listserv vs twitter

Listserv vs Twitter: Which is Better?

You may have never thought to compare listserv vs twitter. After all, listservs are on old-fashioned email (more about how listservs or email discussion groups are still useful) and twitter is one of those newfangled social medias. But both have similar goals. They’re both about communicating with a group of people and trying, ultimately, to build a community. So they’re worth comparing. What then are the important differences between listserv vs twitter?

Comparing Listserv vs Twitter


  • A listserv broadcasts email to a group of people that volunteered to receive it.
  • You can reply to an email message on a listserv, and it goes back to the entire group.
  • You can forward an email message you like, to friends or another listserv.
  • You have to find and join a listserv that specializes in the questions and answers you want to know.
  • Information on a listserv with a public archive can be found via Google.  The public archive and the Google cache should be around for many years, if not forever.
  • You can write as many words as you want. But, when looking at a successful listserv, most of the questions are very short, and many times the answers are too.
  • Listservs are good for asking questions, and broadcasting “on topic” information.
  • Listservs are asynchronous–you can read and/or reply to a message many hours or days after the email was sent.
  • Listservs are good for following members that always post good information and have good answers to others’ questions.


  • Twitter broadcasts short messages (140 character or less) to a group of people that have volunteered to receive them and also to the Twitter stream, where anybody might find it.
  • You can reply to a tweet and it goes back to the person that sent it, but not to any of your followers (unless they are also following the original sender).
  • You can retweet a twitter message you like to your followers.
  • Twitter is like one big listserv, with every message mingling with every other. Hashtags can help you find tweets about a particular theme.
  • A tweet can be found via Twitter Search, using either the words from the tweet, the author, or the hashtag that might have been included. Currently, the Twitter Search engine only goes back in time a few days.
  • The 140 character limitation of Twitter can be both a strength and a weakness. While you can’t fit a lot of words in one tweet, that limitation does force people to think about what is important and to carefully construct what they want to say.  And many tweets include a URL and that web page can be packed with lots of words, graphics, etc.
  • Twitter is good for asking questions that your followers know the answer to. And sometimes it’s good for questions that some stranger happens to see and can answer.
  • Twitter is synchronous, in real time, and it’s difficult to join the conversation after it’s happened.
  • Twitter is good for following the thought leaders in your industry, who can distill down the always changing environment into succinct tidbits of knowledge.

Listserv and Twitter Both Have Their Place

When comparing listservs vs Twitter, you’ll find that listservs and Twitter are similar, yet different. Different enough to both be useful, even in this social media age. For instance, listservs are great for growing communities based on a shared interest or topic. Twitters are great for leading a group of followers who are interested specifically in what you have to offer.

How do you use these tools for maximum knowledge? What do you think are the advantages are of listserv vs Twitter? Please let us know in the comments below.

Also, check out this blog on whether listservs or message boards are better!


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mark david mcCreary

mark david mcCreary is the founder of Mail-List. I've built the best Email Discussion Group system on the Internet, and I invite you to try it for free, for 30 days.No credit card is required.

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