This is a quick prediction, but I think that the introduction of lists will change twitter dramatically allowing people to stop following any and all accounts they want to keep up with in favor of adding those accounts to a specific list. This will help make following counts a less important metric to watch for a lot of people. Once it’s understood that you don’t have to be following someone to add them to a list people will begin to adjust who they are following to those they actually know and interact with moving news and site feeds, or celebs and joke accounts over to lists.
This is a good thing.
I’ve long said the value of Twitter lies in creating more interaction with your peers, when your stream is filled with updates from your close circle of friends Twitter truly does become a social sixth sense. This gets muddied when your stream starts filling up with automated posts from sites you read, tweets from people you think are interesting but don’t actually know.
Two examples – I’m currently on just under 100 lists. A lot of those lists are created by people I don’t know and titled things like “tech” “internet” or “web” suggesting they follow me because of my relation to the web and that what I tweet about often relates to those topics. For any of those people who wanted to keep up with what I was saying, previously they would have had to follow me. That increased my follower count, but also put my tweets in their main stream. This means they might not see a tweet from a friend they regularly hang out with because I went on some rant about coffee. Now, they can stop following me but keep me on their tech list which allows them to stay better on top of their actual friends tweets, but also anytime they want to see what I or others are talking about in the web world they can just check the list they made and voila!
I’ve been saying that “follower count” is a stupid thing to track because it doesn’t really say anything about how many people are reading your updates.
The other example is that I follow a lot of people I know in cities other than the one I’m in. I follow them because we’re friends, but also because when I am in their cities they are who I usually interact with. The problem with that, is often these people spend a lot of time talking about things going on in their cities which if I’m not there are not useful to me and just fill up my stream with info I don’t need. I don’t want to stop following them for fear I’d forget their username when I did travel back there, but now thanks to lists I can create a New York list, a San Francisco list, a Berlin list, a Tokyo list, a Singapore list, etc and then I no longer need to follow those people in my main stream as anytime I need to know what is up in that corner of the world I have a list all set to go.
So my prediction is as people get more of a grasp on lists, they will stop following celebs they never actually speak with in favor of adding them to a list of celebs, they will stop following CNN and BBC news feeds in favor of creating a news list, they will stop following bands they like listening to in favor of a music list. This will make their main feeds more personal and a lot of the people who have joined Twitter in the last 24 months will see a whole other value to the service, one that many people who have been on much longer used to rave about which caused more people to join and actually ended up hurting.