The Internet as a Generous Tip Jar

I’m often asked what it takes to make a great Listly list (or great content).

Is there a difference?  Yes.

My answer is the outcome is the same, the journey or the experience is very different. Hopefully that will be self evident. Read on!

There’s really two parts to this question.

  • What is a great list?
  • How do you make one?

The first question is easy to answer.

What is a great list?

A great list is one that inspires others to contribute. There’s so many ways and places to contribute that we filter. That’s one of the reasons that 1:9:90 exists.

Getting people to act is a matter of psychology. A war on attention. Your content has to matter. People need to care.

A great list could just be great because it’s made by someone influential. People with perceived or actual influence find it easier to get people to help them. In this case people help in order to get noticed.

For regular folk, we need to be persistent. We need to pay attention to details.

For me the best lists are ones where people contribute just to be a part of something.

Some contribute to correct. Human beings can’t bare to see gaps or omissions. We love order.

Some people contribute to give back.

A list may help you solve a problem. When you find such a list, contributing to it is like leaving something in the tip jar:

  • Great lists solve problems.
  • Great lists have utility.
  • Great lists can make people laugh or cry.
  • Great lists connect people.
  • Great lists form community (they get found and attract others to help).
  • Great lists keep changing over time.

How do You Make a Great List?

A great list requires you (the list maker) to exhibit a great deal of self control. To make a great list you must not do many obvious things. It can be counter intuitive.

The Don’ts of Great Lists on Listly

  • Don’t add everything you can – Leave gaps for people.
  • Don’t add the obvious stuff – Add obscure and interesting things.
  • Don’t add everything in one go – Add your contributions slowly over time.
  • Don’t start with an empty list and expect people to contribute (3-4 items is good).

The Do’s of Great Lists on Listly

  • Share what you have (imperfect is more compelling). People love to fill in gaps.
  • Ask for help (tell people what you need – what are your goals). Be obvious that you do need help – this is why gaps matter.
  • Be repetitive & persistent (a single  share will not work).
  • Invite specific friends (one at a time). Be specific.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or connection to add something specific.
  • Ask people to share (not just contribute).
  • Thank people who contribute.
  • Plan for the long haul. You list is always open for change.

In the early days of making a great list it’s all about building social proof. Later , once multiple people have contributed, others will be enticed to participate.

Your first 5-10 contributors are the hardest to inspire.

Getting people to participate on a new list can require you to call in a favour. People are much more willing to participate when they see other people have participated.

Just like commenting on blogs, one of the best ways to get help is to contribute to other people’s lists. Make friends with other users by following, voting, contributing sharing and even embedding their lists.

Crowdsourcing is Not a Miracle. 

Lists are like coffee shops and bars. We will always choose to enter a busy bar or a busy restaurant over an empty one. People send us signals that this place is Ok and that place is not. Lists are just the same.

You have to work hard to get your early contributors.

If you follow this advice you will find it much easier.

Don’t be afraid to edit, curate and reject suggestions. Just be nice. Be clear, upfront and polite. And don’t forget to thank people.

Beyond the points detailed above, here’s a check list of things to make your lists appealing to entice people to contribute.

Headline for Check Lists for List Creators.
Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
Listly Curator Listly Curator
Listly Listly
10 items   19 followers   13 votes   535 views

Check Lists for List Creators.



Connect your G+ Account to Listly & Add Listly as a Contributor

Nov 25, 2013
Connect your G+ Account to Listly & Add Listly as a Contributor

We do the hard work for you when it comes to authorship.

You simply need to connect your G+ account to Listly and you need to tell G+ that Listly is a site you contribute to.

Do these two things and your avatar will be seen in Google search results. Items with avatars get chosen more on Google.


Add a headline image

Nov 25, 2013
Add a headline image

Our headline images are 600 x 250 pixels


Create Meaningful Multi-Word Titles

Nov 25, 2013
Create Meaningful Multi-Word Titles

Lists & Items have titles

Carefully pick the first 3-4 words of your title (most important word’s first).

Listly automatically tags the list title as an H1 tag and the item titles as H2 tags.

Make it Human Readable. Find a way to express yourself in spoken work that also places keywords early in your title.



Nov 25, 2013

Start with 3-4 items. Avoid the temptation to add more.

Do not start with an empty list

Be willing to share your list on all platforms.


Communicate Your Expectations

Nov 25, 2013
Communicate Your Expectations

Use the list description.

Be brief but precise.

Be inspirational


Ask for One Thing.

Nov 25, 2013
Ask for One Thing.

Keep people focused. Ask for people to contribute ideas or voting - don’t ask for both. People will do nothing.

If you want people to embed your list - ask.


Pick great images.

Nov 25, 2013
Pick great images.

Visual Impact Matters

We allow you to upload custom images.

It’s worth the time to choose of create great images.


Embed Your Lists on Your Blog

Nov 25, 2013
Embed Your Lists on Your Blog

Put one list per page or blog post. You can include more than one, but I don’t recommend adding 10 lists to one page. Give each list a chance with it’s own title, intro and summary.


Share Items and Lists from Your Blog

Nov 25, 2013
Share Items and Lists from Your Blog

We want you to have the traffic. If your list is embedded and viewed on a blog post, you stand a chance of your list getting seen on our trending home page.

A trending list can pick up more views on Listly and more click-throughs to your blog. Each new view on Listly or a blog is another chance to hit the home page


Link your list back to your blog post

Nov 25, 2013
Link your list back to your blog post

There is a source field. Use it. It will also link your headline image back to your post.

If other people embed your list then you will get a backlink from their blog

Does that answer the question for you? What else do you need to know?

Image Credit: davedugdale


NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.