6 Ways Twitter Lists Can Help Build Your Author Platform

by | Aug 21, 2013

by Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

As longtime readers know, I’m a big fan of using Twitter for lots of reasons. What you might not know is that one of the things I always tell authors who are just getting started with Twitter is to learn about Twitter’s lists. So I was very pleased when author Marcy Kennedy suggested a guest post on the topic, and I’m sure you will be too. Here’s her report.

One of the most common complaints I hear about Twitter is that it moves too fast and you don’t know what to pay attention to. It’s a valid complaint, but there’s a simple solution—Twitter lists.

A Twitter list can be added to a column in TweetDeck or a stream in Hootsuite so that you’re able to watch only the tweets made by the people on that list.

Once you know how to use them, they become a powerful tool not only for making Twitter more enjoyable, but also for building your author platform. Before I give you my top six ways Twitter lists can help build your author platform, let me tell you how to create them.

On TweetDeck, all you need to do is click on the username of the person you want to add to a list. In the image below, I’ve clicked on Joel’s username. The red circle shows you where to click to add him to a list.


That will bring up a box where I could add him to an already created list or create a new list. Only make a list public if you’re comfortable with others seeing what you’ve named it, how you’ve described it, and who you’ve put on it. Otherwise, keep it private.

Lists in Hootsuite take a couple extra steps. You can add someone the same way (clicking their username and choosing to add them to a list), but you first need to have that list open in a stream or it won’t show up as an option when you try to add someone.

To fix this, click on Add Steam, and go to the List tab.


You’ll be able to easily create a list and add it to a stream from there.

Your lists are linked to your Twitter account. They’ll follow you if you switch from TweetDeck to Hootsuite or vice versa.

So now that you know how to create Twitter lists, what makes them so valuable?

1. Make connections with agents/editors or book reviewers.

The great part about Twitter is that people who are usually behind stone walls and inaccessible to the newbie writer are available on Twitter.

If you hope to traditionally publish, create a list for agents and editors. Not only do these people offer links to useful information, but you can also get an idea of their personality and whether they’d be a good match for you and your book. Do they sound like someone you’d like to work with? Do they keep up on new trends? What types of books do they represent and read?

Whatever publishing path you plan on following, create a list for book reviewers. By retweeting material for them and replying to comments they make, you can start to build friendships with them. When you later send them a polite email asking if they’d be willing to read and review your book, they’re more likely to accept because they already recognize your name. You’ve given to them first.

2. Build relationships with other writers in your genre.

From the start, if you know what genre you’re going to write in, you should be putting together a list of people you follow who also write in your genre.

When you have a genre-specific question, these people can be a great resource.

When you need beta readers who understand your genre, these are the people to turn to.

When you have a book out and want to guest post on a blog where your potential readers already hang out, you’ll already have friendships with the people who run those blogs.

When you’re running behind and quickly need material to tweet that would interest your readers, these people’s blog are most likely to yield what you’re looking for.

3. Keep track of subject matter specialists.

Say you’re writing a book set in Australia, but you’ve never been there. Create a list for people you find on Twitter who live there.

Say you’re writing a book with horses in it. Create a list where you can add people who mention horses or horseback riding in their bio.

As you get to know these people and they get to know you, when you have a question that can’t be answered through traditional research, you’ll have someone you can ask.

4. Connect with writers who live in your area.

Connecting with writers who live in your area means you have friends who can turn into critique groups, who you can organize writing events with (e.g., everyone meets at the local library during NaNoWriMo and writes for two hours, you share a book signing), or who you can meet up with at local conferences.

5. Reciprocate for people who regularly retweet (RT) your tweets.

As your followers grow, it’s going to be difficult to keep track of which ones are actively engaging and trying to help you by RT-ing your tweets. Yet these are the people who’ve already taken the initiative to try to reach out to you and do something nice. If you start putting them into a list, it’ll help you RT for them in return when they tweet something great, and it’ll also help you keep the conversation going.

6. Stay in touch with fans who contact you about your book or say something good about your writing.

Readers like social media because it gets them a little bit closer to their favorite authors, so when you take the time to personally reply to one of their tweets to cheer them on or suggest a book by another author they might like, it builds rapport.

Some authors also provide special bonuses just for their Twitter followers. For example, tweeting a link to a new short story that you don’t advertise elsewhere or offering a single-day Smashwords coupon code.

