Twitter for Academics?

Confession: I don’t have Twitter. I work full time and go to school part time so I don’t have time or patience to “follow” Kim Kardashian or any of her sisters. But wait, if I’m the only person I know who doesn’t tweet, what am I missing? I recently delved into the Twitter world to discover what I could possible be missing out on (or not missing out on) and I found several features that apply to my role as a  public health student:
1. Twitter is mainstream.  Teenagers have it, celebrities have it, and my dad has it. (The only large population that doesn’t have Twitter is China, Twitter = illegal in China.) This social media platform has penetrated the masses so if you want to spread a public health message or alert, Twitter is becoming an omnipresent way to send it. 

2. Twitter is immediate. Unlike a TV news channel that has to be switched on, tweets go straight to the smart phones that nearly everyone owns now. You (or the public health populations you are trying to reach) can’t escape it. A great example of an agency that uses Twitter to spread public health alerts is the NYC Department of Health.

3. Twitter is location based. Twitter is a goldmine of GPS data that could be used to track outbreaks and trends in public health. In fact, researchers at Johns Hopkins are developing an algorithm to use “trigger” words to track diseases. For instance, tweets containing “stop” and “eyes” lead to tweeters suffering from allergies. 

4. Twitter microblogging is better than regular blogging. It’s shorter and sweeter and perfect for scanning a lot of information in a short amount of time.  We can’t be experts at everything but if you follow the right sources, Twitter helps the public health professional stay current and savvy in a world where data is constantly growing and changing. 

5. Twitter is for social networking. Who do you want to be when you “grow up?” A lot of great scientists, business leaders,  and public health leaders are on Twitter. A good way to “pick their brains” would be to add them and see what they’re Tweeting about. Maybe you’ll even get noticed by Stephen Hawking! (What, only 11000 followers?)


So although I may not use Twitter now, I see the benefits and the leverage it could give me in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if after I graduated I found a little time to do some tweeting myself. 😉


4 thoughts on “Twitter for Academics?

  1. First, the title suggests to me that the subject of the blog is why educational institutions should or shouldn’t use twitter. From the first line of the blog, it appears as though “academics” refers to people who attend school? The informal nature of the blog content and your “voice” is clear.

    You present a nice summary of reasons why microblogging use is popular. You also make reference to public health use of microblogging and direct the reader to a few public health links.

    If I were reading for entertainment, your blog content coupled with the “voice” you use in the blog would be consistent with that type of consumer and for that purpose. The informal nature of the blog might also suggest a lack of credibility if I were an organization using the blog for microblogging guidance. For example, if I were an organization looking at this blog for reasons to use microblogging as a public health platform or decision making tool, I would not get that information from your blog although I might go to the links to see if there is any further information there. It would be helpful to elaborate on the examples you give by showing why microblogging is an important platform for the organizations cited in your blog and how it is being used. There is little evidence in the blog of how your content ties in the readings. This is important because it is a rubric task for the microblog assignment.

  2. Enjoyed reading your post, nice summary of your personal evaluation of Twitter functions and insights.
    Your post is highlighting why Twitter is gaining momentum right now: Twitter is mainstream source of breaking news and mass communication. It is immediate and very popular. It has penetrated into public health arena, as supported by your practical example of Twitter use by NYC public health department.
    In addition, Twitter’s location-based function, or geolocation service, allows more exposure for Twitter’s users and more opportunities for location-based networking for non-profits, public health professionals and public health organizations.
    Indeed, Tweets are gold mine for public health researchers for diseases and conditions surveillance. I was pleased to find quite a few research articles featuring Twitter in application to emergency preparedness, syndromic surveillance and public education. Thanks for your example of research at Johns Hopkins University – what are instrumental conclusions for epidemiologists!

    According to the course reading, Twitter began branding itself as an information network rather than a social network. Therefore, Tweets are public and can be used for public notification and mass communication which can give you a cutting edge in integrating into world-wide communication (when you have more time upon your successful graduation from school 🙂

  3. Your statement that “Twitter is immediate” is an excellent description of the social media tool. This statement alone would make me want to sign up for an account if I did not already have one. This backs up the point even more that public health should utilize this tool. I follow a couple organizations on Twitter and when they have news to post it almost always goes on Twitter first. The reason being, Twitter has become increasingly popular and it is much easier to type a short Tweet rather than type of a detailed press report.

    Concerning your blog, I liked your numbering system. It made it very easy to follow along from point to point. My first thought was that you very persuasive and like mentioned above you have a very good voice.

  4. Welcome to Twitter! Although I find for myself it is a little difficult to get used to, it can be very useful for all of the things you mentioned. I like how you point out that Twitter is location-based. This would be extremely helpful for public health officials, especially outbreaks like the measles at Disneyland recently and even in California where we are experiencing a drought to get updated information on that.
    I really appreciated reading your experience with Twitter as someone who has never used it. I think you did an excellent job at making Twitter very easy to understand and show the value of it for other professionals in our field. You also wrote with a very personal voice that made me want to keep reading, especially the mention of your Dad having Twitter. Overall, I think you did an excellent job summarizing the value of Twitter and how it may have some value after all. Thanks for a great post!

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