If you want to generate the right type of buzz for your brand on social media, you need to connect with the right people. Besides a well targeted audience, you need to connect with the leaders in your industry or field. Social media makes it east to search for and engage with the thought leaders and recognized experts, but finding them and connecting with them can still be a time consuming task. Ideally, you want to quickly find and connect with these people online, so you can start engaging, learning and sharing.

Lists: a directory of experts and thought leaders

A powerful tool for finding industry leaders and experts is the lists feature from Twitter. This list creation and sharing tool is a standard part of the Twitter platform, requires no additional add-ins, and is very easy to use. The lists feature allows users to group Twitter users by any subject.
Twitter users can easily create multiple lists based on any subject. Consider any possible topic related to your industry and these could be turned into lists. Some example of commonly used list topics:

The power of ONE

Lists provide a wealth of information and can act as a well curated directory of thought leaders and experts, but how do you go about finding the perfect list(s)? Sifting through massive amounts of data to find the best lists is still a very time consuming and manual task. A great place to start is with the thought leaders in your industry you are already familiar with. Even just one thought leader can lead to many connections if they are using Twitter lists. Try this method for finding the initial thought leaders in your industry and using their lists.

  1. Using Google search, try any of these combinations (or anything similar):
  2. Your industry thought leaders
    Your industry top blogs (bloggers always have direct links to their Twitter accounts on their blogs)
    Your industry association
    Your industry professional association
    Your industry conferences (this is a great place to see who is speaking and therefore considered a credible thought leader)

  3. Review your results, noting which names are repeated most.
  4. Once you have begun to notice reoccurring trends and who seems to be mentioned the most frequently, record their name or relevant Twitter information if available
  5. Once you have identified key thought leaders, search for them on Twitter and check to see if they have created any lists
  6. Thought leaders usually (if not always) create lists of other industry recognized thought experts; these lists will be key to your thought leadership connection strategy
  7. Once you have identified the best lists which are most useful to you, start to understand and connect with its members

Using the data you discover in these searches, you can now search for these thought leaders using Google (try searches such as: thought leader Twitter) or search directly in Twitter itself. While this search method will provide you with a wealth of information and deeper insights int your industry, it can still take time and require further analysis. However, there are services available to help you better use and manage Twitter lists.

Use the list experts

With the rise in popularity of Twitter lists, related services and platforms have grown along with it. One service worth trying is Listly. This list aggregation service takes lists from across the web and presents them in an easy to find and use format. While Listly offers many types of lists, our focus will be on their (amazing) Twitter lists features. Listly collects and curates Twitter lists and beautifully presents them on their site, with integrated Twitter follow buttons and a brief bio for each member. Check out this example of a Twitter list on the best coffee houses in San Francisco Note how easy it is to check out these locations further on Twitter or share your thoughts on the content of the lists. While this is an example of where to get a great cup of coffee in San Francisco, the application for finding thought leaders is quite obvious. Simply run a search on Listly, or head directly to their Twitter lists section, and you’ll easily find relevant thought leaders and experts, with whom you can then follow and engage. Even better, Listly sorts lists by what is trending and includes the amount of views each list has received.

Putting it all together

Now that you’ve been through a crash course on Twitter lists and a few ways to effectively use them, what does it mean for your social media marketing strategy? Connecting and engaging key players in your industry is crucial to standing out online. It not only shows you are serious about your field and learning more, it allows you to appear to have a valuable “insider” level of expertise and knowledge. This better positions you to build relationships with your online audience and eventually establish yourself as a thought leader.