After I wrote my post about the less-talked-about aspects of Pinterest, I wanted to do the same thing for another social media site. My pick: Twitter.

Twitter is extremely user-friendly, and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of the site. But there are a few lesser-known features that can be really useful. So here’s a guide to three of those: Twitter lists, the two ways to retweet another Twitter user, and embedded tweets.

Twitter Lists

A Twitter list is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create your own lists (public or private). You can also subscribe to others’ public Twitter lists.

Lists are a great way to categorize Twitter users and filter your giant, populated main feed into separate, mini feeds. When you log onto Twitter, you see the tweets of everyone whom you follow (aka your Twitter timeline). If you create a list, you’ll see only the tweets of people whom you assign to that list.

I work in marketing, so I follow a lot of marketers and marketing-related websites. But I also get much of my news through Twitter, so I follow a handful of newspapers, news anchors, and networks. I also follow some comedians, celebrities, and acquaintances. Let’s say I’m searching for ideas for my next blog post. I get most of those ideas from marketers or marketing sites, so while I’m looking for ideas, I want to focus only on the marketing people/publications I follow. For the time being, I don’t need news updates; I don’t need to know about celebrity news; I don’t need the link to a BuzzFeed article about 90s nostalgia. If I have a list filled with these marketing-related Twitter users, I can go to that list and see a stream of tweets from only the people on that list.

I may also create lists for: news sources, celebrities, SEO people, SMM people, journalists, my favorite publications, coworkers, people in my hometown, etc.

My coworker Pat runs the Twitter chat photochat every Thursday. He posts the questions a few days ahead of time, and when he does, he lets people who frequently participate in photochat know via Twitter.

Photochat Questions Tweet

Pat could make a Twitter list that includes the names of those frequent photochat participators, so he knows who to target with his tweets when he posts the questions.

If you own a local business, you can create lists for clients, people in your industry, or people who live in your area. If you follow a lot of people and aren’t on Twitter all day, every day, you know that it’s easy to miss tweets that people send out. By segmenting into lists people whom you really want to pay attention to, you can prevent missing out on important tweets. You can also use private lists for competitive analysis: make a private list, add your competitors to it, and use the list to stay up-to-date on their recent developments.

Lists can be private, meaning only the person who created that list can see it, or public, meaning that anyone can see a list and anyone can subscribe to a list. If you create a public list, people who don’t follow you on Twitter can subscribe to that list. You can subscribe to lists created by people whom you don’t follow.

To create a Twitter list:

Click on the gear icon in the top right-hand corner and then click Lists.

Twitter Lists 1

Or you can go to your profile page and click Lists on the left-hand side of the page.

Twitter Lists 2

You’ll see all the lists you’re subscribed to and the lists you’re a member of (you’re a member of a list if another person has added you to one of their public lists). You’ll also see the option to create a list.

Twitter Lists 3

Name the list, write a description, and choose public or private.

Twitter Lists 4

To add people to a Twitter list:

You don’t have to follow someone to add them to a list. To add a Twitter user to a list, click the little icon next to the Following/Follow button. You’ll see the “Add or remove from lists” option in the drop down. A list of your lists (ha!) will show up, and you can add a user to any one of those.

Twitter Lists 5

To see/subscribe to someone’s public list:

Go to a Twitter user’s profile page and click Lists on the left-hand side of the page. You can then see all of the lists that user is a member of and all of the lists that user subscribes to.

I said above that you don’t have to follow someone to add him/her to a list. You can also subscribe to a list without following all of the individual people in that list. Inc. has a list filled with the writers, editors, and contributors to Inc. magazine and I can subscribe to this list and see tweets from these people, but I don’t have to individually follow the sixty-one members of this list. I don’t even have to follow Inc. to subscribe to its lists.

Twitter lists can be a great way to discover new, untapped sources of information. Scoping out lists other people have created is also one way to uncover new-to-you accounts.

The bottom line: If you follow a lot of people, your Twitter timeline can get overwhelming with all of the constant updates. Twitter lists let you group people (both people whom you follow and people whom you don’t follow) under certain categories and view mini feeds related to a given topic. You can subscribe to others’ lists without following all of the individual users that make up that list and use lists to mine for information and updates.

(If you want to create a list on TweetDeck, just click on Lists at the top of the page.)

Twitter Counter gives the top 100 Twitter lists (measured by number of followers).

The Old School RT

If you want to retweet someone, you can press the retweet button that appears beneath his/her tweet.

