Twitter Best Practices For Health Communicators


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Twitte rhas grown to more than 8 million users in the U.S. and companies, non-profits and government organizations are increasingly joining Twitter to interact with their constituents online. The challenge lies in understanding how to best use Twitter to the benefit of an organization. Twitter can be a powerful tool for health marketers to create community and provide useful information to their supporters, advocates and other constituents. Twitter’s ability to connect people with similar interests can be harnessed for the greater social good if users adhere to a few key best practices.

After viewing this presentation, you will be able to describe: 1) What Twitter is, the basics of how it works, and why health communicators should be using it; 2) How to follow the three easy steps, Follow, Create Content and Engage to build community on Twitter; and 3) The do’s and don’t’s of participating in the Twitter community.

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  • Twitter has it’s own unique little language. Here are some terms I will use throughout the presentation
  • Growth of their Twitter handle=2,000 Nov. 7 th to 21,000 on July 24th
  • One quibble is they aren’t following people back or engaging in conversation here. This may work for this account, but it isn’t going to work for all organizations.
  • Twitter Best Practices For Health Communicators

    1. National Conference for Health Communication, Marketing and Media Twitter Best Practices for Non-Profits and Health Communicators August 2009
    2. What is Twitter?
    3. What is Twitter?- Quick facts <ul><li>Twitter is a microblogging platform composed entirely of 140 character answers to 1 simple question: “What are you doing?” or rather , “What are you interested in right now?” </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter receives over 1 million UMVs as of January 2009. Increasing by nearly 1 million from November 2008. Twitter saw a 752% growth from 2008-2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Over 3,000,000 Tweets/day ( TechCrunch ), totaling over 1.25 billion Tweets to date. (GigaTweet) </li></ul><ul><li>Females now make up over 50% of the Twitter demographic, up from less than 40% in 2008. Twitter's largest age demographic is 18-to-44-year-olds who make up 78% of its users. ( January 2009 iStrategyLabs ) </li></ul><ul><li>Non-Profits are increasingly growing their presence on Twitter with 43.2 % reporting that they use the service ( Non-Profit Social Networking Survey , April 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>The average non-profit organization has a Twitter following of 291, but the most successful organizations can have many more followers. ( Non-Profit Social Networking Survey , April 2009) </li></ul>4
    4. Twitter Enables Real Time, Broad Reach Followers Receive Tweet User sends a Tweet Followers Read, Reply or Re-Tweet Two-way communication
    5. Twitter Vocabulary 101 <ul><li>Tweet- The 140 character message that Twitter users send out to the followers </li></ul><ul><li>Followers- people who have chosen to get the updates or tweets from you </li></ul><ul><li>Following- the people that you’ve chosen to get updates from </li></ul><ul><li>Retweet or RT- A retweet or RT for short is used when someone wants to share information that they found in your twitter stream and find helpful. </li></ul><ul><li>@reply- Is simply replying to another Twitter user using their handle name. (ie- if someone wanted to send a message to or about me they’d send it to @sarahmarchetti) </li></ul><ul><li>Hashtags or #- a way to tag conversations on Twitter to make them easy to search and follow. The hashtag for this conference is #NCHCMM </li></ul>
    6. The Opportunity for Health Communicators <ul><ul><li>Join/Start the conversation around your issue. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Educate interested parties </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Raise Awareness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Call to Action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Instant Focus Group </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increase Positive Share of Voice for your Organization </li></ul></ul>9 Harness the power of Twitter for the greater social good
    7. Three Simple Steps for using Twitter
    8. <ul><li>Follow>Create>Engage </li></ul>11
    9. Issue Advocacy: Follow <ul><li>Follow other non-profits/health advocacy organizations, industry thought leaders and of course people interested in your cause/issue.  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find people interested in your subject area   </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow people who Follow you  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Search for mentions </li></ul></ul>40
    10. @RedCross The Red Cross uses Twitter to “to get important info out to affected people in the immediate aftermath of a disaster”. They also tweet preparedness tips and disaster information, health alerts and helpful resources. Updates are made frequently, and remain relevant to the issue at hand. 38
