A Primer for Setting Up Your Professional Twitter Account
Why You Should Be on Twitter
A common misconception is that social media is all about what someone ate for breakfast or other noneducational celebrity narratives. Twitter, as with other social media platforms, can be personalized to curate the vast amount of content available to feature a user's primary interests, such as anesthesiology research and clinical practice. Beyond creating an online community of followers who share recent publications, scientific news, and practice guidelines, active engagement on Twitter can promote dissemination of personal research interests or publications and networking with potential collaborators and mentors across vast distances. Avid anesthesiologist tweeters have published
articles on the benefits of academic social media use,[1–3] and a recent ASRA blog post presents good reasons to use Twitter, including but not limited to those listed in Figure 1. Perhaps you're already convinced, but learning a new social media platform is understandably daunting. This article will help demystify and provide practical advice on creating and using a professional Twitter account.
“Twitter can promote dissemination of personal research interests or publications and networking with potential collaborators and mentors across vast distances.”
Curating Twitter Content
The content presented on users' news feeds is dictated by whom they follow. Following other Twitter users with public accounts is a straightforward process. Find another Twitter account by selecting the search magnifying glass icon and typing in a name. Another method to find other users is by searching for common interests, current events, or any specific topic. After following another user, the user's tweets will show up on your Twitter news feed. Owners of private accounts must approve each follow request first. You can follow as many accounts as you want, and you are not obligated to keep following. If the tweets are no longer of interest, you may simply unfollow the account. The account holder will not be alerted to your change of interest.
Another way to filter content and user accounts that show up on your Twitter feed is via lists. Any user can create lists, which are often grouped by topic. Lists can be made private or public. A public list allows any Twitter user interested in these topics to access it. Following a list enables you to track its recent activity without following each individual user account. This tool can help you keep up-to-date on multiple topics concurrently. For example, to browse new papers and posts in pediatric anesthesiology and critical care medicine, you can create two lists: one with mainly user accounts (including journals and professional societies) sharing an interest in pediatric anesthesiology and a separate list of critical care medicine accounts. Notifications can be set to alert you to new content, and a real-time breakdown of your lists is located on your profile.
Hashtags and How to Use Them
Hashtags, indicated by letters following the pound symbol (“#” and no spaces), are used to link topics, conversations like Twitter chats (eg, #AnesJC), or events such as scientific meetings (eg, #ASRAWorld18). Major sporting events and breaking news often have hashtags created, but anyone can make a hashtag on any topic. Multiple hashtags can be placed in a tweet, but don't overpopulate your tweets with too many hashtags. The search bar can be used to search for hashtags that describe a topic or event. Results can be sorted by most popular or most recent, allowing users to follow the conversation in real time. This is especially useful during scientific meetings or live chats on Twitter.
Active Is Better Than Passive
You are not required to tweet. Passive reading and following of users is a worthwhile way to use Twitter to keep up with topics that are important to you. However, we think that active tweeting is more fulfilling and potentially beneficial to your career. It goes without saying that professionalism is paramount, and no patient information or official medical advice should be tweeted. The debate on how much personal, nonmedical-related content should be shared is complex and ultimately a personal decision. Some users opt for multiple accounts: one anonymous or private, and one public and professional. Others engage differently according to the social media platform (eg, Facebook or Instagram for personal, Twitter for professional). Regardless of approach, you should consider all social media posts and tweets as public, searchable, and permanent. Tweets may be deleted, but there is no way to know who or how many saw a post before it was removed.
Discussing recently published articles with experts in the field from around the world and discovering additional resources that would otherwise have been missed are serious perks of engaging in Twitter. Finding new mentors or collaborators is certainly possible, given the ease of connection and ability to explore a content range as narrow or broad as desired.
How to Bring People Into the Conversation
You can engage other Twitter users, or “mention” them to provide credit in a quote or paper, by including their Twitter handle (eg, @Neuro_Kellie) in your tweet. Similarly, you may reply to a tweet by clicking on the speech bubble just below the tweet on the left side. Anyone mentioned in that tweet will be included in your reply and receive a notification.
Twitter also allows users to add pictures to tweets. Infographics and visual abstracts can be powerful tools for users to highlight key points in a research article or presentation. Multiple journals have incorporated these methods to increase social media shares and page views. Dr Andrew Ibrahim, creative director for Annals of Surgery, created a step-by-step instruction manual for visual abstract creation that is freely available online. With an ever-increasing amount of data and complexity surrounding medicine and research, visual tools may promote interest, comprehension, and implementation.
To draw more attention to a tweet, a user can tag up to 10 other users per picture. This will give those accounts a notification about the tweet, which may generate engagement and lead to more page views and shares when applicable. Tagging can also be used with infographics and visual abstracts to give credit to graphic designers, article authors, journals, or professional societies.
Activities to Launch Your Professional Account
Two of the most rewarding and visible ways of engaging professionally on Twitter are Twitter chats and live tweeting at a scientific meeting or conference. Twitter chats can be organized by anyone but require a designated hashtag, meeting time, specified duration, and publicity to make them successful. During the chats, a moderator will tweet one question at a time while using the chat hashtag along with the numbered question or topic (eg, Q1 or T1). Twitter chats are public, so anyone can contribute to the conversation. A great introduction to Twitter chats for anesthesiologists new to Twitter is #AnesJC, the Twitter journal club started by Duke Anesthesiology. For a list of active Twitter chats in the health care field, visit Symplur.
Tweeting a meeting is the same concept as a Twitter chat but spread out over time and more free-form. Hashtags for medical conferences are often registered with Symplur so analytics and transcripts can be created. As with chats, remember to include the designated hashtag. The general idea is to share the scientific content with those who cannot attend, initiate or participate in conversations about new data and clinical practice, and network with other practitioners. To this end, high-quality tweets often include pictures of slides, quotes from the speakers, summaries of data presented, links to original manuscripts referenced during talks, or thought-provoking questions. When sharing an important learning point, good Twitter etiquette suggests crediting the speaker(s) by including his or her Twitter handle when applicable. Consider adding your Twitter handle to your conference name badge to let others know you are on Twitter, and definitely make time to meet members of your community who are attending the conference in real life (ie, have a “Tweetup”).
The use of social media in medicine and medical education is quickly expanding. ASRA has seen a robust response to its social media offerings, both at its annual meetings and during the time between them. Twitter is a powerful learning tool that allows engagement among peers and colleagues across wide distances. This can enhance patient care, medical knowledge, and mentorship. As the volume of new research and other information relevant to health care continues to expand at an exponential rate, we expect applications of social media platforms like Twitter in medical education to grow. We hope ASRA members realize the potential benefits and get engaged.
- Schwenk ES, Jaremko KM, Gupta RK, et al. Upgrading a social media strategy to increase Twitter engagement during the spring annual meeting of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2017;42:283–288.
- Udani AD, Moyse D, Peery CA, Taekman JM. Twitter-augmented journal club: educational engagement and experience so far. A A Case Rep. 2016;6: 253–256.
- Schwenk ES, Udani AD, Gupta RK, Mariano ER. How academic physicians can benefit from social media. Rev Esp Anestesiol Reanim. 2018;65:103–107.