Twitter can be overwhelming at times – each time you log in, you’re confronted with an endless stream of tweets that make their way to the top of your timeline faster than you can read them. As a PR pro, you know you should be using Twitter to engage with fellow tweeps – but the prospect of finding a relevant conversation among all the noise can be daunting. So, today, I’m going to share how you can use Twitter lists to organize your incoming tweets and engage with the tweeps who can directly impact your PR program.

But first…

What Are Twitter Lists?

Twitter lists are curated groups of Twitter users that you can create to group similar tweeps together, which will also allow you to see tweets from only that group. For example, I have a list of Social Media Blogs and Bloggers where I’ve grouped all my favorite writers and the publications they write for, and I can easily access these people’s tweets when I’m looking for great content to share on my own Twitter account.

You can choose to make your Twitter lists either public or private, depending upon whether you want anyone else to see your list. Public Twitter lists are great if you want to recognize the people on your list for being superstars – they can see that you’ve added them to the list, and others can subscribe to the list to receive tweets from those you’ve included. Private Twitter lists are better if you wouldn’t want your competitors to have access to the information; for example, if it contained customers or media friendlies.

A Few Ideas for Twitter Lists to Get you Started

  1. Media Friendlies: Go back to your recent press mentions and add each journalist’s Twitter handle to a “media friendlies” list so you can maintain your existing relationships with journalists that have covered your business. Assuming that their normal beat is related to the article they wrote about you, they should have plenty of content with which to engage in conversation about, and to share with your audience. Maintaining your relationship with media friendlies in this way can keep you top of mind when they need a subject matter expert to weigh in on an article they’re writing, or when you have a story you’d like to share with them.
  2. Industry Journalists: Also do a search on your competitors’ recent press mentions and recent industry news articles and add those journalists to a separate list. Again, these journalists should have plenty of relevant content that you can engage in conversation about, and share with your followers – which can help you build a relationship with a journalist you haven’t met. You may also want to break this group down into several lists, perhaps by geography, beat, or past interaction (ie media friendlies). You may also want to create a list for a specific story you’d like to pitch in the future – say an IPO – and you want to target journalists that have covered related IPOs in your industry. By starting a relationship with them on Twitter, your pitch may be more well-received – just make sure that you’ve used Twitter to add value for that journalist and that you start building these relationships well ahead of time.
  3. Industry Bloggers: These days, anyone can be a publisher and you can benefit from treating bloggers like journalists to get targeted coverage for your stories. As with industry journalists, you may want to break this group down into more specific lists – such as the specific topic they write about, bloggers that speak at events, where they’re located geographically, etc. This will help you keep your content stream very focused, which will make it easier for you to interact with your listed tweeps.

Now That You Have Twitter Lists, What Do You Do With Them?

The name of the game is engagement. View your Twitter lists on a regular basis to respond to tweets and retweet them to your followers. Especially stay on the lookout for journalists and bloggers asking for subject matter expertise within their network – this will help you position yourself as the go-to person when that writer needs more information for a story. Above all else, make sure you’re adding value for the journalist or blogger – by extending the reach of their content, or providing sources for their articles – to build and maintain a meaningful online relationship that can be mutually beneficial for years to come.