Middle class twit, er, tweet

Why tweet? I suspect this is something many lawyers have asked themselves, once, before going on to do something decidedly more interesting with their lives. Or maybe, as US movie star Ashton Kutcher has apparently just done having said something infra dig on his Twitter feed, they have instead outsourced it all to a PR agent, which, imho, is rather like paying someone to go to a party for you and pretend to be you.

Mark Brandon
Mark Brandon

I am bombarded on a daily basis with exhortations as to why people like me – especiall people like me – should be flooding the Twittersphere with my silvery pronouncements of wisdom. Yet I have a schizophrenic relationship with this new medium. On the one hand, I can’t be bothered to wade through hundreds of tweets hoping vainly that someone will eventually post a link to a recipe for the perfect apple crumble; but on the other, I know that I should be tweeting but just can’t bring myself to do it unless I force myself, and that hardly seems the point. 

Am I too lazy? Sceptical? Antediluvian? Uninformed of the benefits? Unconvinced by the benefits?

My scepticism was summed up very well by an American novelist, can’t remember her name,  I heard on Radio 4 the other week. She was asked if she tweeted and she confessed that, rather like me, she didn’t do it that much, felt she perhaps ought to but couldn’t really work out why she didn’t. “The thing about Twitter,” she said, sagely, “is that everybody’s selling, but who’s buying?”

I find that the moment you follow more than about five people on Twitter, you are assaulted by hundreds and hundreds of messages ranging from quite interesting links to articles I might like to read, to notes on what kind of confectionery one has just purchased for one’s daughter for the Wednesday matinee of ‘Wicked’ which is just about to start. Twitter, in case you wondered, processes 250m tweets per day. I imagine something over 249m of them are complete bird poop that nobody reads anyway.

I suspect that the question of value is one that puts most lawyers off it. Does it have any value?

Thanks to the crazily-litigious US legal system, we may be on the road to an answer.

It seems a company in the US is suing one of its former employees for having ‘stolen’ its followers. Apparently the bright spark changed the password on the company’s Twitter account just before he left and then wouldn’t tell anyone what it was, in the meantime having managed to transition all the followers onto a new, very similarly named, account run by him. Or something. The claim values each follower at $2.50, although it didn’t mention whether that was an annual value, monthly or lifetime. By that reckoning, my flock is worth $457.50, at time of writing. Thanks to all of you.

So given that people like me should be doing it, that it may well have a direct monetary as well as notional marketing value – albeit that recent research in the US is showing Twitter usage having plateaued and starting to dip over there – why don’t I do it more?

After much deliberation, I think the reason I don’t is because I was brought up in Britain in the 1970s, when it was still ‘not the done thing’ to go around thinking that you might have something interesting to say – precocious child! – and utterly inconceivable that you might bike around the estate on your Chopper with a megaphone letting everyone know what you just had for breakfast.

No, dear reader, where I am happy to attempt to be interesting once a week or so in the luxury of 700 words – more on my website, where I can waffle to my heart’s content – the idea of machine-gunning the Ethernet with 140 characters of ‘me’ several times an hour or more is, for the moment, beyond me. I may – may, mind you – be capable of being kind of interesting on a good day, but I’m not that interesting. And nor, I suspect, and with apologies to my more interesting friends, is anyone else…

Mark Brandon, managing director, Motive Legal Consulting