Monday, April 5, 2010

How physicians can get started on Twitter

Many people have heard of Twitter, but so many still don't really know how to use it. What do the hash marks mean? The @ symbol? What's #FollowFriday? How do you ReTweet (RT)?

There's no need to fully understand Twitter before you get started. Start with the basics and learn as you go. Think of Twitter as a simplified form of e-mail. Your tweet is your message, but you can have your tweet go to multiple people or to a single person. It's almost like a text message, technically called a short message service or SMS. You don't need to become a Twitter expert overnight. Start slowly, learn some tips from your kids, and soon you'll be fluent in the world of Twitter.

Now, let's dig into a few specific issues:
  • You don't need a smartphone to use Twitter. Many people tweet using a desktop PC or laptop. One common misconception is that you must tweet on Twitter with your mobile device.
  • If you're using Twitter for the first time, it helps to use a robust Twitter client such as TweetDeck. It will help you keep track of Mentions/Replies, Direct Messages, and general updates. 
  • The @ sign is used when you want to direct a specific tweet to an individual user. That tweet shows up as a "mention" or "reply."
  • The hashtag # is used to link tweets to specific topics/meetings/events/themes. For instance, when I was attending HIMSS10, those attending the meeting were using #HIMSS10 to tweet about the HIMSS conference.
  • Retweeting (RT) is used when you want to resend someone's tweet to everyone who's following you. This is where Twitter can have profound viral marketing effects. If you tweet something that many other people end up retweeting, then your message may reach hundreds or thousands of people very quickly.
The best way to learn Twitter is to try it. Sign up for a free account and follow me @DrJosephKim and I'm sure you'll learn very quickly. You can have conversations on Twitter, but you'll find that Twitter is especially useful when you want to share information with others.

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