In my second podcast I think I set the scene for one of the tools I am going to use the most for the rest of the series, and in the podcast I explain why, going into some depth about Twitter. I also talk about the new History Taking and Examination course and my new application, Speakpipe which you can see to the side of the page.
It was just over a year ago that I started to use Twitter. Until then I had viewed it as something people only used to chase the ramblings of the odd celebrity! Some very odd! If I am honest I cannot now remember what inspired me, but I am so glad that something did. It has led to so many other things, my podcasting being the latest.
Of course you can follow celebrities if you wish to and many people do. In fact one of the questions I am most often asked when Twitter is being discussed is ‘Who should I follow?’. To me the question should be ‘What do I want to know?’. If you have a specific interest or topic you wish to learn more about then Twitter is one of the best resources for finding out what is out there and I will explain how.
Firstly of course you need to sign up for Twitter to get yourself an account to work from. This is very straightforward if you go to Twitter.com. It requires the usual user name and password. I would suggest not using an acronym. In these days of social media it is considered better to be honest about who you are rather than trying to be anonymous. There are guidelines issued by the various professional bodies linked below. You would do well to read these.
Once you have done that ensure that you upload a picture which will represent you when you post to Twitter. If you don’t, then you will get the generic egg picture and it has been shown that people tend to interact with the ‘eggs’ less! Also ensure that you enter a short ‘bio’ reflecting who you are and what you do. This helps people decide if they want to interact with you or not.
So now you are signed up, what next? Now its time to make contact and this is where it is important to understand what it is you want to know rather than who you want to follow.
Hashtags, @ and direct messages.
What is a hashtag? In Twitter it is represented by the symbol #, and used correctly it is a very powerful tool. When tweeting, ( the term used when sending out your 140 symbol message) the tweet will often have a term attached to a hashtag. For example, let us say we are interested in sepsis. We post a message and at some point in the message we put in “#sepsis”. How does this help? Well if someone else later does a twitter search using the #sepsis this search will return any tweet with the # sepsis added to it. So you can see that searching for any particular subject becomes an easy process. Your search may return a lot of tweets you don’t want, but I can guarantee that you will get some very valuable information. You can save this search and keep receiving tweets around the same subject.
The @ symbol is something you can also insert into your tweets. Lets assume that you are a follower of ccpractitioner – me! You could just tweet your message without including the @ symbol. This would mean that anyone who is following you will see the message in their timeline. However some people are following many others and your tweet may get lost amongst others. If you want to ensure that your tweet is drawn to the attention of ccpractitioner in particular you would insert @ccpractitioner into your tweet. This will then come up in my twitter feed as a direct mention of me which means I am more likely to read it. Be aware that the @ symbol in a message will mean that the only other people that will see it are those that are following both you and ccpractitioner.
It is also possible to send direct messages to one person in particular. You can either click on their profile and then the direct message tab or start the tweet with dm ccpractitioner for example. This will be a message which only they can read. In order to send a direct message they also have to be following you and the message can still only be 140 characters long.
So its most important to understand what it is you want to know. As I have already said, the easiest way to start is to get your key word or words, stick a hashtag on the front of it and search. You will return some relevant information. These may be in the form of links to websites or blogs that may have what you are looking for. They may point you towards a YouTube video or a facebook page. One of the easiest ways to keep this information, if you are not able to look closely at it at the time, is to click the little star under the tweet. This will add it to your favourite list of tweets which you can come back and read later. The author of the tweet will also be notified that you have made it a favourite and may well follow you back as a result. This helps create the network that will continue to provide you with useful information.
I have heard some out there who say Twitter has changed, that it is now less of a relationship building platform and more of a promotional one with people pushing products or blogs rather than interacting with each other. I think it can be a useful mix of the two, but also believe, like them that first and foremost it should be used to build relationships with others which can then be used to great effect. Twitter is a great flattener of hierarchies. I have had conversations with Chief Executives and students nurses, all of whom have provided me with another opportunity to share practice and information. I think if you are not using Twitter you are missing a great resource for discussion and debate.
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