By Philip Neuwirth, BS, MICP, CCEMTP, FP-C
I started a Twitter account back in 2009, but didn’t start using the account until this past winter. I shied away from “tweeting” because I didn’t understand the platform. I couldn’t wrap my arms around the “need” to be on twitter or why people were so captivated by it. I began using Twitter after “following” Scott Weingart @emcrit, who is a ED Intensivist in NY. Dr. Weingart hosts the EMCrit Podcast, and speaks internationally on ED Critical Care and Resuscitation. I follow people [internationally] in Prehospital and Emergency Medicine who are keenly interested in current and future evidence-based medicine. This platform of “social networking” enables the delivery of the most current scientific literature and opinions the moment they’re published and allows collaboration with those experts. If you are self-motivated and interested in keeping current with prehospital medicine, sign-up today for a Twitter account. You can follow us on twitter by clicking the icon on the right.
Below is a “How To” article about Twitter, written by Alan Batt of prehospitalresearch.eu. Alan is a critical care paramedic, paramedic educator, and prehospital researcher, currently working around the world as an educator and researcher. He has previously worked and studied across Europe, North America and the Middle East. He is currently completing an MSc in Critical Care in Cardiff University, Wales. His main interests are in care of the elderly, end-of-life care, patient safety, professionalism, immersive simulation and curriculum design.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is online social networking and microblogging service which allows users to post messages or “Tweets” via instant messaging apps, SMS or a web interface. As of February 2013 it has 200 million users.
How do I sign up?
- Go to http://www.twitter.com
- Sign up for a new account (free) if you don’t already have one.
What is a Tweet?
A tweet is a message composed of a maximum of 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users can tweet via the Twitter website, compatible external applications (such as for smartphones), or by Short Message Service (SMS) available in certain countries.
Users may subscribe to other users’ tweets – this is known as following and subscribers are known as followers or tweeps.
How do I tweet?
Twitter has mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Firefox OS, and Nokia. There is also a mobile version of the website for mobile devices, and there are SMS and MMS services. A number of applications also exist inlcuding TweetDeck, TweetCaster, HootSuite, Twhirl , and Twitterfeed to name but a few.
Click on the compose icon, type the content of your tweet, including any @ or # entries needed, and then click on Tweet.
Be careful about your reputation and that of the institution you represent. Don’t tweet anything which could be detrimental to either, and avoid tweeting when you feel angry or are drunk.
What are @ and # symbols?
To group posts together by topic or type, a hashtag – word or phrase prefixed with a “#” sign, is included in the tweet. This allows one to search for all tweets containing a particular hashtag.
The “@” sign followed by a username is used for mentioning or replying to other users (e.g. our Twitter username is @prehospresearch). Clicking on it enables you to reply to that question, although in a public forum.
Here’s a tweet that displays using the @ and # conventions:
How can I use Twitter for research?
An important part of research is finding good sources and carrying out a literature review. Twitter can help you here by allowing you to search for hashtags, keywords and identify trends. If you want to find out what’s topical at the moment, Twitter gives a list of “trending topics” at the bottom left hand corner of your home page. It’s automatically set to your nearest location, but there is an option to change.
You can also follow academic libraries, research institutes, professional organisations, research bodies etc. – quite a number of which are on Twitter.
What are trending topics?
A word, phrase or topic that is tagged at a greater rate than other tags is said to be a trending topic. Trending topics become popular either through a concerted effort by users, or because of an event that prompts people to talk about one specific topic
Twitter is great for obtaining data from a survey allowing you to get responses from thousands of participants, creating an automatic database of information in real time.
The end result of most of our research is – to get published. Twitter can help you to get information regarding various aspects of your work. Use Twitter to showcase your in-process work, findings, published articles etc.
One of the most common and most interesting uses of Twitter is for following and tweeting about conferences. Many medical conferences today have an associated hashtag, allowing attendees and those interested to both tweet about and follow the proceedings at the conference. Check out the next conference or event you are attending and see if it has an associated hashtag.
Using Tweetchat for following conferences & chats
TweetChat helps put your blinders on to the Twitter-sphere while you monitor and chat about one topic. Go to www.tweetchat.com. Choose hashtag to follow (for instance, #smaccGOLD). Choosing a hashtag directs you to a TweetChat room, where you can converse in real-time. Each tweet automatically gets the hashtag added and the room auto-updates.
How can I use Twitter for education?
- #FOAMems. This collects information relevant to all involved in providing emergency prehospital care (volunteers, EMTs, Paramedics, nurses, doctors) using one hashtag – and staying within the FOAM family solidifies our place within the medical community.
- Do a search for FOAMed, FOAMPed or FOAMcc, or use our latest tweets pages
- You may also consider following people on this list of FOAM supporters – http://twitter.com/sandnsurf/foamed/members and our own lists of prehospital researchers, associations & people of interest!
- Get reading, learning and sharing!
- Don’t forget to promote your Twitter account – include a link on your website, Facebook page and in your email signature.
How to use Twitter
Video courtesy Howcast Youtube Channel.