Twitter is a great site for learning and sharing information about health. It is a micro-blogging site which limits your posts to 140 characters. This allows people to share a lot of information in a short space of time. This can be in the form of comments on issues or sharing of links to news stories, research and blogs etc.
We always advise people to approach Twitter as though you are at a party or a conference. You wouldn’t simply repeat what other people were saying parrot fashion all the time or just talk about yourself. Vary your content, by all means share other peoples’ tweets but add some of your own opinions – people following you are interested in what you have to say.
- 1. Setting up your account
Go to Twitter to get started. Enter your name, email, and a password. Click Sign up.
You will now be taken to a second screen where you can select a username. This is the name by which you will be known on Twitter. We advise to use a name which can help people find you. The more obscure the name the more difficult it will be for someone to find your account. Remember to click the authorization link that you would have been sent to the email address you provided.
Now click on the Create my account button. That’s all there is to it. Twitter will suggest people for you to follow but you should do your own searches. When you find someone you would like to follow see who they are following and follow them – it makes the job of finding people easier!
- 2. Building up your profile
You will need to add a photograph of yourself (max 700k) to help people identify you and then complete the other bits of information such as the area you live and work. You will also need to complete a short bio of yourself – this is what people will read to decide whether to follow you so try and keep it short and snappy (no more than 160 characters). You can also include a url to your blog if you have one.
You will be given the option of protecting your tweets. Some people opt for this but in my view it contradicts what Twitter is about which is a platform to share ideas and information.
- 3. Twitter explained
There are some basic commands associated with Twitter which don’t take long to learn. These are as follows:
- Tweets – these are the messages you post. They are limited to 140 characters and might be something original or someone else’s tweet that you have chosen to repost (retweet)
- Retweets – When you retweet someone else’s message the letters RT appear before the message with the id of the person who posted the original tweet.
These are other peoples’ tweets that have mentioned you. They tell you that a person has either replied to something you have tweeted or retweeted something you have posted. Alternatively they may simply be a message from someone that they did not mind being public.
- Direct messages
These are private messages you have with another person. They are not public but you need to exercise caution on what you post. Do not include anything you would be unhappy being made public as the message could easily be copied through the print screen option on your keyboard. We tend to use these for conversations we might be having with someone that we think our followers would not be interested in.
- Hash tags.
These are the # symbol attached to a phrase or letters etc. The hashtag is simply a book mark which allows people interested in the hashtag term to access tweets from likeminded people who they might not be following. For example if you save the term #nhs you will be able to keep abreast of any tweets people have posted using the term #nhs even if you are not following them. You will find some of these terms are then used to form hashtag discussions. For example #nhssm which takes place for an hour one evening in the week. You can either take part during the discussion or if you don’t get the chance you can save the term and then look for yourself what was discussed later. Hashtags offer an interesting way of watching live commentary for programmes such as #panorama or #BBCQT. If enough people use the same hashtag it will begin to trend and Twitter will show you which hashtags are trending worldwide, in the UK or by city. If there is a disaster somewhere you will see it on Twitter first because it will trend very quickly.
4. Mobile devices and third party applications
If you have a smart phone or tablet then Twitter comes into its own as you are not tied to a laptop and can dip into it at your own leisure. If you wish to use a mobile version of Twitter for your phone or tablet then we advise you download the Echofon app or Hootsuite app but this is a personal decision and you may find one of the many alternatives more suitable.
If you are using a laptop then we advise that you download Tweetdeck www.tweetdeck.com as this sorts your twitter into visually friendly columns making it easier to monitor your twitter feeds as well as searching.
5. Some people to follow
Who you follow is personal to you and will depend on what you wish to use twitter for. It may be that you wish to use it socially and not mix it with work. If that is the case then you will want to follow people you know or have an interest in. You may instead wish to use twitter entirely for work or in fact as many people do, mix a bit of both. We have therefore tried to include a mixture of both below: