricks is to search within a Twitter list.

These searches allow you to do many things at once. You find essential news, build relationships with journalists, and monitor for potential crises—all in one fell swoop.

While it takes some time to set up and maintain, it’s definitely worth the effort.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: Build a targeted list of journalists and influencers on Twitter.
  • Step 2: Search within that list for keywords that are important (i.e. your business, products, competitors, etc.).

Focused social listening

One of the first benefits you’ll see is how efficiently you can monitor important news about your company and competitors. You’ll also know when key journalists are talking about things that are relevant specifically to you and your business.

Then, you can jump into the conversation and share your insights. However, it is essential that your contribution is helpful. Build a relationship first so journalists and other influencers know who you are.

Finally, the real-time immediacy of Twitter means you’ll often be alerted as soon as a crisis is brewing.

Here’s how to set this up:

1. Build a Twitter list of important voices.

Begin with journalists who are writing about your brand, your competitors and your industry. This exercise is an excellent time to build or update your media list. Once you’ve identified all of the journalists and other influencers in your field, add all of those people to a dedicated Twitter list.

To make the next steps work, make sure that the list is set to public, not private. Remember the people you’re adding to the list will most likely get a notification they’ve been added.

Use a label like “best tech journalists” or some other flattering moniker to start these relationships off on the right foot.

2. Borrow from other people’s lists.

Let’s say that you’re making a list of influential tech journalists, and you want to make sure that you’re finding all of their peers. You can start with one journalist and use their presence on other people’s lists (OPL) to build your own.

For instance, let’s say I start with Josh Constine from TechCrunch. On his page, he has his own lists. If you click on his lists, you see ones that he’s subscribed to or created. However, that’s not where the action is. You’ll want to click above that on “Member of,” which takes you to every public list anyone has ever made with Josh in it.

Now you’re looking at lists that are similar to the one you’re building, containg other influential tech journalists. Search for lists that have somewhere between 50 and 200 people on them.

If you don’t want to scroll through list after list, try searching for specific keywords like journalist, writer, reporter or tech to find relevant lists other people have made.

Once you find a list that looks promising, check out who’s included. Go a step further and learn about the person who first put together the list as another way to assess whether or not they’re the type of person from which you want to borrow.

3. Set up your searches.

The team at Spin Sucks recently created a Twitter list that includes many members of the larger Spin Sucks community.

Here’s the URL for that list:

Now let’s say that I want to know whenever someone in this list mentions your company. This is the search I would put into the Twitter search bar:

 [Your company] list:SpinSucks/spin-sucks-community

You might also want to know when this group is discussing topics that are relevant to your work. In that case, you might add several terms to one targeted search to find as many conversations as possible. For example:

ITK OR “In The Know” OR Christophe OR measurement OR monitoring OR “clip reports” OR analysis list:SpinSucks/spin-sucks-community

Make sure you capitalize “OR” in between each search term, otherwise, the search won’t work. Exact phrases should be in quotes.

4. Access your searches.

Once you have your specific searches set up, you can access them in a few different ways. You can bookmark the search and open it in your browser whenever you want. Another option would be to add it to Tweetdeck or a similar Twitter client.

Some PR pros might like email alerts, and use IFTTT to set them up.

Here are the specific IFTTT applets I use depending on how quickly I need to see results:

An email alert will ensure you don’t miss any of these essential tweets.

Have you used a Twitter list for social listening and monitoring? Do you have any other tips to share?

Christophe Abiragi is the founder of ITK Information Services. A version of this article originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog.

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