Social Media Health Network

Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care

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Posted by Susanna H. French (@susannafrench) · Jul 30, 2013

TW 101 - Getting Started with Twitter

If you’re involved in health care and social media, you have to be engaged on Twitter. Before I had any idea that it could help me in my job, it was a way for me to connect with the actors and authors I admired most. I had no idea it would let me speak directly to them—but it did.

I’ve heard it said more than once that Facebook is for the friends you have, and Twitter is for the friends you wish you had. I don’t know about that—but in health care, you get the best of both worlds. Strike up a conversation with someone you admire, and you'll probably get a new friend in the bargain.

1. Setting up an account

User nameYour username

First, you’ll need an email address where Twitter can send your confirmation message, password reminders and notifications, if you choose to get them. It will only be visible to you.

Then pick your username. The good news is that Twitter lets you change your username whenever you want....just remember to let your friends and contacts know if you do change it. Old links won't get disconnected, but if you're widely known by one name, it's best to get the word out as soon as you change it so that there's no confusion when people look you up in the future. So choose wisely the first time and you won’t have to think about it again.

You may have to get creative finding a name that hasn’t been taken. Twitter’s been around a while and it has more than 500 million accounts. But as long as the name you want is under 15 characters, keep trying. The shorter, the better. That lets your tweets have more room when people retweet you.

Setting up your profile

Your ProfileNext, click the gear icon in the menu bar (or this link) to access your settings. Here’s where you add your profile picture and the header image that surrounds it at the top of your feed, as well as your bio information, and all that.

Your profile photo and your bio are what most people will see no matter what program or what size screen they use to access Twitter, so think carefully about how you represent yourself.

If you mention your employer in your bio, it’s a good idea - if not specifically mentioned in their social media policy - to say that your opinions are your own and not those of your employer. Don’t forget to add a link to whatever else you’d like people to know about.

2. Connecting with others

There are six ways to connect with others on Twitter. Go to the Discover tab in the top menu.

Check out who Twitter recommends, by clicking on Who to Follow.

Who to follow

Browse Popular Accounts if you want to shop around. (See the Health category)

Browse Categories

Or click on Find Friends to be more specific.

Search by a person’s name, or their username if you know it. On the same page, you can invite your friends by email.

Depending on the email service you’re using, you can search your address book in case any contacts have linked to their Twitter accounts.

Find Friends

But my favorite way to do it is to find someone I already admire...


and see who they follow, and see who they follow, and see who they follow. Look at the lists they keep, and subscribe to them.

Not all of them will apply to your field of interest, but as you explore a subject, you may start seeing the same names popping up over and over. Start with those right here at Mayo Clinic, including the MCCSM Staff and External Advisory Board.

There’s no end to the connections you can make, which can have its drawbacks. You could spend every waking moment reading your feed and getting nothing else done. But you’ll develop your own method of scanning and filtering your tweets and building lists so that it’s easier to find people. We’ll get into lists in a later unit.

Remember that unlike Facebook, where you have a lot of privacy choices, it’s all or nothing on Twitter. Except for direct messages, everything you say is public and shows up on your timeline. It doesn’t necessarily go away everywhere when you delete it. Again, check out our later modules for more on that. It’s important to understand how to use this simple but very powerful tool.

3. Go forth and tweet

blah blah blahNow that you’re up and running, let people know you’re out there.

Don’t shortchange yourself into thinking that Twitter is just a place to post a link to your latest blog post and beg for followers. That’s a great way to lose the public's interest.

By sharing what others have created, you’re connecting your friends to their friends, expanding everyone’s network and saying, 'Hey, I’m not the only one out here who has something to say.' Those who use Twitter really effectively share others' content much more than they post their own—which means they're out there finding it in the first place. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

My favorite thing

(You also have ten fingers for typing, but that would be a poor rule of thumb.)

Listen to and learn from your peers—and enjoy the other lessons in this series. Don't be afraid to contact me if you have any questions!

Susanna French is a member of the MCCSM External Advisory Board and a freelance writer in Vermont.

Editor's Note: This is a free sampler of the curriculum available to members of the Social Media Health Network. See this page for details on joining.

advisory board basics Getting Started Health Care Healthcare Susanna French TW


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Carol Gunderson (@carolgunderson) · Oct 4, 2013 · #

OK, I've set myself up. Not sure what is ahead.....away we go!

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Kristi (@kristib) · Oct 8, 2013 · #

I am ready to tweet.

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Ashley Miller (@lvhnashley) · Oct 18, 2013 · #

Follow my personal account, @Ashley8053 and my organization's account, @LVHN. Looking forward to tweeting my learnings from Minnesota!


SMR, Class of Oct. 2013

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Kim Marcucci (@kmarcucci) · Oct 19, 2013 · #

Thank you Susan! Tweeting we go!

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