The Doctor’s Guide to Twitter: Useful Tips & Tools

Tweeting from the ER? Not quite. Twitter can prove to be an effective and useful tool for almost every industry, including the medical field where doctor’s need to access and relay information quickly. Here’s how doctors are using Twitter for personal branding, patient relations and just plain fun.

Why Doctors Should Use Twitter

Even if it’s new to you, a doctor can learn a lot from Twitter and also put a lot of valuable information out into Twitterworld.

1. Use it for fun. Just because a doctor leads a fast-paced lifestyle doesn’t mean Twitter can’t fit into the mix. There are no rules, so you can use it sparingly, just the way you limit your TV time.
2. Find out who else is on Twitter. There’s a good chance at least a large handful of people you know, from family members to colleagues, are on Twitter.
3. Use it to build your brand. If you specialize in a certain area, realize that when people are looking for a MD in their area, they often turn to the Internet. Utilize Twitter to build your brand and you may find it’s your best friend.
4. Believe it or not, people might be interested. Yes, you perform your daily routine like clockwork, but if you work in the ER, there’s certainly an audience that would read updates of the things you see and do.
5. Market yourself. Believe it or not, people would like to know their doctor. Creating a personable experience with a potential patient can bring them in the door for good.
6. Offer advice. We aren’t suggesting treating patients over Twitter, but offering general health advice can build an audience and make followers stick around since you’re automatically seen as an expert.
7. Use it as an escape. When working long hours, there can be little entertainment. Twitter can serve as comic relief, since you manage who you follow.
8. Get your office in on Twitter. If you’re part of a practice and want to utilize Twitter as a work tool, encourage others in your office to get on Twitter. It will quickly serve as a fast means of communication that will trump text messaging and phone calls.
9. Tell your clients. If you’re making Twitter a tool for the office, make it known to patients who may also tweet. This allows them to put a personality to the receptionist, nurse and doctor they visit.
10. Don’t mistake Twitter for just another social networking site. While other social networking sites have also proved to be helpful for marketing, nothing has improved a company’s bottom line like Twitter.
11. Be yourself. This can’t be stressed enough. You’re a doctor, but you want people to see you as more than that. You want them to see you as a person, so leave the medical jargon behind unless you’re conversing with fellow docs.
12. Don’t limit yourself. At it’s best, Twitter serves as a micro blogging site. This means you can post whatever you want whenever you feel like it. Don’t be afraid to show a little personality. It will almost always be embraced.
13. You choose what you read. You can follow everyone or follow no one. It’s easy as that and clears your screen so you’re only reading items you’re actually interested in.
14. It connects you with the community. Hop on Twitter and check your area’s trending topics. You’ll find out what’s going on, who’s talking about what and can get in the conversation should you have something to say.
15. Others in the medical industry are hopping on board. Twitter has moved a bit slowly with the medical community, but it’s being embraced by teaching colleges who relay details fo surgeries in progress. In short, it’s the way of the future.
16. Get in tune with medical news. You don’t have all day to sit at a desk and take RSS feeds giving you the dish on the latest medical news. One quick glance at your tweets and you can catch up on what you’ve missed with links delivered right to your screen.
17. Twitter is never ending. Tweets don’t take up space, so there’s no deleting messages or letting them accumulate to be too much. They constantly come in, so you aren’t left to manage the content.
18. Don’t feel inhibited by age. As The New York Times put it, teens love Facebook, adults are all about Twitter. Once you get the hang of it, you will see how many adults are regular users.
19. Don’t be shy. The Internet is all about making contacts, meeting new people and taking part in conversations you feel are worth your time. Don’t be shy and realize that Twitter moves so fast, there’s no reason to sit on the sidelines.
20. Connect with other physicians. Twitter is definitely catching on the medical community. If you want to make connections with those in your field this is an easy way to do it without eating up your valuable time.
21. Promote a healthy lifestyle. Like giving advice, Twitter is a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s tweeting about what you’re eating for dinner or what physical activity is planned for the weekend, it will get followers thinking likewise.
22. Make your staff more aware. If there’s an article or report that you’d like your staff to see, you can use the retweet function to send it to everyone who follows you. This takes a task that might have involved constructing an email, from minutes to seconds..
23. Interact, don’t just read and report. Links are great, but social networking is all about the interaction between people online. If you send a link to a report from a medical journal, follow with a tweet on your thoughts and ask others to join in.
24. Split up accounts. If you want to showcase your personality only to friends and want to keep other tweets work-related, consider two accounts. While this is acceptable, it’s best to manage one until you get a solid feel for Twitter.
25. Be consistent. There will be times when life takes over and you can’t tweet every hour. For the most part, try to be consistent with your tweets to stay relevant and keep your followers engaged.
26. Get a twentor (or Twitter mentor). This is someone who knows their way around Twitter and will help you get a comfy feel for updating and reaching out to others.
27. Be smart about who you follow. It’s powerful who you can meet online, so do your homework and check out local clinics, health organizations and even schools in your area to get your word out to the right people..

The Doctor’s Beginner Guide to Twitter

If you have no clue what a tweet is, we’ll get you caught up so you aren’t going into Twitter and get lost.

