Twitter is a conversation, and just as you observe conversation etiquette in real life, when it comes to healthcare tweeting there are unwritten rules, too.
If you are new to Twitter becoming familiar with these rules will ease your transition into its culture; if you are already a seasoned tweeter, take this opportunity to see how you score on your Twitter etiquette.
Rule #1 Be polite at all times
Being courteous to those who follow you is the first rule of Twitter etiquette. Apologize if you make a mistake and never get drawn into a public argument. If someone wants to argue with you on Twitter either ignore them or if they have a genuine grievance take it offline.
Rule #2 Keep it professional
Twitter is an excellent way to allow your personality to shine through your tweets, but you need to strike the right balance between the personal and professional. The standards expected of health care professionals do not change because you are communicating through social media. Posting inappropriate photos and using explicit language is definitely not on. Be professional at all times; avoid flippancy or irreverence which may be misconstrued.
Rule #3 Acknowledge your followers
As much as possible respond to those followers who engage with you and thank those who "Retweet"(RT) your updates in a timely manner. Use their real name whenever you can.
Rule #4 Learn the etiquette of following
You are under no obligation to follow every person who follows you. Following a large number of people indiscrminately diminishes your credibiltiy. Be selective and only follow those you genuinely want to engage with and who add value to your Twitter feed. Similarly not everyone will want to follow you and that's ok. Never call someone out for not following you. Finally don't be the kind of follower who follows someone in order to get them to follow back, and then immediately unfollows.
Rule #5 Use "Direct Message" (DM) for personal conversations
Whatever you post on your Twitter timeline is visible to everyone (whether they're following you or not). If you are engaged in a private conversation with someone on Twitter, use the "Direct Message" (DM) function to communicate. If you want to get in touch with someone about a business opportunity, contact him or her by email.
Rule #6 Avoid overt self-promotion
While Twitter is a good place to promote your healthcare expertise or service, too much self-promotion will lose you followers. It’s ok to share your own content, so long as you balance it out by sharing content from others too. Some social media experts suggest following the 80/20 rule - posting content for your followers 80% of the time and for yourself 20% of the time - but there are no hard and fast rules on this. In the same vein constantly retweeting people who praise you makes you look boastful and self-serving.
Rule #7 Always credit your sources
Be transparent. If you tweet an idea or opinion that originated with another Twitter user, give them credit. Clicking "Retweet" (RT) on a user’s Twitter update allows you to share it with your followers. Alternatively you can manually retweet the post (add "RT" or "via" followed by @ the user’s handle) and add your own comment or insight. If you abbreviate the original tweet add "Modified Tweet" (MT). Adding HT (meaning "Hat Tip") to acknowledge a user who has pointed you in the direction of something interesting is considered polite.
Rule #8 Shorten your links
Shortening long links in your tweets makes for a more streamlined experience for you and your followers. Use a url shortener like bit.ly which also gives you useful realtime information about who's clicking your Bitlink.
Rule #9 Forgo automated services
Do not use automated tweets to thank new followers when they follow you. You may do it with the best of intentions but an auto-DM (automatic direct message) is often viewed as spam. Never auto-DM a link to your website or service.
Rule #10 Ask for Retweets sparingly
It’s ok to ask for a "Retweet" (RT) once in a while, but constantly seeking RTs from your followers is annoying for them.
Rule #11 #Don’t #overuse #hashtags
A hashtag is a popular way of creating and monitoring a conversation around a particular health related topic. To create a hashtag, simply place the # symbol before a word but don't over do it. Placing too many hashtags in your tweet is visually unappealing and may make your tweet look like spam.
Rule #12 Don’t flood your Twitter feed with multiple tweets
If you do a lot of catching up on blogs and other online content first thing in the morning, it is easy to flood your Twitter feed with multiple links. Using a scheduling tool will help you manage a steady trickle of valuable tweets throughout the day, rather than deluging your followers with a downpour all at the same time. If you're going to be live-tweeting or taking part in a healthcare chat it’s polite to let your followers know that you will be tweeting more than usual. Stick to your allotted 140 characters; spreading your thoughts over multiple tweets can be off putting.
Rule #13 Add value to the healthcare conversation
When you share a link to an article, go beyond the headline to add your insight. Contribute your expertise to one of the many health related Twitter chats. You will find a full list of health hashtags via Symplur's Hashtag Project.
None of the above rules are mandatory and you will likely see them flouted every day on Twitter. However by following these unspoken rules of Twitter etiquette you are on the right path to attract new followers, engage more meaningfully with your existing followers and enrich the online healthcare conversation.
Some nice stats from two new Europa reports on the state of digital health in Europe:
According to two surveys in acute care hospitals (those intended for short-term medical or surgical treatment and care) and among General Practitioners (GPs) in Europe, the use of eHealth is starting to take off, with 60% of GPs using eHealth tools in 2013, up 50% since 2007. But much more needs to be done.
The main findings of the surveys include:
* Top performing countries for #eHealth uptake in hospitals are Denmark (66%), Estonia (63%), Sweden and Finland (both 62%). Full country profiles are available by clicking through on the title link above, then the embedded text in the second bulleted paragraph.
* eHealth services are still mostly used for traditional recording and reporting rather than for clinical purposes, such as holding consultations online (only 10% of GPs hold online consultations.
* When it comes to digitising patient health records, the Netherlands take the gold with 83.2% digitisation; with silver medal for Denmark (80.6%) and the UK taking home bronze (80.5%).
* However, only 9% of hospitals in Europe allow patients to access online their own medical records, and most of those only give partial access
* When adopting e-health, hospitals and GPs experience many barriers ranging from lack of interoperability to lack of regulatory framework and resources.
"My patient is a middle aged professional, with no symptoms what so ever.
He is fit and healthy, a non smoker, has good teeth, eats well and has no family history of arthritis or autoimmune disease. So why is he seeing a rheumatologist?
He’s concerned about some results he has received from a genetic screening test. The test results suggest that his risk of developing two autoimmune diseases – rheumatoid arthritis and Scleroderma, conditions I frequently treat, is increased.
I’m at a slight disadvantage as this is the first time I’ve had has to counsel a patient in this situation.
Remember once upon a time when you thought it was ridiculous that kids in elementary school had cell phones and other gadgets? Today, 48 percent of girls between the ages of six and 12 have a cell phone—and 51 percent of those have a smartphone! Most adults today never had this type of exposure to…
Every January, I publish my predictions for the upcoming year regarding medicine and healthcare. Usually, the majority of these predictions turn out to be valid later on, although I prefer calling them apparent trends rather than actual predictions. Here are my 20 points for 2014.
Just a recab from the blog:
1. Google Glass to be used in everyday healthcare
2. IBM Watson’s first commercial use by hospitals
3. Direct-to-consumer genomics to get new rules
4. 3D printing artificial limbs and biomaterials goes mainstream
5. The healthcare experience will be brought to the home
6. LEGO Mindstorms to be applied for DIY biotech
7. Home diagnostics to be the key trend
8. Wearable MRI technology
9. Optogenetics to be featured at major scientific journals
10. Bigger role of MOOCs as medical schools change approach about digital literacy
11. More connected digital healthcare devices and services
12. The first steps of Google Calico to be public
13. EEG controlled devices to appear
14. Exoskeletons will be featured worldwide
15. First really useful food scanners to be released
16. Gamifying the healthy lifestyle
17. Finally remote touch and simpler data input become possible
18. Nanotechnology to be included in the medical curriculum
19. Decision on newborn genome sequencing to be made
20. First results of Ray Kurzweil’s work at Google to be revealed
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