By Marie Ennis-O’Connor
Getting Started on Twitter? Do This One Thing First
So you’ve decided to set up a Twitter account and you are now ready to send your first tweet to announce your arrival in the Twittersphere. Before you hit send, take a moment to consider what people will see.
Will they see you?
This may seem like I am stating the obvious, but it is surprising the number of new (and not-so new) Twitter users who start tweeting from an account with no clearly identifiable name, bio, or profile picture. The first and most fundamental thing to understand about Twitter is that it is a conversation. Would you approach someone at an event and not introduce yourself first? Would you keep your face hidden from view while you hold a conversation? And yet this is precisely what some users do when they set up their Twitter accounts. Your Twitter profile is the first place someone will look when they read your tweets, so make it credible and professional by following these tips.
Don’t be an egg head. Add a personal picture to your profile.
Many Twitter users will not follow accounts without a profile picture on the assumption it is a fake account. A study published by researchers from Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon University, “Tweeting Is Believing? Understanding Microblog Credibility Perceptions,” analyzed how users assess Twitter credibility. The study found that:
- users are poor judges of truthfulness based on content alone, and instead are influenced by heuristics such as user name when making credibility assessments.
- users represented by the default Twitter icon, or a cartoon avatar are perceived as significantly less credible than users with a personal photo.
The phrase “egg head” refers to Twitter’s default profile image. As soon as you have created your Twitter account, you should replace the default image with your own picture. This is easily done in your Twitter account settings. Twitter is about human connections. When uploading a picture, don’t use a cartoon, or any other animate or inanimate object for your profile. A professional close-up head shot works best. You also have an opportunity to personalize your profile by uploading a custom header image alongside your profile picture. Use this opportunity to bring more authenticity to your account, as this image shows.
Create your Twitter bio
Add your (real) name, provide a brief bio and include a link to your institution’s website, and/or your LinkedIn profile so people can learn more about you. If you are hesitant to identify yourself, then consider if Twitter is the right platform for you. You may be better with a LinkedIn account which is restricted to connections you control. Remember on Twitter your tweets are there for all to see.
You may also wish to add a medical disclaimer to your Twitter profile, which states that you do not offer medical advice through social media, and/or the views you express are yours and not that of your employer. Finally, don’t be afraid to inject a little personality into your bio as this example illustrates.
Find People To Follow
Next you will want to find some people to follow. Use this list of Surgeons on Twitter http://list.ly/list/lX1-surgeons to discover some surgeons who are already established tweeters. The list is updated regularly with new names so check back regularly and tweet me @JBBC if you wish to have your name added to the list.
While you will want to follow friends and colleagues, don’t restrict yourself to just this list. One of the great benefits of Twitter is its ability to be a global melting pot of ideas and people to learn from. Including a diverse mix of health care professionals, policy makers, and patient opinion leaders in your Twitter mix will enhance your learning and professional development. You will find a wealth of knowledge and an opportunity to contribute your expertise through following health related hashtags. Some of the best conversations happen through the medium of Twitter chats. These are pre-arranged chats which include a predefined #hashtag which links the tweets together in a virtual conversation. You will find a full list of health hashtags via Symplur's Hashtag Project.
Send Your First Tweet
Now all that remains to do is to send your first tweet. This is an important step. A Twitter profile without any tweets may be mistaken for a spam account. If you are not sure what you should tweet, try something simple, like introducing yourself to the Twittersphere.
Your professional reputation online is just as important as offline. Your Twitter account is one of the most visible descriptions of you on the Internet, so make sure it is projecting the best professional image. Follow the steps I have outlined and you will be ready to create a Twitter account which will enhance your reputation both on and offline.
Marie Ennis-O’Connor is a writer, keynote speaker and social media consultant, specializing in healthcare communications. Follow her on Twitter @JBBC