Defending Twitter against Terry Prone

Terry Prone is wrong about Twitter...
It’s a shame to see a once-respected media manager fall from grace.  Terry Prone seems to have lost the run of the PR game.  She wrote a column in the Irish Examiner attacking Twitter – and it was as if she’d completely missed the value of new media – the new way of connecting with people & businesses.

I know it’s difficult to decide what to write about sometimes – but it’s best to write about something you understand.  Terry Prone hasn’t a clue about Twitter – and it showed.

Rather than ignore her point of view – as almost everyone on Twitter has – I think her view is worth a detailed look.

Terry Prone took advantage of Ray Foley, TodayFM radio presenter.  Ray wrote a blogpost on www.Joe.ie saying he was stopping tweeting. “The fact that Ray Foley is a Twitter quitter just might start a trend.” It’s clever to write about high profile people quitting Twitter - but pointless: Twitter is just beginning to be used in Ireland.  People are learning how to use it with advantage.  This is the early stage of Twitter use. Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter came in for an attack by Terry Prone  - because he tweeted to say what he had for breakfast.  I do the same sometimes.  It’s a way of being human, building rapport and generally opening-up to others. People are interested in what others eat.  It reveals something, makes life more interesting.

Terry Prone attacked Twitter because “You don’t get verifiable news on Twitter.  You get gossip before it has been fully researched.”  So what?  Gossip is interesting.  Humans are gossip-making creatures.  Twitter helps people to be themselves.

Terry had a go at celebs for using Twitter in a certain way.  Celebs reveal things about themselves via Twitter, fans follow them -  Twitter is simply a means of communications that suits people.  I don’t follow any celebs on Twitter (except Stephen Fry) but others do – good luck to them. The trouble with Terry Prone’s view - “the downside of opening a conduit for the  masses to talk to you” -  is that she’s set herself up in a judgemental frame of mind. She simply doesn’t understand what fans of celebs want these days. They want their stars accessible – and celebs enjoy a valuable marketing tool in Twitter.

Terry Prone used the Ray Foley story to make the point that Twitter takes time.  She highlights “the addictive nature of Twitter”.  Everything takes time – it’s all a matter of priorities.  If you have no sense of priorities you might spend all day on Twitter – and regret it afterwards. But you could spend the whole day watching TV or on the phone.  You could spend the whole day writing a novel.  It sounds good to blame Twitter but it’s superficial thinking.

I tweet a lot more than Ray Foley ever tweeted.  Am I an addict? No, I don’t have a shred of an addict in my personality. I tweet by choice, deliberately, with a clear sense of purpose – even when I share a photo of where I’ve been via Twitter.

Here’s a concrete example of how Twitter helped people in Cork this week. Help Portrait Cork was organised via Twitter.  People were able to use Twitter to find out about it. People were able to volunteer to help via Twitter: we were able to gather a little community of volunteers committed to a noble cause. Most of all, the contacts we built up during the year on Twitter were a vital element in making Help Portrait Cork happen. Twitter is a fabulous new help to community life.

If only Terry Prone would use her super communication skills for a useful purpose, to show she understands the modern world, the new expectations – Terry Prone would then have a relevant and valuable view with which to lead.

I invite Terry to open her own Twitter account – let her give Twitter a proper test drive – let her speak from the heart with conviction – and cut out snide remarks about dear young Twitter.

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PS - A version of this blogpost appeared in The Cork News on Friday 10 December 2010.