Twitter’s inactive accounts problem

Posted on April 18, 2013 by Ian Byrne

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to register a Twitter handle for a client account only to find that some guy, somewhere, for some (hopefully legitimate reason) set up an account two years ago, followed 3 people, didn’t even bother to upload a profile pic or send a tweet out, and then disappeared.

I’m not the only marketer to have come across this problem (check out the Inactive Usernames thread on the dev.twitter forum), and I’m definitely not the first to write about it. But every time it happens I can’t for the life of me figure out why Twitter STILL hasn’t done it’s massive purge that they’ve been promising for so long.

According to Twitter’s Inactive Account Policy , accounts are liable to be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity. Problem is, if someone signs in once every 6 months, that’s deemed an active account.

Furthermore, the inactive account policy page has had this bit of text for as long as I can remember:

We are currently working to release all inactive usernames in bulk, but we do not have a set time frame for when this will take place.

Well, work harder Twitter. Or at least provide us with some options. Oh wait….

If a username you would like is being used by an account that seems inactive, you should consider selecting an available variation for your use on Twitter. In general, adding numbers, underscores, or abbreviations can help you come up with a great available username.

Well gee whizz, that helps a lot. It’s not as if us marketers have been doing that already and ended up with ugly underscores to beat the band.

Sure, you can tweet the inactive account and hope they respond. Good luck with that. Or you can reach out to Twitter support and bring up your issue. Again, good luck. I’ve done both……repeatedly……and have had no joy.

It’s baffling that there’s no automated system for fixing this, or at the very least a streamlined customer support system. It’s an old enough issue and there are enough people that have had trouble with it to warrant something better than “we are currently working to release all inactive usernames in bulk.”

Come on Twitter. Sort it out and I promise I’ll never say a bad thing about you again.

Have you had the same problem? Or even better found a solution? Let us know.

Ian is VP of 88 Creative. Follow him on Twitter @ianobyrno .

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