So, have you folllowed my advice, and joined Twitter?
Shortly after I wrote the last post I was gifted by discovering this article which had been written about me, and this blog, and helps describe some of the tweets I share. By reading it you can get a good idea of how I use Twitter to share information, some of the joys in my life (such as when I capture a particularly interesting photo of a bird, other wildlife, a sunset, or snow), or to respond to others who live on the same medium.
I follow several different groups of individuals, and when I am on Twitter I can choose to view the material they share in one combined space, or view them through topical lists that I have created. Creating lists is one of the great ways to organize your twitter stream, and keep it from becoming overwhelming. If you click on a person's Twitter profile you can click on Lists and then see lists that person has made and lists that contain that person. I preparing this post, I just discovered I am listed on 97 different lists. I have made ten public lists, and I subscribe to five lists made by others. This is a great way to view specific categories of tweets if you are not in the mood to sift throough a large volume of random tweets from all of the people you follow in one place. Each list is limited to 500 members, which helps you to limit the information flow in any one of your lists. I do not think there is a limit to how many lists you can have or subscribe to. Subscribing to a list is actually a cool thing to do--someone else has done much of the work for you. So if you are interested in following people on Twitter who play the bass guitar, and if you find someone who has made a list of others who do just that, you can "subscribe" to that list, read the tweets that are coming from its members and be able to selectively follow any or all of those members yourself. Or not. It's completely your choice. Following lists is really a great way to get started in your Twitter journey if you want it to be meaningful.
So, what if you do want to find someone who loves the same hobby that you do? How would you do that? Twitter has a search feature that allows you to search for topics or people. You can find people by searching for their actual name, or their "twitter handle" (the @username). If searching for a topic you can search using regular English or use a #hashtag. There are many medical hashtags. You can find lists of hashtags by doing a typical Google search, Hashtags are used so that specific topics are easier to find. If you put a hashtag in the Twitter search bar you will see tweets from everyone who has added that word to their tweet, regardless of whether or not you follow them. People use this when tweeting about a particular recurring subject (such as #meded or #raptor) or when tweeting out from a conference (#AAP2012), or during a Twitter Chat.
So now I have to explain what a Twitter Chat is-and I believe it is the most fun thing you can do on Twitter, and a tremendously good way to meet like-minded individuals. Getting involved with a Twitter Chat was how I first had my eyes opened to the unique power and potential of Twitter. During a Tweet chat, people gather with their computers and tweet about a certain topic. There is one or more moderators who generally put out questions, that the participants attempt to answer--or at least express their own opinion about. You can find a general list here and a healthcare list here. Because there are so many tweets going by so quickly, most folks generally want to see ONLY the tweets that pertain to the chat during the time it is active. For that, it is helpful to make use of a third party service to help you see and respond. I use TweetChat.com, which not only lets me see only the hashtagged tweets, it automatically puts the selected hashtag at the end of all my outgoing tweets. My favorite Twitter chats are #hcsm (healthcare communication and social media)--Sundays from 9-10 pm Eastern time, #HCLDR (healthcare leadership)--Tuesdays at 8:30-9:30, and #MDChat--which occurs most but not all Tuesdays at 9pm.
You do NOT need an invitation to join, and everyone is truly welcomed. You are welcome to "lurk" if you are too timid to jump in, but I must tell you there is little fun in that. Most of the time, the moderator will produce transcript of a tweet chat after the hour is over, so you can catch up with something you may have missed, look to see which individuals were contributing the most useful information or opinions (so you can choose to follow them if you like), and judge for yourself whether you feel you gained anything from the hour. If there are a lot of participants, it can be difficult to follow the action, but after you gain some experience it can be truly eye opening.
I wish you luck on your Twitter journey.
I hope you understand a bit more now, and I am happy to answer any questions you might have as you investigate this social media platform. I find it very useful to relate to others in the health care field, and to patients as well (generally other people's patients), because I always learn something useful or interesting.