Why my kids don’t need a Twitter account

I dislike personal attacks on people and I really hope the following doesn’t read like one. But I’ve had an “enough is enough” moment.

I recently read an interesting article on the Marketing Donut (a site/blog I have contributed a couple of articles to – just to declare my interests properly). Written by Kate Horstead and entitled “Can Twitter help your business?” it might not break any new ground but it’s a decent little exploration of the topic and appears to be based mainly on an interview with Nikki Pilkington.

I’m following both Kate & Nikki on Twitter – if you’re not already maybe you should too.

So what put the stick up my backside? Well… there was a comment from Penny Power, the founder of Ecademy, which I found so misguided and misleading that I had to blog about it just to get it out of my system.

As I already said, I dislike personal attacks, but Penny is the head of a business networking association which has been around since 1998, so I figure she can cope with someone disagreeing with her.

The thing I took issue with is the following statement from the comment Penny left: “I certainly tell everyone I meet to create their Twitter name before thier real name goes. I have registered my children for the future too.”

And in case you’re wondering the spelling mistake (thier) is copied from the original – not created by yours truly for effect or done out of sloppiness. There are other typos there too if you want to go looking for them, and maybe you should – she’s writing a book after all, so presumably wants readers.

Cutting to the chase, this advice misses the point of Twitter and everything else in the social media oeuvre. So much so, that at first I thought it had to be a joke.

Who will benefit if we all do as Penny recommends and register our children’s names as Twitter accounts? And why stop with your existing children, why not register a few spares covering all the names you might pick for the kids you haven’t had yet.

Now, here’s a thing. Any account not updated for six months is classed by Twitter as inactive (I have learned from a quick squint at the Ts&Cs).

So if I register @corneliusfleming today (in case I have a son in the future I hate so much I name him after my father) the account could be gone before Badly Named Boy can even say Twitter. Thereby making the whole exercise a complete waste of time.

Maybe I’ll have to ghost Tweet for him, to ensure that doesn’t happen. Great! Just what we all need on Twitter, an army of parents ghost Tweeting on behalf of their kids. Can’t wait!

As far as I can see, no one benefits from such behaviour. Maybe as a parent one gets a warm satisfied feeling that no one else can use the name they happen to share with your three-year old. But that’s about it.

Who loses? We all do. Twitter is a community; its value is in the networks that develop within the community – individuals and organisations interacting, sharing knowledge and insight. Twitter may one day be nothing more than a footnote in the pages of online history. But there will be connections made today on Twitter that become sustainable and mutually beneficial.

The more it is jumped on as an opportunistic bandwagon by people with little to contribute the sooner Twitter’s demise will be brought about; the cool kids will leave once the dorks arrive en masse – we’ve seen it all before, I’m sure.

I’ve got kids (two sons I’m tremendously proud of) but I don’t see much business benefit to me or anyone else in them having Twitter accounts that they may or may not use in the future. I also fail to see how my sandbagging accounts like this assists me or anyone else in terms of networking. It’s not social (if it’s anything it’s anti-social) and it’s as far from community-minded as it gets.

I’m sorry Penny, but as someone who until recently ran a small business, I expect more awareness and better advice from the head of a business networking association. I can forgive Business Link for being full of windbags, civil service dead wood and the general walking wounded that comprise the sub-genre of retired banking execs, but Ecademy has to aim higher.

There’s more I could say, and in fact did say in a response I wrote to her comment on the Marketing Donut but at the time of writing this, that response hadn’t appeared.