Commentary

When Your Mother-in-Law Visits Twitter

The world's gone (bleep)ing mad.

However I try to explain what's happening now, I keep returning to that thought. It's what I told my dinner companions Thursday night at the Search Insider Summit, moments after I called my wife and she couldn't talk because she was teaching her mom how to use Twitter.

Put aside the fact that, at the time, my wife had never used Twitter. She's been a loyal reader of my blog since we started dating, but she hasn't seen any of my tweets since I joined Twitter in March 2007. Put aside the fact that I've personally sat down with countless executives and marketers to walk them through Twitter. Put aside the fact that the day my wife told me this, I was working on a presentation for the Brandhackers Meetup that was all about the tools people can use to manage Twitter. And put aside the fact that my mother in law just got a laptop -- her first computer -- three days prior as an early Mother's Day gift from her husband.

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Okay, I lied. Don't put it all aside because it makes no sense. Who in the name of Oprah thought my mother-in-law would be asking my wife about Twitter? It reminds me of the times growing up when family friends would call my house to discuss medical issues and talk to my mom, a real estate agent, instead of my dad, a gastroenterologist.

My email notifications tell the story another way. At 3:57 p.m Thursday, @barbadel started following me on Twitter. The other person she was following: Larry King. Her sister @CandysTime followed me at 4:05 p.m. At 7:27p.m, my wife @caralana started following me. Before that, the only relative I saw on Twitter -- and one of the only people I've seen there from my personal social sphere -- was my 19-year-old cousin Eddie, and his Twitter profile comes with an entire brand identity around his @eddiefresh persona.

Really, what happened? I went to the source and emailed Barbara, better known as @barbadel, for her thoughts. This new technology enthusiast responded to me right away -- via her iPhone.

David Berkowitz: Why did you join Twitter?

@barbadel: I joined to stay current, relevant and stalk my son-n-law (joking).

DB: How has the experience been so far?

@barbadel: Absolutely addicting... I want to manage several Twitter accounts to increase visibility, both for personal and business uses. [I recommended she try HootSuite to do this.]

DB: I saw you're following Larry King. What do you think of his tweets?

@barbadel: I love Larry King' competitive spirit... but "I'm eating peanut butter now..." -- why bother? [She's serious. He wrote last Thursday, "one of my new favorite foods is peanut butter."]

DB: Do you think you'll still be using Twitter a month from now?

@barbadel: Twitter therapy in a month will be required, and some sleep... I hope my husband doesn't regret the laptop gift.

DB: What do you wish could be better about Twitter?

@barbadel: People like Michelle Obama and others may be hard to get here. Maybe it's a security issue. I convinced my sister and daughter to get on board and we are tweeting.

I've had several conversations with Barbara since then, all of them revolving around Twitter. Each time, along with discussing some new tip or tool I'm teaching her, she asks how we can get another member of the family on board. She's been plotting how to rope in her son, my mom, my aunt, and even my grandmother. She already has her husband tweeting and trying to keep up with her.

She also has a real knack for it. While she's still figuring out what to tweet about and how to tweet it, she is developing three personas: her own, one for her business, and a hybrid that's a more personal version of the business account. We'll check in with her later on to see if she's keeping up her Twitter empire, or she joins the ranks of the Twitter quitters (I'm betting on the former).

There are only two things that would make the experience better for her: if Larry King would tweet less about peanut butter, and if he'd start replying to her. In the meantime, it's proving effective for stalking her son-in-law, daughter, sister, and anyone else she can convince to join.

3 comments about "When Your Mother-in-Law Visits Twitter".
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  1. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities, May 12, 2009 at 3:47 p.m.

    Indeed it is insightful and another great read from you! And I hope you do'nt mind, I just have to tweet this...it's all about the enlightened sharing and learning to me...but I have to note, this reminds me of the MANY conversations I have heard around FACEBOOK; "my kids do'nt want me there," is what I hear from so many parents......seems like TV everywhere doesn't come close to "stalkers everywhere"..........and I love peanut butter!
    Thanks for the great tune-in....once again.

  2. Mandy Vavrinak from Crossroads Communications, LLC, May 12, 2009 at 4:03 p.m.

    I think you've touched on the real power of Twitter (and other platforms like it). You don't need lots of training, or tools, or major planning, to get started... provided your goals are modest and personal. For a business or brand, sure, more planning and some preparation are definitely needed. But for the average person, using Twitter the average way (following less than 100 people, for instance), it's pretty much Nike-style. Just do it.

  3. Tom Watson from Moore Industrial, May 12, 2009 at 9:26 p.m.

    It's an amazing phenomenon. Personally, I'll be looking at Twitter usage trends over the next 12-24 months, along with financial viability. Monetization is key - without it, it doesn't matter how many people use it. I'll also be keeping an eye on how creatively they monetize it, because I believe that in particular is key for Twitter.

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