Getting the most out of Twitter as a health care professional!

Two years ago I said that I thought Twitter was taking it too far in the online world and I seriously couldn’t see a role for it in my life…  I have changed my tune! 

One year ago I tried to use Twitter more often, but found it daunting because I wasn’t using an appropriate tool to get the most out of it.

Now I finally understand the role Twitter can play for healthcare professionals as I finally found a program to collect Tweets, organize them in topics and also found ways to share  my Tweets in other forums such as Facebook, my Blog and LinkedIn.  So now that it is part of my routine I thought I was ready to share some tips on getting started on Twitter and getting Twitter to work for you! 

Tip 1. Think about your online persona, have a reason to start Tweeting.   

Decide what you will Tweet about.  I mostly Tweet about OT, Higher Education, Online Technology, Assistive Technology and topics broadly related to these, (sometimes I stray away and Tweet about how my football team is going, maybe I could use a separate identity for that?)
My Twitter Profile
Tip 2. Create a professional profile in your Twitter account.  Choose an online identity (or name) that represents you.  I chose VirtualOT and use it for all my professional online activities.  Having a consistent online presence helps people to start forming a relationship with you, soon they start to send you information because they know your interests.  
Customize your Twitter profile to give a professional impression! a)  Write a brief, professional and relevant bio (it is ok to include some personal information, just keep it to what you would tell a patient/client in real life), b) Upload a picture or avatar that represents you professionally, and c) Customize your page’s background and colours.  You can do all of these things through the settings tool bar, then select ‘design’ for the background, ‘profile’ for your profile etc. 

Tip 3.  Learn the lingo (language).  Thanks to @enableOT for the foundation of this list on OT4OT wiki
@:  Use this to inform a person that you are directing a Tweet towards them (e.g. @VirtualOT). 
Find people:  This means “find people to follow”. 
Follow/Following:  By following someone you will see all his or her tweets on your page.  You can choose to follow anyone who allows it; sometimes you will get a message saying they need to approve you.
Hashtags #:  The hashtag is used to tag a topic.  For example in OT we use #OT. 
Profile: Customized information about you that others will see on Twitter.
Tweets:  The term given to the bite-sized messages of 140 characters you send out.  Tweets can be public, private, or even direct messages.  You can only receive direct messages from people you follow and vice versa.  Re-tweets (RT’s):  This is when a tweet is forwarded by another user.
Tweeps: People who use Twitter (sometimes also means people you met on Twitter).
Twittersphere:  The virtual world of Twitter.

Example Tweet using bitly (reduced URL)

Tip 4.  Be concise and informative.  You only have 140 characters to use for each Tweet, so be concise!  Think of Twitter as a virtual notice board with the capacity to leave notes or questions for individuals or groups about a topic.  Most health care Twitter use this forum post information, look for answers or brainstorm a problem.   Examples include looking for a resource, a supplier or to share news on funding changes for OT services.  If you need to add a website URL these can be very long.  To get around this use bitly or tinyurl to shrink the url address so it can fit in your 140 characters more easily.

Example Tweet hashtag #OT

Tip 5. Use #tags – hashtags.  Hashtags have made a huge difference to finding information on Twitter.   These are the best way to have non-followers see your tweets and for followers to notice Tweets of shared importance.  For a current list of Twitter hashtags that are of interest to OTs, see Twitter Hashtags List.  A helpful website is WTH: What the Hashtag, an editable encyclopaedia for hashtags found on Twitter.  Experiment with hashtags as they specify your interests.  You can invent your own hashtags (e.g. we created #OT4OT which is online technology for occupational therapy).

Tweetdeck helps organize top

Tip 6.  Use technology to organize your Tweets! The basic Twitter site will show you a constant feed of information from people you follow.  However there will be people in the “Twitterspehere” posting about topics you are interested in.  You need a way to collect and organize Tweets by topic.  There are a number of Apps for phones and computers to help you organize tweets by topic.  TweetDeck, HootSuite, and TweetCaster help you organize your Twitter account for your phone, desktop computer, iPad, laptop etc.  It can be daunting to work out which App to use, I have settled with Tweetdeck and am happy with its performance.  On my Tweetdeck I leave a search column open at all times for the terms #OT, #Virtual-World-OT-Day, #OccupationalTherapy, and #OT4OT.  I also use these hashtags frequently when chatting with my OT Twitter friends. 

Linking Twitter to Facebook

Tip 7. Set-up an RSS feed—Twitter is an especially powerful networking tool when combined with a blog or Facebook account.  You can set up Twitter to direct Tweets to your Facebook wall (if you want) and you can also set up a feed from Twitter to your blog.  Using these tools you will be able to post information just once and have it available in three different online forums!  Note: Another great way to get more impact from your blog is to set up Networked Blogs in Facebook to re-post blog posts on your Facebook wall.    

@enableOT created an OT list in Twitter

Tip 8. Find people to followTo find people you can use findpeople link in Twitter.  Once you follow one person, you can look to see who follows them and then click the “follow” button to add them to the list of people you follow.  There are also directories such as where you can search for people by keyword.  To find other OTs on Twitter start with @enableOTs occupational therapy list and from there you will find many other lists of OTs under areas of practice or topics of interest.  

Tip 9. Be selective about who to follow back—Once you’ve been on Twitter for a while, people will begin to follow you.  Don’t feel compelled to follow everyone back, they may even turn out to be a spam-bot or simply a person whose interests don’t align with yours. When deciding whether or not to follow-back, look at the user’s profile and see if their profile and interests match yours, read some of their recent Tweets and see if you’d like to “converse” with them.

#FollowFriday is a great tool to find OTs in Twitter

Tip 10. Make use of #FF.  Follow Friday #FF is the hashtag to help people find new Twitter friends. On Fridays “Tweeps” recommend people they think others should be following.  Take advantage of these days, follow the people your friends recommend and then re-tweet the recommendation to let the recommended know that you are now following him or her.  Apps like FollowFridayRanking help keep track of who is being recommended!

4 thoughts on “Getting the most out of Twitter as a health care professional!

  1. I agree with you completely. At first I thought Twitter was so silly – why would I want to hear about someone's everyday moments. But it is so much more than that. I like to describe it as my own personal search engine. There is so much material on the internet that a typical search engine does not pick up in a general search. By following certain people on Twitter I find out about website postings, articles and pdf's that I would have never found through a typical search. I second your motion about limiting who you follow. I found that once I starting following too many people it got a little overwhelming.

  2. Yes, I agree, following too many people makes it quite overwhelming doesn't it! On another note: This last week I was part of a tweet-athon at the CAOT conference. I really enjoyed looking back at the tweets from the conference, they were an excellent summary of the key points (as I heard them) and I have already been reflecting on the key messages. Bonus is that this can also be used as evidence of CPD!Cheers, Anita

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