Until now, I've solved that problem with 3rd party apps like Seesmic on my desktop and Tweetie on the iPhone that allow me to create groups of followers so I can filter down tweets to a manageable thread and actually keep tabs on the people I'm most interested in. Twitter Lists, however, allows me to do that right on Twitter.com and even better, share those lists with others. The lists I aggregate can become little tidbits of value I share with the masses.
That's really relevant to brands seeking a meaningful metric for how to measure the success of their social marketing programs. Just acquiring followers is really quite meaningless. It's relatively easy to do (follow a bunch of people and some subset will just follow you back), but says nothing about the relevance of those followers or if they are getting any value out of following you.
However, if someone adds you to a list, they are making a small, but conscious effort to say to the world, hey this dude's got some good tweets over here.
I propose that this will evolve into a truly meaningful metric for social marketing effectiveness. The more of your followers that put you on Lists, the more relevant and valuable your social media presence is. As of this moment, @adamkleinberg (that's me) has 1852 followers and I'm on 60 lists. That means I have a marginally respectable 3.2% List to Followers Ratio. This is a measure of my perceived relevant value on Twitter, and one I hope will improve over time.
There are holes in this theory of course. Take this Twitter thread for instance:
jack_benoff: @adamkleinberg but how many of your followers have even created lists?
adamkleinberg: Lists to Followers Ratio = new value metric for soc. media. Currently 3.2% of my followers think I'm valuable enuf 2 put on a list.
But even if this is brand new stuff and only active Twitterers use it, doesn't that add to the argument that it's a great metric to measure value of your Twitter presence? It's no secret that ninety-something percent of people on Twitter sign up, tweet once and disappear. Those aren't exactly valuable followers and they definitely aren't creating lists.
Stick that in your PowerPoint and guru it. As always, I love to hear your thoughts.