1. Register.Twitter’s appeal? It’s free! To sign up, head over to Twitter.
2. Choose a username that fits. If you’re promoting yourself as a doctor on Twitter (or even if you aren’t), you probably want to make this known through your username. This username can be what actual patients refer to you as, such as DrSmith or include your location or DoctorHouston. There’s no rules to what your username should be, so if Jill1981 works best for you, go for it.
3. Trending topics. Trending topics can be found on the right hand side of your screen in a drop down-style column. You can change your trending topics according to world, select countries and select large cities. These are the phrases or topics that are most often tweeted in that hour and trending topics are always changing.
4. Add your friends. Ask colleagues and friends if they’re on Twitter. All you need to know is their username to find them. Click Find People at the top right hand side of the screen, enter the username and you’ll be taken to their Twitter page where you’ll select Add to follow them.
5. Add friends of friends. Let’s say you have the username of a nurse at another practice in the area. She may have the doctor or doctors that work in her practice on Twitter, and you can follow them too. Click on a person’s username (which will appear in light blue) and you’re taken to their Twitter page. Click following, which appears under their username at the top right hand side of the screen and instantly you’ll see everyone that person follows, which may be of interest to you.
6. How to retweet a tweet. From the people you follow, you’ll receive tweets. These are 140 characters or less. Should you want to repeat what someone tweeted you to all of your followers, you will use the retweet function. Hover over the tweet and you’ll see a retweet function. Press it and you’ve instantly retweeted.
7. Breakdown of the numbers. The number of followers is how many people are following you, the number listed above following is how many people you’re getting tweets from and the number above listed is how many people have you “listed” under a category, which in your case might be doctor or medical advice. People make up their own lists, so there’s no right or wrong way to be listed.
8. Creating a list. This allows you to categorize the people you follow. This isn’t a must, but can make things easier if you’re following thousands (and yes, it may get there). As mentioned before, you dub the lists anything you want, so you can categorize the folks you follow by labeling them medical field, friends, bloggers, etc.
9. How to tweet an individual. If you want to say something to someone without sending it to everyone who follows you, you can tweet a person by placing the @ symbol in front of their username. The tweet will appear in that person’s tweet log and if they use Tweetdeck, it will show up in their personal stream of messages. Keep in mind anyone who looks at your Twitter page can see this message..
10. How to send a direct message. In order for you to direct message a person, they must follow you. Click the username and click send direct message on the right side of the screen. You will still only have 140 characters and this message is private and will not be seen on your tweet log.
11. Twitter is best used on a web browser. Twitter works best with a web browser because it’s clear and concise versus your cell phone’s SMS.
12. Get Tweetdeck. As a doctor, you don’t have to time to check Twitter every few minutes. Tweetdeck streamlines your Twitter messages, breaking them into categories of general tweets, tweets directed at you and direct messages, so you can check all of your updates at a glance. To download Tweetdeck, go here.
13. How to Meditate Meditation is similar to prayer in that it allows you to focus your energy towards one thing, in many cases, healing. This site shows you how to get started meditating.

How to Make Twitter Productive

How can you make Twitter productive? By tweeting frequently and letting others know it’s a means of communicating that you’re comfortable with.

1. Use Twitter to build your image. As a doctor, it’s integral you’re seen as a professional. Twitter helps you put a personality behind the sometimes intimidating world of medicine for potential patients and future employers to see you have the warmth to touch lives.
2. Use Twitter to promote your blog For those who have blogs on their practice website, Twitter is a smart way to plug posts and get people talking.
3. Get in the loop with medical news. There are numerous Twitter accounts a doctor can follow to stay in the loop.
4. Get your hospital’s name on the radar. Is this seeking fame? No. It’s promoting the work you’re doing just like every other business person on the planet. Having a Twitter account for the hospital you work at can be a great tool get readers comfortable with what the medical community has to offer.
5. Use it for mindcasting. What does mindcasting mean? It means your broadcasting your thoughts without the self-indulgence. What you’re looking for is feedback from like-minded individuals and you’re able to censor the noise you read. Unlike other social networking sites, Twitter gives you the ability to be public in the most private way and because it isn’t as self-indulgent, it attracts a different type of user than MySpace or Facebook.
6. Create a theme in your tweets. The most successful mindcasting is done when you have a general theme you stick with for the day or week. Every tweet doesn’t have to apply, but the majority should.
7. Write in a professional tone. You’re a doctor. People expect you to be intelligent, so if you’re working the doctor angle (and why shouldn’t you?) be sure you’re using a professional tone for all of your tweets, whether they revolve around medicine or your kid’s soccer game.
8. Be a fan of direct interaction. It’s the Internet, you’re the expert, so what do you have to lose? If there’s someone you follow and enjoy, don’t be afraid of direct interaction by striking up a conversation. It’s what social media is all about.
9. Hyperlink to relevant stories. This is particularly useful if there are any breakthroughs in studies or vaccines, since the public enjoys this information. Because of your doc credentials, getting the news from you is as powerful as mainstream media, plus your followers may ask questions.
10. Keep at it. If you are new to social media, it may take a few weeks to get adjusted to Twitter. Some pick it up and love it from day one, while others have to find their groove.
11. Use it because it’s free. No advertising, no networking that takes away from your family time and no going out of your way to attract new patients. Does it get better than that?
12. Assign a receptionist to run your office’s Twitter account. If you don’t want to have a Twitter account for yourself (though this is far more personal for readers to relate to), have a receptionist manage an office Twitter account. This can be updated only a few times a day with a mix of what’s going on in the office that day and medical articles that are relevant.

Post courtesy of Radiology Technician Schools

4 thoughts on “The Doctor’s Guide to Twitter: Useful Tips & Tools

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