This blog originally appeared The Medical Educator Blog on June 13, 2017 and is republished here with permission http://www.themedicaleducator.com/blog/950165/all-a-twitter-5-tips-to-build-your-twitter-presence-as-a-medical-educator
A few years ago, my husband noted that more and more professional conferences had hashtags and suggested it might be wise for the two of us as early career academics to grow our professional Twitter presence. Admittedly, it took me a while to get on board as I’m not always an “early adopter” and I wasn’t quite sure how using Twitter would benefit me professionally. At times, the constant feed of new tweets seemed overwhelming and I wasn't sure who to follow or what to tweet about. With the added challenge of a 140-character limit I felt like I was learning a new language! As I became more and more engaged – and more users started following me – my confidence grew. After time and practice I'm now connected with medical educators from all over the world, and I recognize that Twitter offers an expansive network of professionals and colleagues at my fingertips for guidance and expertise. Since the first steps are often the hardest to take, I have compiled a few tips and tricks you can use to make the most of your Twitter presence as a medical educator.
1) Follow and be followed: In order to connect with medical educators near and far, create a profile bio with a professional picture which clearly identifies who you are and your academic interests. From there, growing your network of Twitter followers requires cultivation! Start by following colleagues you already know – they are likely to follow you back. Then scroll your newsfeed and quickly look for tweets or articles of interest and see who posted them. Check their profile and consider following them. Twitter will also make suggestions on who to follow based on your profile and who you’ve recently followed. Taking a few seconds to follow or retweet them will grow your network over time and help your newsfeed become more directed towards the interests you both share.
2) Follow medical education trends via hashtags: Twitter can feel overwhelming as a social media platform but can be compartmentalized just like Facebook. In addition to receiving a main newsfeed based on those you follow, you can also identify a few hashtags based on your interests, subspecialty, or even conferences you attend. Some of my favorites include Medical Education (#MedEd), Competency-Based Medical Education (#CBME), Harvard Macy Program for Educators in Health Professions Education (#HMIEducators), and Healthcare Leadership (#HCLDR). Also, identify a few professional organizations or journals that align with your professional interests and follow them. Every few days, check their tweets as well as a favorite hashtag or two. Doing so takes only a few minutes, and you’ll keep up to date on relevant news, new journal articles, and conferences or webinars of interest.
3) Tweet about yourself: Share information about your career, publications, blog posts, podcasts, and more. Feels too boastful? Recognize that your followers have similar interests—and similar challenges—to your own. Providing updates can help them know what you’re doing professionally and how your medical education career is progressing. These updates can help spark new conversations about issues medical educators face and provide encouragement, mentorship, and support. You can also make your tweets more personal by sharing a link to an article and offering your opinion or a summary of what you learned (use a URL shortener like goo.gl or bit.ly to keep the link brief). Consider sharing your questions or challenges around an issue or topic. You will be surprised how many users will respond with advice and links to helpful resources.
4) Tweet at conferences: This is a quick and easy way to make connections with both colleagues and experts. Not sure what hashtag your conference is using? It’s usually listed on their website homepage or in their welcome packet. Symplur is also a great resource for an ongoing list of recent and upcoming healthcare conference hashtags. Once at the conference, contribute to the conversation surrounding the speakers and sessions by tweeting or retweeting photos of take-home points from conference slides and links to articles discussed. You also get ‘twice the bang for your buck’ as you’ll learn about other sessions happening simultaneously that you would otherwise miss. Following others using the same conference hashtag can also be a powerful networking tool. Last but not least, have a little fun with Twitter while you’re at it! Take a moment to post a few fun photo tweets with followers you meet in person, a beautiful sunset, or a great meal you had while you were there.
5) Tweet local: Don’t forget to tweet when you attend local or institutional talks and conferences too. Tag the organization, department, or center’s twitter handle to up their visibility and at the same time support the organizations with which you’re affiliated. By localizing, you’ll have strongly asserted yourself as someone who takes an interest in academic medicine and the medical education community on social media. Moreover, you’ll have carved out a niche as a tapped-in, go-to expert in the field.
Whether you have two followers or 2,000, Twitter is quickly becoming essential to the field of medical education for dissemination of information, networking, professional development and so much more.1,2Personally, my Twitter engagement has offered opportunities to collaborate on professional presentations, lead tweet chats, pen guest blog posts, develop and share infographics, and tweet for professional organizations—all from connections I’ve made via Twitter. What doors will it open for you? Many, I’m sure, and I hope you tweet at me about it when it does.
1. Sherbino J, Frank JR. @SirBill: the power of social media to transform medical education. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2014; 90(1068):545-546.
2. Gallo T. Twitter is Trending in Academic Medicine. 2017. https://goo.gl/grJz1w.
Kristina Dzara, Ph.D., MMSc