    11. Issue Advocacy: Create <ul><li>Provide value to your followers by tweeting useful information and links   </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider your unique value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Set a tone  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Brainstorm topics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Constantly be on the lookout for news </li></ul></ul>41
    12. @CDCemergency CDC Emergency is creating great content that people find valuable as evidenced by their nearly 600,000 followers. They Tweet information about the Pandemic Flu and other relevant information about public health emergencies.
    13. Issue Advocacy: Engage <ul><li>Twitter is a conversation tool not a broadcast tool. Participate in the conversation around your issue </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use @replies to participate in the discussion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Respond to people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Create conversations </li></ul></ul>42
    14. @LIVESTRONG LIVESTRONG does and excellent job engaging their supporters, replying to their tweets, retweeting relevant information and providing value to their followers. They promote conversation about cancer on their Twitter handle, causing widespread support in the Twitter community.
    15. #BlameDrewsCancer BlameDrewsCancer is a hashtag that a recently diagnosed cancer patient, Drew Olanoff created to “beat up on cancer”. The hashtag turned into a humorous trend on twitter with everyone blaming Drew’s cancer for their problems. He recently partnered with LIVESTRONG and is trying to find a sponsor to donate a dollar to the organization for every #blamedrewscancer tweet.
    16. Twitter Best Practices
    17. Twitter Do’s <ul><li>DO create a strategy for engaging in Twitter. Know what you want to achieve before you start </li></ul><ul><li>DO create a descriptive bio for your Twitter page so people know what kind of tweets they will see from you if they follow you </li></ul><ul><li>DO listen to what people are saying about your issue/organization on Twitter using the Twitter Search function </li></ul><ul><li>DO provide value for your followers </li></ul><ul><li>DO use Twitter to start a conversation </li></ul><ul><li>DO be dedicated to Twitter. Having more than one employee on Twitter will ensure an ongoing presence for your organization. </li></ul><ul><li>DO ask questions and get feedback from your followers </li></ul>45
    18. Twitter Don’ts <ul><li>DON’T just Tweet but also follow others to join in or start a conversation. </li></ul><ul><li>DON’T use Twitter to broadcast information. It is a conversation tool. </li></ul><ul><li>DON’T be boring! </li></ul><ul><li>DON’T panic if someone says something negative about your organization. Thank them for providing feedback and try to address their issue. </li></ul><ul><li>DON’T take on all the responsibility for Twitter yourself. Having a colleague or two to help you makes using Twitter easier. </li></ul>47
    19. Additional Resources and Take Aways
    20. Top 10 Twitter Tools <ul><li>Search.Twitter (f.k.a Summize): Complete an advanced search around key phrases, within specific dates, and from specific handles. (Often broken, Google search is the best back up!) </li></ul><ul><li>TweetDeck : A desktop app that lets you organize your followers into specific categories (i.e. industry leaders, customers, potential customers, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>TwitPic : Provides a bridge from your camera phone to Twitter. Pictures can either post to the Twitter public timeline from phone via email or through the site. </li></ul><ul><li>Tweet Later : Allows you to auto-follow those who follow your account and provides an auto-welcome feature to send a custom message to new followers via DM or in the public timeline. </li></ul><ul><li>TwitterGrader : Measures the relative power and authority of a Twitter user by calculating number of followers, power of network of followers, pace of updates and completeness of a user's profile. </li></ul>54
    21. Top 10 Twitter Tools <ul><li>TweetBeep : the Google Alerts for Twitter, allows you to monitor conversations that mention you, your brand, related/competitor products, and links to your website/blog. Alerted as keywords appear, reducing the need for a manual search. </li></ul><ul><li>Twitterholic : Find out who has the most followers and who can be an influential asset to your campaign. </li></ul><ul><li>Twhirl : Centrally manages activity, messaging, and updating for Twitter and other platforms (FriendFeed,, and Seesmic). </li></ul><ul><li>TwitScoop : Tells you “What’s hot right now?”, presenting trend comparisons and volume of conversation. </li></ul><ul><li>Twitterberry : Downloadable Blackberry app for Twitter. </li></ul><ul><li>(One more: TwitterFox , a Firefox plugin that allows you to send </li></ul><ul><li>and receive updates, right from the browser’s status bar. </li></ul>55
    22. Additional Resources 57
    23. Questions? <ul><li>Feel free to continue the discussion with me on Twitter @sarahmarchetti </li></ul>