As a communications professional, I regularly use Twitter in my work. I work in the NHS and find the micro-blogging site invaluable for sharing news and engaging with patients and the public.
For all my professional tweeting, it took me a long time to even set up an account. I finally took the plunge in November 2012, but have barely used it since. I found it too noisy, with an overwhelming cacocophany of noise. With so many other distractions and demands on my time, it all seemed too much to persevere with.
A glance at my tweets shows how seldom I used it. There are gaps of two months at a time. Two months! I’ve heard that some struggle with going longer than two minutes without tweeting. Such was the trouble of wading my way and separating the oversharers from the constructive.
It was an NHS social media conference yesterday that changed my mind and convinced me to give it another chance. The potential of Twitter is infinite: it can give you the opportunity to engage with people you might otherwise never even have heard of, as well as share your thoughts with like-minded people.
There are many people who are intrigued by Twitter, but intimidated by the scale of it all and are reluctant to give it a go. So, I thought I would share with you some of the lessons I have learned.
1. Don’t be a celebrity whore.
When I first set up my account, I eagerly started following famous people. Not being a Heat-reading B/C/D etc list celebrity addict I was selective about who I followed. Even so, jumping in with both feet in such a way meant my homepage was deluged with a crescendo of information, news and other things that were irrelevant or of no interest to me.
I have unfollowed quite a lot of them. My homepage is now much quieter and it is easier for me to see conversations I can engage with.
2. Follow your genuine interests
If you don’t follow celebrities, who do you follow? Think about what your interests are. Whether your hobbies involve sports, knitting or films, there will be an account to whet your appetite. Do a search and see what’s out there.
Hashtags are a good way of finding people with the same interest. You’ll find them for all sorts of things, from news events to TV programmes to general activities. They provide an effective way of sorting and filing the incredible amount of tweets to find something that is of relevance to you.
If you, by chance, want to start your own, think before you tag – #susanalbumparty anyone?
3. Get engaged
Twitter can be a fabulous way of getting to know your local community better. Most community interests will be tweeting as it is a great way to get free promotion. Follow your local cafe, your favourite restaurant, book club, voluntary groups or the wealth of other interest groups.
Don’t forget to follow your local hospital or other local health groups. Their feeds can offer a useful way of getting up-to-date news. You can also get in touch with them to give them feedback about their services – the good and the bad! It is so immediate and offers a fabulous way of breaking down the traditional barriers as it means you don’t always have to put pen to paper with a letter (unless you want to).
4. Take your time
Imagine Twitter is like going to a huge party. You’ve arrived on your own and you’re not sure whether you know anyone. You might loiter around the edges, trying to catch pieces of conversations to see if a group of people shares your interests before you ask to join them. Once you find you have things in common, you warm up and chat away happily. That might take a bit of patience, but it is worth it.
That’s what I have learned from my own experience.
Now for a little general Twitter etiquette guide:
1.’Microblogging’ means just that – you have 140 characters, so be succinct.
2. Join in on conversations, don’t make it all about you. Follow those who follow you (but beware of spammers).
3. Remember Twitter is a public forum. Let recent stories of people getting themselves into Twitter pickles (libel, defamation, inciting hatred etc) be a lesson. Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t put on a noticeboard or say to someone’s face. That includes retweeting other people’s comments too.
I am still a Twitter novice and there is so much more to making the most of the Twittersphere.
Have you got further advice or guidance to add?
I look forward to continuing the conversation – leave a comment or you can follow me at @leighakendall.