Recently, my urology colleagues—Dr. Stacy Loeb @LoebStacy, Dr. Rena Malik @RenaMalikMD, Dr. Aditya Bagrodia @AdityaBagrodia, and Dr. Justin Dublin @justindubinmd—hosted a forum for young urologists on how to optimally use Twitter, and other social media platforms, to create engagement. Over the years, Twitter has been a phenomenal way for urologists around the world to connect.
Yet, physician interest in organized medicine is becoming more fragmented. The increased uptake and use of Twitter by physicians with a passion for patient and physician advocacy is a potential low-cost and fun way to reverse this trend. My intent in writing this post is to provide step-by step-Twitter basics to Michigan-based physicians and physicians across the country to create engagement, build relationships, better organize, and achieve advocacy wins!
Building relationships through Twitter
Twitter is a social media platform that serves both as an information aggregator and a tool for engagement. In addition to connecting medical colleagues, Twitter may help you to:
- Connect with fellow county, state, and national medical society members
- Get timely news from your medical society or association
- Connect with your local and state legislators
- Connect with like-minded groups on patient and physician advocacy issues
- Learn about new medical research via medical conferences
- Discover current patient concerns
Rules of engagement
At this time, many physicians are already comfortable engaging with their colleagues and medical organizations on social media. Engaging with patients is nuanced, and you will want to avoid information being interpreted as a diagnosis. Please visit the social media guidelines for medical students and physicians by the American Medical Student Association for some good recommendations.
There is no one way to use Twitter, and you can control your level of engagement on the platform.
Let’s get started!
1. Download the Twitter app
The Twitter app is available from the Google Play store for android devices and the Apple App Store for Apple devices. Just search for the official Twitter Inc. app (see icon below). Alternatively, you can use the website Twitter.com to sign up for an account.
2. Create your Twitter account
After you’ve downloaded the app, follow Twitter’s prompts to sign up for an account using your email or phone number. The first step will ask you to enter your name, phone or email, and birthdate. There are also options to use your Google and Apple accounts.
Many people use a Google “gmail” account to sign up for social media platforms and not their professional email address. This eliminates cluttering up your professional inbox with notifications.
3. Choosing to share your data or not
Next, you will be asked whether or not you want to customize your experience. If you check this box, your browsing data will be used by Twitter to customize your experience on Twitter. This is optional.
4. Verify your email or phone number
To confirm your email or phone number, Twitter will send a code to the email or phone number you provided. Enter the code into the app when prompted. Then, you will be asked to create a secure password.
5. Create your Twitter profile
Creating a profile on Twitter includes providing a photo file and a descriptive bio. If you don’t have a photo handy, you can skip this step and add it later.
There are additional ways to customize your Twitter profile. If you need help creating a professional Twitter profile, including designing a Twitter banner/header image, I can provide a resource. You don’t want to keep your account as an “egg” for too long!
6. What will be your username?
Usernames are used to “tag” or reply to someone when you want to engage with them on Twitter and start with the “@” symbol. (Later, when you are ready to tweet, you can refer to “How to reply to someone on Twitter”.)
Select a username that is between 4 and 15 characters long. There is a chance your preferred username may already be taken, so you may need to be creative. For example, I chose the username @StorkBrian when @BrianStork was already taken by someone else.
Usernames are displayed under your full name, considered the “display” name on Twitter. Please see examples of Twitter profiles below.
7. Select topics and interests
Next, Twitter will ask you about your interests and suggest topics to follow. These topics will populate your newsfeed—also known as a “timeline” on Twitter. Do not feel compelled to follow too many topics and interests when you start. Later, you will be able to add or unfollow topics. You can control what is displayed in your newsfeed. Twitter will also promote your profile to others in the topics you follow.
8. Twitter’s suggestions for people to follow
Besides topics, Twitter will also suggest a slew of popular culture and media accounts—including political figures—for you to follow. Feel free to skip any recommendations if you are not interested in news from these sources. Some may be controversial.
The value you get from Twitter is determined by the topics and people you follow. Build your community with colleagues and organizations you already know and new people and organizations you would like to get to know or read about.
9. Searching for colleagues, medical societies, and organizations to follow
After your account is activated, you will see your newsfeed on the “What’s happening” page based on the topics you chose. You can now start choosing the people you want to follow. Search for a colleague or organization by name; click on the search icon at the bottom of the screen (second icon from the left). A search box will now be at the top of your phone screen.
Next, enter the name of the person or organization into the search box. To follow them, click on their profile and the “follow” button. Their tweets will now appear in your feed. You are ready to start reading tweets and listening on Twitter! Start by being an observer for a little while before you start to engage and compose your first tweet.
10. To follow or not follow back?
As you use Twitter, you may notice that some people you do not know may start to follow you. You can choose to follow them back or not. Likewise, not everyone you follow may follow you back. Don’t take it personally! You can still read their tweets when you follow them (unless it is a private account).
Additionally, if two people are both following each other, they can also communicate privately. A private message on Twitter is called “direct message” or “DM”.
Twitter provides several ways to control your experience. Those interested in building a large Twitter following may opt to follow more people back. Others may be more selective.
Medical societies on Twitter, including Michigan medical societies to follow
Moreover, there are many medical societies on Twitter. I tweet for the Muskegon Medical Society via @MuskegonMedSoc. In addition to following us, my Michigan colleagues may be interested in following these Michigan county medical societies:
- Kent County Medical Society @KCMS_MI
- Ingham County Medical Society @InghamCtyMedSoc
- Washtenaw County Medical Society @WashtenawCMS
- Oakland County Medical Society @oaklandctymed
- Wayne County Medical Society of Southeast Michigan @WCMSSM
Joining your local medical society can be very valuable, especially as advocacy becomes critical in today’s rapidly changing times. For this reason, I am working on a follow-up post regarding Twitter for advocacy and how to use Twitter hashtags to tap into community conversations and events.
Medical organizations on Twitter
Many may know that I am involved with the American Urological Association and the Urology Care Foundation. As organizations, they do a phenomenal job with social media. There is also a wealth of information from this year’s AUA conference and you can read the tweets on Twitter. Please follow the AUA on Twitter at @AmerUrological and UCF at @UrologyCareFdn.
Above all, I hope you find this information useful. I look forward to connecting with you and sharing even more information about how to effectively connect and advocate on Twitter in my next post—Part II.