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Physician Assistants in Social Media – Part 2: How to Use Twitter

The second in a four part series on Physician Assistants in Social Media. Part 2: How to Use Twitter. Learn how to join the conversation, following news and trends on twitter, using twitter clients, and links to resources.

Set your goals – Your twitter account may be personal, professional or a mix of both. I prefer to separate my personal and professional social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter), so that followers are getting material that is relevant to their topic of interest. My own goal is to become an influencer for the PA profession, to promote awareness. The only way I can achieve that is if I learn how to use Twitter as a medium to reach an audience

Joining the Conversation –  

Posting to twitter is more than just posting a status and hoping the relevant demographic happens to stumble upon it. Here’s how to take advantage of twitter features to ensure that your conversation is having meaningful impact:

1 – Use Use Hashtags A pound sign (#) in front of a topic creates a link in your twitter post to any conversation related to that topic. For example inserting a hashtag like so: #PhysicianAssistants, will gather all tweets that mention Physician Assistants onto one page. Many users and organizations have used the hashtag feature to focus twitter conversations around certain topics (See resources at the end of the post for useful Canadian health care social media links).

Here is an example of the use of hashtags: Like this example below discussing which hashtags Physician Assistant and University of Manitoba. 



2 – Interact with your followers and tweeters: 
Twitter is more than just posting announcements out into cyberspace. The nature of the platform is very interactive. Twitter users may reply to some of your tweets, retweet articles they want to pass on to their followers, or recommend you as someone to follow. Your reach to stakeholders in the PA profession is often dependent on how you effectively communicate with your twitter community.


3 – Retweet relevant tweets: 
When you see a tweet that you’d like to share with your followers, there is the option to “Retweet” that message, which saves you the time of copying and pasting the message. Just hover over the tweet and select “Retweet” (underlined in purple).


4. Direct Messages: 
Place “DM” in front of a tweet to a user and this will allow for a direct inbox message to another twitter user. I find this especially useful if you want to thank followers individually for the following your account, to post topics, or to exchange contact information.


Following News & Trends on Twitter:
Customizing your Timeline so Tweets You Receive are Relevant

When I first started using twitter, I used it primarily to follow news, and “trends”. Often more than not, news stories would hit the twittersphere before they were published on most news outlets. It was also a great way to see what people were chatting about. Sorting through all the chatter was a challenge, and luckily Twitter has some ways of being able to navigate through all the talk:

1 - Follow People: Your timeline consists of tweets of people that you follow. If you follow celebrities your timeline will primarily compromise of hollywood banter and gossip. If you follow athletes, you’ll get to see live updates of different athletes, coaches, and teams. If you follow health care professionals (e.g. Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Health Care Organizations) your timeline will compromise of topics, tidbits, pearls, and issues relevant in health care.  Who to follow? And how do you find the right people to follow? It’s a good question, and leads to the next point:

2 – Follow Lists: You can choose to create and/or follow lists. Twitter lists comprise of twitter users relevant to a certain topic. You can choose to subscribe to a list, which automatically subscribes you to every twitter user on that list. Here are a few lists that may be worth following:

3 – Hashtags: The quickest way of following tweets under a certain topic is using hashtags, or typing a topic into the search bar. Here is an example of what tweets come up when you look up #PhysicianAssistants. You’ll notice, topics from Canadian Physician Assistants / Canadian PA organizations dominate the top tweets (@MPASA_Mac, @AnneCCPA, and @cmaer). Want to know what hashtags to follow? Be sure to see the Twitter Hashtags for Canadian Health Topics and @symplur’s Canadian Healthcare Hashtags.


Using Twitter Clients

You may choose to use the twitter website to post your tweets. Or you may choose to use a different twitter client to post a tweet. The twitter website is actually quite one dimensional – in order to view different features (trends, tweets, your profile, creating new messages, images) you have to navigate to different pages. Whereas other twitter clients / platforms allow you to view all of those things at one glance.

One popular twitter client is Tweet DeckThis platform allows you to manage multiple social media accounts (use it to post from multiple twitter accounts, facebook, all in one post). This is a program you would download and use.


Hootsuite
is similar to TweetDeck, but it is web based. You simply have to log on to their website without downloading anything, and you can set it to view multiple social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and also post to multiple accounts as well.


Health Care Related Twitter Links

User Guides to Twitter

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