Health IT

Healthcare social media tips for mastering the Twitter chat

Did anyone tune into the discussion about mobile health on the #HITsm chat this week, or any of the other healthcare tweet chats we told you about last week? The moderators of two of those chats — Phil Baumann of #MDchat (who also moderates #RNchat) and Eileen O’Brien, moderator of the #SocPharm chat and director […]

Did anyone tune into the discussion about mobile health on the #HITsm chat this week, or any of the other healthcare tweet chats we told you about last week?

The moderators of two of those chats — Phil Baumann of #MDchat (who also moderates #RNchat) and Eileen O’Brien, moderator of the #SocPharm chat and director of search and innovation at Siren Interactive — recently took some time to talk with MedCity News about the process of running and participating in a tweet chat. They filled me in on their planning processes and offered some tips for first-time chat participants:

DO take care of the basics: Make sure your profile is set to public and introduce yourself to others in the chat once it starts.

DO let the moderator know if there’s a topic you’re itching to discuss. Both O’Brien and Baumann said they find topic ideas from monitoring current events and watching the hashtag throughout the week, sometimes even asking tweeters specifically what they’d like to talk about.

DO use a client like Tweetchat.com or Twitterfall.com, which allow you to watch a frequently refreshed stream, and will also automatically add the hashtag to the end of your tweets so you don’t have to keep typing it.

DON’T think you can’t participate in the #MDchat because you’re not a doctor, or any of the other chats because you don’t “fit the mold.” Baumann said that although nurses and doctors make up a majority of the audiences for his chats, it’s not necessary to be one of those two professions to participate. Often patients, activists, bloggers, social media-savvy healthcare facilities, or just people who are interested in healthcare provide the most interesting perspectives.

DO respect the basic rules of Twitter: be civil, courteous and respectful of opposing viewpoints.

DON’T worry if the conversation goes on longer than planned. O’Brien said she likes to prepare four topics for the chat — from current events to interesting new research — but that doesn’t mean they always get used. “In a few cases, we’ve spent the whole hour talking about one topic,” she said. “An example that comes to mind is when Novo Nordisk asked Paula Deen to be their spokesperson for diabetes. People had very strong opinions on that and it was an engaging discussion.”

DO or DON’T warn your followers you’ll be participating in a tweet chat. This is a courtesy but not a requirement, both of the moderators said. However, it can be a good way to get the hashtag out there beforehand if you think your followers may be interested in joining the chat, too.

DON’T tweet lots of links during a chat. “You don’t mind someone tweeting a relevant link, as long as it’s not all the time, but you don’t want a lot of noise,” Baumann said. “You don’t want someone coming in with spam about their blogs.”

DON’T retweet a lot of chat content. If someone says something profound, retweeting them is OK, but retweeting too much can clutter the chat stream. “You already have the hashtag, and people are looking at the stream, so you run the risk of crowding out other voices,” Baumann said.

DON’T overuse hashtags. “My rule is two,” Baumann said. “For some reason the healthcare crowd is the worst offender.”

DO lurk at first. It’s the best way to get comfortable with the idea of participating in the chat. “To lurkers, I say don’t be afraid — simply say hello and that it’s your first chat,” O’Brien said. “We are very welcoming to newcomers.”

DO continue conversations after the chat. Follow up with people whose viewpoints you thought were interesting. “I love tweetchats because you can find new people to follow who are interested in the topics you care about,” O’Brien said.

Feel free to add your own tips or experiences in the comments.

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