You don’t have to confine yourself to the lists I’ve suggested here. Once you start thinking about lists, you’ll find ways to customize them that fit you.

On Saturday, August 24, I’m teaching a 90-minute webinar called “Twitter: 10 Essentials Every Writer Needs to Know.” Click here to find out more.

P.S. I’ve put together something special for everyone reading this post today. I’m offering a free PDF called “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hiring a Freelance Editor.” Click here to sign up for your copy.

TwitterMarcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy) is a speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at www.marcykennedy.com.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Kathy Steinemann

    Thanks for sharing, Marcy. Authors can waste a lot of time on social media if they don’t understand how to use it effectively.

  2. Katie Cross

    Awesome! I’m always trying to learn how to improve twitter, as it’s been one of the most elusive of all social media to me. I really think this will help. Thanks so much!

  3. Pamela

    I didn’t know that! (I kept saying that out loud as I read this post.) Already began my Twitter lists. Thanks so much for the helpful information!

    • Marcy Kennedy

      My pleasure. I’m glad I could help :)

  4. Rachel Heller

    Hi Marcy, This is very cool, but then so are you!

  5. Lisa Hall-Wilson

    Marcy helped me figure out Twitter and grow my audience to almost 1500 in less than a year. You won’t regret taking her classes!

    • Marcy Kennedy

      And I’d be lost when it comes to Facebook without your guidance :)

  6. Frances Caballo

    I don’t use either Tweetdeck or Hootsuite; I prefer SocialOomph, which I refer to as a social media dashboard on steroids. I have a half-dozen lists and always create them for my clients because they enable me to cut through the “sludge” of news feeds and find the messages from people I want to keep track of. Then again, I don’t want to entirely neglect my other followers so from time to time I read through my news feed and find new authors and social media professionals to retweet. What I love about Twitter lists is that they economize my time on social media. That’s really important to me and a lot of people. Also, I create my lists on Twitter and not through an app. It’s probably the easiest way to create a list.

    • Marcy Kennedy

      Economizing time on social media is one of the biggest benefits to lists. When you first sign in to Twitter, if you don’t have lists, you can lose a lot of time just deciding where to focus your attention. With lists, you can choose to focus on one or more each day and it gives focus to your social media time. Thanks for chiming in!

  7. Linda Austin

    I love Twitter lists and have quite a number of them to keep track of varied interests or categories of an interest. I suspect not many realize they can view other people’s lists to more easily find people they would like to follow, too. You can also just subscribe to other peoples’ lists. Great advice here, Marcy.

    • Marcy Kennedy

      I’m glad you mentioned the ability to subscribe to other people’s lists because that’s a great trick I’ve used as well. If someone doesn’t know what lists they’d like to build themselves, sometimes simply subscribing to/following an already built list is a great way to start.

  8. Darren Patrick

    Very well thought out! Thanks for this.

    You mentioned Tweetdeck and Hootusite, and from from what I can tell by the screen shots, this applies to a desktop/laptop. Curious if you have any thoughts on mobile apps for Twitter and how they handle lists (iPad, iPhone, etc)? I’m using the Twitter app on my iPhone and I like it, just not convinced its the best at handling lists. Would love to hear what others have to say too.

    • Marcy Kennedy

      When Twitter bought TweetDeck, they withdrew their mobile apps, so if you want to tweet from your phone/iPad, you need to use Hootsuite.

      You can still use lists, but if you’re using your phone, for example, you’ll only be able to see one list in one column at a time (rather than being able to watch multiple columns at a time on a computer). That’s not actually a bad thing. If you focused on having conversations with and retweeting for one list a day, you’d be in good shape when it comes to building your platform.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Darren, I use HootSuite on the iPhone all the time. Although you can only see one “stream” at a time, it works brilliantly. In the screenshot below, notice the 6 little dots under the tweets—they indicate the other streams available by swiping left or right. This is from my Self-Publishing list on Twitter, which I follow daily.

  9. Thomas Rydder

    What a superb article! I think Twitter is probably the most misunderstood (and neglected) social media on the planet, and it’s a joy to see one very valuable facet of it explained in such clear fashion. Nicely done :)
    Tomorrow am it gets faced, blogged, tweeted, linked, pinned, tumbled, and stumbed…

    Thomas Rydder

    • Marcy Kennedy

      Thank you! I’ve had conversations with many people about why Twitter is so misunderstood, but I think it comes down to lack of knowledge in the end. I’m on a quest to educate :)



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