ADDITION Feb ’12 – due to a lack of response from @willrussell, I changed the handle to @willrussellmktg to move in line with the creation of Will Russell Marketing.

I have a problem – an inquiry, if you like, into the Twitter policy on inactive accounts. If you can shed any light, please do!

My problem goes like this…

When I created my Twitter account it was more of an experiment than a drive for self-branding. I was starting to develop an interest in the world of social media and wanted to learn more, so my choice of Twitter handle back then wasn’t really something of chief concern.

Now things are different.

For the last couple of months I have been trying, without any luck, to obtain the Twitter handle @willrussell. Currently I am @willrussell87 and – if I’m honest – those last two digits are starting to really irritate me. Not because someone has got the Twitter handle I’m after – fair play to them, they got there first. But because it is a totally, well and truly, unbelievably inactive account, yet I still cannot get my hands on it.




The user that created that handle obviously has no interest in Twitter – so the reasonable result should surely be the opportunity for others (ie – me) to start making use of it? Not so simple.

I’ve DM’d and tweeted @willrussell on multiple occasions to make the request. As you would expect via the above screenshot, I have not received any response.

He is following one other user. I tried to make contact, but it seems they are equally inactive.

He is listed in two Twitter lists. I contacted the owners of those two lists asking for assistance. Again, no luck.

I explored his followers for other options but, as you might expect, it’s all spam.

So I started emailing Twitter support. Their response has been the same each time:

“We’re currently unable to accommodate individual requests for inactive or suspended usernames. We may release all inactive and/or suspended usernames in the future, but have not yet set a date for doing so. Follow @support to be updated when inactive usernames become available.”

I did a bit more research, and it turns out that they have been in this limbo for quite a while – at least two years. My question is – what’s holding them back? Unlike other social platforms, no two users on Twitter can have the same username. With Twitter currently having in the realm of 300 million users, there needs to come a point whereby they remove the inactive accounts in order to make room for the acquisition of new users, surely?

Twitter defines inactivity as someone who has not tweeted in six months. @willrussell has tweeted only once, and that was forty-two months ago. Need I say more?

I am not asking for Twitter to simply shut down his account without notice. But why not have a policy whereby they send an email to a user after six months of inactivity, stating their account will be deleted if not used in the next 30 days? Skype have precisely this practice with Skype credit.

I understand why they would hesitate on removing inactive accounts, particularly in the early days. But now, I really feel they need to make a change.

If I am wrong about any of this, please let me know. Or if you have any ideas for next steps I might be able to take, I’m all ears!