“When people come to Twitter and they want to express something in the world, the technology fades away. It’s them writing a simple message and them knowing that people are going to see it.” ~ Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter (from Brainy Quote)
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Last week we discussed the power of Twitter. This week, as an extension of that, I wanted to discuss some Twitter tips I have learned along the way over the past 2 ½ years. As you can tell, I am very passionate about Twitter, and social media in general, despite my initial reservations. I am currently reading Social Media in Clinical Practice, and to illustrate our rapidly changing digital world, some of the information has significantly evolved in the 2 years since it was printed. Its author, Bertalan Mesko, spends some time explaining the history of social media, which is useful when you consider where it began and where we are today. One of the articles he cites, Users of the world unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media, defines social media as: “…a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0*, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content”. Although the article goes into great detail, the general idea behind social media is the exchange of information. In the case of Twitter, the information has to be 140 characters or less. It sounds limiting, but as it turns out, you can convey a lot of information within those parameters.
By no means is the following list all inclusive, but instead, just some of the more important tips that I feel I have learned along the way as both a physician blogger and Twitter engager:
1) Understand some basics. The @ symbol comes before your username, also referred to as a Twitter handle. Hashtags are denoted by the # symbol and allow you to be part of a conversation, categorize tweets and add flare to a tweet. Be careful though, do not to overdo hashtags – maximum 3 per tweet.
2) What constitutes an ideal tweet? If you look at some of the most retweeted content, you quickly realize no hard-fast rules exist. In general, when sharing educational material, a few words followed by the title of the article, the URL, the relevant Twitter handle(s), and 1 to 3 hashtags.
3) If you start a tweet with the @symbol, Twitter considers it a private conversation between you and the Twitter user you are referring to. This has its advantages for sure. If you want to start a tweet with a Twitter handle, but want it to appear for everyone to see, you can start the tweet with a period.
4) What is the perfect number of tweets a day? Social media frequency has been researched and analyzed, but the bottom line revolves around 3 key factors – consistency, quality and personality. To each his own, but I aim for 3 to 5 ‘quality’ tweets per day.
5) Avoid looking like spam. When I look at someone’s Twitter feed and it is full of either links to their website/blog or their own tweets with little evidence that they share other people’s information, it comes across as ‘spammy’ to me.
6) Only follow who you want to follow. What do I mean by this? Some people ‘unfollow’ people who don’t follow them back. In some cases, this behaviour may help your decision when you are ‘on the fence’, but don’t let it guide who you follow.
7) Twitter is all about engagement. If someone mentions you, reply. I continue to work on how best to do this. For instance, if someone retweets a tweet of mine that has original content (i.e. a link to one of my posts), I will thank them. Also, you can engage in a conversation about a tweet. You can see it when you click on the tweet. This is still a work in progress for me. Finally, look for Twitter chats (scheduled times for a live Twitter conversation) that you might be interested in joining. I recently discovered @WeDocs (#WeDocs), part of the We Communities that meets once a month.
8) If you like something, but don’t want to necessarily retweet it, click ‘Favorite’. You can look back on these tweets as well. If you love a tweet, you may want to both retweet it and favorite it!
9) Try to add a personal touch and have some fun! As with any online content, a personal touch can go a long way. If people can get to know and identify with a real person behind the tweets, you are more likely to find other like-minded people to engage with.
Are you on Twitter? If so, what tips can you pass along that you have found to be helpful? If not, why not start today.
*Web 2.0 is a term that was first used in 2004 to describe a new way in which software developers and end-users started to utilize the World Wide Web; that is, as a platform whereby content and applications are no longer published by individuals, but instead are continuously modified by users in a participatory and collaborative fashion.²
1. Mesko, B. (2013). Social Media in Clinical Practice. Springer: London.
2. Kaplan, A.M. & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53, 59-68.