in Social Media

Using IFTTT and Twitter Lists to irritate people

Busted. Yes I was.

For a couple of months I decided to use IFTTT to automagically add people to Twitter lists. I did it, cynically, to see if I could game followers. And it probably worked; adding around 150-200 in the time the IFTTT recipes ran.

Setting up the IFTTT recipe

It’s simple to create a recipe. Once you’ve added the Twitter channel, use the “New tweet from search” trigger.

You can just use a hashtag, e.g. #ppcchat, or more complicated queries like #ppcchat -from:beeston near:london. Digital marketing agency Receptional has an excellent blog post on how to use advanced search operators.

To complete the recipe, choose the “Add user to list” action and enter the list you want to add to.

And then you let it go. The recipe will merrily add people to your list without you having to lift a finger.

How it works in practice

To test it out, the first search query I tried was #klout70. If you’ve not had the fortune to come across this one, it’s people trying to game their Klout scores by tweeting each other into a frenzy. A pointless activity if ever there was one, but ripe for me to find ‘engagement’.

This added hundreds to the list, more followers, and even a few people thanking me for adding them. Though those thank you tweets are probably automated too. Just look at those valuable engagements rack up!

The list serves no real purpose. Viewing the tweets from it reads like an explosion at a hashtag factory; one where the fire brigade should throw the victims back in to the burning building.

More usefully, I also created lists for people tweeting about #ppcchat and #datascience. These worked pretty well, up to a point.

How it doesn’t work in practice

Something obvious the Twitter actions don’t do, is to check whether a user is already on the list. The same people get added over and over again, as Richard pointed out in his tweet. Seems pretty dumb that IFTTT doesn’t take care of this, but there you go.

The recipes also switch themselves off without warning. Whether that’s because the search queries don’t yield enough results, or too many, isn’t clear. The logging IFTTT provides is useless.

While searches for hashtags worked well, anything more complicated failed quickly. I tried to build a list of programmatic ads people using exchangewire -from:exchangewire, but it added a few people then switched itself off. I don’t know why.


Twitter lists should be a very powerful tool. But they’re clunky to use, and Twitter’s own apps don’t support them that well. When I’ve carefully created lists by hand, I rarely end up using them.

Although there would be some cries of anguish if they went away, I don’t think most people would care, or even notice.

IFTTT is like a Swiss army knife of automation. Lots of tools to do lots of things, but none of them do anything particularly well if you want to go beyond basic recipes.

But if you want to waste your time and that of others, do give it a go. Those #klout70 people are desperate to hear from you.

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