Twitter is waaaaay different from what I thought it was! #hashtag this and #hashtag that is kind of annoying if you don’t know the full story. I listen to NPR regularly and all the reporters say, “Visit me on Twitter on @someonesnamehere”, and I used to just cringe inside. Hashtags, at signs, all this trendy stuff seemed like it would be just that – a trend or fad that would go away. I have been waiting for Twitter to close shop for quite some time . . . but it’s still around. I joined Twitter in April 2009, to see what it was all about. Since then, I have posted 7 tweets, have 5 followers and am following 18 others . . . not what you would call an avid user. I signed up originally thinking it would be something neat to explore but for some reason I very quickly realized it wasn’t for me and I abandoned it. In re-exploring it now, and in particular looking at the health side of things, I have noticed a waaaay different Twitter than what I had thought it was. Below is a summary of what I found, the good and the bad.
Overall it was clear to me … my impression of Twitter was totally wrong. It’s not just a bunch of tweens tweeting about their cats and lunch dates. There are tons of credible sources pumping out great stuff. I looked at Stanford University Hospital’s Twitter page along with UCSF, MD Anderson, and Cancer Treatment Centers of America along with Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups. Everything is there. While I see this as a great source of information, I was less impressed with its ability to be a support system. The virtual environment in Twitter on these pages in particular was much less interactive than say Facebook pages and obviously was not as tangible as Meetup. I wished I had seen more patients or lay people posting on these big org Twitter pages to make things more interactive and dialogue based. I think it goes back to the whole famous discussion from last week. These large orgs don’t really want people posting on their pages because they won’t be able to reply to each of them anyway.
While I may not become a Twitter user on a regular basis, I definitely see the benefit in organizations having a strong Twitter presence to keep their followers informed about what they are doing. There is a common saying in medicine which I’m sure is even more important in sales and marketing which really comes into play here . . . one has to remain visible so that others will remember them and refer to them. As a physician, it’s important that I don’t just cloister myself in my clinic but that I be seen in the hospitals and various events so people remember me. When they come across a head and neck cancer patient in the future, they are more likely to remember my name and refer the patient to me. Twitter feels the same way. If you are an avid Twitter user and a new post from some org comes into my stream every day rather than once a month, I am more likely to think that org is active and I’m more likely to support that org. Visibility is so key here in the mob-tastic Twitter zone.