Mental Floss Retweet

Or you can manually retweet that person. This is sometimes referred to as the old school RT because before Twitter developed the retweet button, people still retweeted one another. Retweeting actually developed organically from the Twitter community; people did so by using a certain format. Twitter didn’t launch the retweet button until 2009.

If I use the Twitter retweet button, here’s what my followers see:

Mental Floss RT

They see a carbon copy of the tweet sent out by Mental Floss with “Retweeted by Olivia Roat” beneath.

If I manually retweet someone, here’s what my followers see (this is what retweets looked like before the launch of the Twitter retweet button):

Mental Floss Old School RT

They see Mental Floss’s tweet, but my Twitter handle and profile picture.

It’s the same tweet from Mental Floss, but clearly the two look very different. So what are the major differences between the two?

Manually retweeting is definitely more work than pressing the retweet button, but it lets you add in your own commentary, like this:

Twitter Retweet 1Twitter Retweet 2

Also, because a manual retweet is its own independent tweet rather than just a carbon copy of the original tweet, a manual retweet has its own separate page and its own URL.

And as I said, when you manually retweet someone, your followers will see your profile picture and Twitter handle. If you use the retweet button, your followers will see the profile picture and handle of the person who authored the tweet. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Sometimes you’ll see strangers (aka people you don’t follow) pop up on your timeline when someone whom you do follow retweeted this person. I recently noticed this tweet on my timeline:

CNN Jake Tapper RT

I don’t follow Jake Tapper, so I knew that someone whom I do follow must have retweeted it (CNN). This could be momentarily confusing, but it can also be advantageous from a branding perspective. A lot of times, people use retweets as votes of confidence. CNN is making Jake Tapper’s announcement available to all of its followers, so Jake Tapper must be (for lack of a better word) legit. Let’s say I see this retweet, click directly from this tweet to Jake Tapper’s profile, and find out he works for CNN and tweets about things I’m interested in. I follow him. I may not have discovered Jake Tapper without that retweet.

I’ve discovered a lot of people on Twitter through retweets. You can see how this can work really well for a brand; if a brand has a really loyal following and people retweet it using the retweet button, it spreads awareness. If I retweet something from Chobani or Ben & Jerry’s, all of my followers will see that tweet (yes, it’s the same with a manual RT, but I think there’s a greater sense of brand awareness when you see the original author’s profile picture and handle).

Here’s how to manually retweet:

Copy the tweet

Twitter RT Copy
Paste it into the text box where you compose a new tweet:

Twitter RT Copy 1

Then in front of the text type:

RT + one space + Twitter handle + colon

For this tweet, that would look like:

RT @ayzenberggroup:

(I like to drag the text box right below the original tweet, so I can make sure I’m correctly typing the handle.)

Twitter RT Copy 2

(But Twitter will autosuggest handles if you leave a space between the text of the original tweet and the @ symbol.)

Twitter RT Auto
If I want to add commentary, I’ll type that before the RT.

You can also get around this whole copy-and-paste business if you use TweetDeck. Just select the Edit & RT option.

Twitter RT TweetDeck

(If you’re using the Twitter app, you also have the Quote Tweet option.)

Now, if you’re manually retweeting and you edit the original tweet in any way (take out a few words to free up some characters for commentary for instance) you should use MT (mentioned tweet) instead of RT.

The bottom line: There are two ways of sharing content on Twitter: the retweet button and the manual retweet. Want to retweet someone but add your own commentary before or after a tweet? Use the manual RT. Want your retweet to have its own separate page and URL? Use the manual RT. Want your retweet to simply recreate the original tweet (profile picture, handle, and all) for all of your followers? Use the retweet button.

Embedding Tweets

You can embed tweets instead of taking screenshots of them. People can directly interact with embedded tweets.


You can click through to Slate’s profile on Twitter. You can click on that link, and you can follow Slate all through this embedded tweet.

When you embed a tweet, any expanded media in that tweet (like article summaries or photos) will display too.

Twitter made the whole process of embedding tweets a lot easier back in January. To embed a tweet, click on More underneath the tweet, and then click Embed Tweet.

Twitter Slate 1

You’ll then get a code that you can copy and paste into the HTML section of your blog.

Twitter Slate 2

The bottom line: You can take a screenshot of a tweet or you can embed the tweet. Embedded tweets are interactive and include links, so people can click through to the original tweet and the Twitter user’s profile. They can follow, retweet, and favorite right from the embedded tweet. And any expanded media will display with an embedded tweet.