A Twitter Primer – Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I learned this week that there is a wealth of information online about how to use Twitter. Which is good for someone like me, who has dabbled in Twitter for years  – setting up an account, then abandoning it after a little while. In Chapter 4 of her book Social Media for Social Good, Heather Mansfield described my situation exactly when she said “Unfortunately, many…abandon Twitter much sooner than they should.” I’m not going to lie: one of the things that turned me off the last few times – and this – were requested followers like these:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 8.02.04 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-28 at 7.58.34 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-28 at 8.00.16 PM

I have always hated spam, but especially this type. And – sigh – I still haven’t figured out exactly how to prevent it! But Mansfield’s tips or “best practices” were helpful and spurred me to search for other sources of Twitter primers for repeat newbies like me. I found a number of colorful infographics like this one with basic information on the subject:

How to Twitter

And this one, that contained lots of helpful tips for maintaining a steady Twitter output that leads to the maximum number of retweets.

15 Twitter Stats

Most of these infographics are designed to help businesses brand and market their services and products, but I liked the fact that this one at least mentioned the word “healthy”. 😉

Maintain Healthy Twitter Feed

The best of the lot, in my opinion was this entertaining homage to one of my favorite authors, Dr. Seuss. As his books will attest,  little repetitive rhyming goes a long way in helping children of all ages remember specific written content.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 10.51.07 PM


So, once you get past the ABCs of tweeting, how is Twitter useful for advancing the goals of public health? I see it as a way to give a “shout-out” to organizations that I believe are doing great work. I am most interested in putting a spotlight on groups who are using innovative – and even provocative – approaches to improving public health. I like Ninjas for Health @ninjasforhealth and Communities for a Better Environment @CBECal, for example. My hope is that any use of social media leads to advocacy for policies and practices to increase health equity for all population.

I found at least 2 other interesting ideas about how to use Twitter for public health:

1. 140 Health Care Uses for Twitter  (2009)philbaumann.com/140-health-care-uses-for-twitter/                                              The author Phil Baumann is a member of the Board of Advisors for Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. He is a registered nurse, health information specialist and media critic who blogs about how we are influenced by digital innovations, focusing primarily on uses of social media to support better health care. Though this list is 5 years old, it offers some suggestions for the application of Twitter in the near-, intermediate- and long-term to expedite and improve health care services.

2. Twitter Q and A – Similar to a live chat in which one may participate through g-chat or other instant message tool, a Twitter Q and A session can be set up for experts to provide information and answer questions on a particular topic in real time. The conversation can then be saved and posted elsewhere, like a blog site for instance. Here is one example of a Twitter Q and A that has been re-posted on the expert’s blog: Ask the Expert: Twitter Q & A on Running and Heart Health.


6 thoughts on “A Twitter Primer – Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

  1. Great post! I like how clear everything is. And I agree with you that I don’t like the fact that anyone can follow me.

  2. Great post, Sharon. My first 2 followers gave me the willies…since then, I’ve stopped paying attention to that (not sure how). But right…seems to be no way to avoid them or get around them. Regarding Rachel’s comment about not liking the fact that anyone can follow you…from a personal perspective, it’s a bummer, but from a business and/or non-profit perspective, it’s a reality that can be leveraged in a way that expands your mission outside your inner circle. This is one of the reason I like Twitter for Public Health – it gets the word out to circles that seem to be much broader than other social media.

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