Twitter for Dummies offers Guidelines To Live By on their Twitter Cheat Sheet. Have a look at them below, they’re extremely helpful for a new Twitter user. However, the caveats in italics will help practicing doctors stay professional.
1.) Say what you think and are doing.
As a doctor, be careful about how open you are about your activity. Personal views offer a chance to connect with your followers on a human level. But patients can freely follow you on Twitter. So be mindful that your feelings and thoughts don’t compromise your professional boundaries.
2.) In general, try to keep tweets longer than one word so that your followers can understand you.
3.) Listen to what your Twitter friends are saying.
This is highly recommended, but brings up the question: Do you want to follow your patients? What if a patient with a serious heart condition posts something unintelligible at 4 a.m. and appears to be inebriated? This inference could strain a professional relationship. Therefore, caution is advised.
4.) Respond to Twitter friends when you can add value to the conversation.
This is a great point, but again, you’ll need to decide what conversations to enter. Political dialogue might be important to you as a citizen, for instance. But is it worth the cost of offending patients who might disagree over a heated issue?
5.) Update your status at least once a day.
As a doctor, you can take this with a grain of salt. However, if you are going to post daily, make sure you offer meaningful observations or provide a link to something that will enhance your patients’ and followers’ health and wellness. Do your best not to waste their time.
6.) Fill in your profile and biography so that other people can know more about you.
This is great advice. Include a link to your practice’s website and an email address if you are comfortable. If used properly, Twitter can be a highly effective marketing tool.
7.) Use your own picture as your avatar.
A professional profile pic, or avatar, is recommended. If you’re comfortable with Twitter and enjoy it, you can create a second Twitter handle for personal use. Feel free to use something casual over there.
8.) Whenever you’re referencing another Twitter user, use his name with an @ sign in the front so that the user can see you mentioned him and so that other users can see whom you’re talking about.
This was covered above and is known as an “@mention [at mention].” Again, be careful about @mentioning patients. This dialogue is freely viewable by the entire Web and can compromise privacy issues.
9.) Use hashtags to give context to updates that may not make sense otherwise.
When in doubt, leave hashtags out. However, as you gain more confidence with the Twitter platform and join larger conversations you’ll find them extremely useful.
Have any thoughts on tweeting as a professional M.D.? Leave a comment. Otherwise check out more posts about Social Media Best Practices For Medical Doctors.