Getting Started on Twitter

Alok Patel, MD
Last Edited by AHSM Admin

Brief Summary of Platform: Twitter is limitless in its ability to deliver quick pieces of information, opinions, and anything else you can create, in 240-characters. I won’t spend a great deal of time discussing why healthcare providers should have twitter accounts but I will say, it’s one of the most efficient methods for reading updates from academic institutions, industry leaders, journals, and essentially any other influential entity in healthcare; you also have full access to engage with and share information with any of the above sources.

How-To Instructions: Let’s run through a quick course on how to set up your own twitter account to get started on the fun.

  • Pick a Handle: Your twitter handle is what follows the famous “@”. As a healthcare professional, unless you truly want to curate anonymous content, always use your professional title. People commonly use twitter to reach out to experts or find colleagues, so you want to be searchable. You can always have a nickname accompanying your handle, which can change and can be more creative. Nonetheless, one of the two, should be clearly identifiable.
  • Curate Your Bio: Below your handle, you have room to write a very short bio. This is where you have a few sentences to tell all of twitter who you are, what you do, and anything else. Be creative and be definitive. If you need help, peruse twitter and take notice of which profiles stand out to you. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine, but maintain professionalism. It may take experimenting!
  • Choose your Profile Photo: This is straightforward. Given the small space for a photo, ask yourself if you want people to know what you look like or not. If you do want to include your face, which is highly recommended because we’re building brands here, use a high-resolution headshot. You can always change this picture to reflect a campaign, seasonal trend, etc. Thus, don’t get too stressed out.
  • Choose your Header Photo: This is the big background photo on your twitter profile. This picture almost sets the tone of your page. Use a high-resolution photo, avoid cumbersome collages, and remember the graphic designer’s mantra – cleaner is better. Similar to your bio, your header photo should give people a sense of your personality or what it is that you’re passionate about. Be mindful that the header photo dimensions are limited to 1500px X 500px – so that amazing panorama of your family standing at the beach may not fit. Play around with it!

Twitter Tips:

  • Start Following Others: The people you follow will fill your home page and will inevitably lead to more inspiration and ideas for who else you should follow. Don’t hold back; there’s no downside to following plentiful accounts. You do want it to be manageable so pick a few industries you care about and follow several accounts to get a feel for your preference. For me personally, I follow news, comedy/satire, journalism, healthcare policy, and medical accounts. You can also look at who others are following to get ideas.
  • Be Professional: When tweeting, remember, professionalism applies. Avoid tweeting patient information or anything anyone may find offensive. I like to imagine my hospital’s senior management is reading my every tweet. It may be tempting to impulsively respond to a politician or news headline with an emotional response. The best advice I received for these situations is to compose the tweet, step away for a few moments, and re-read it; ask yourself if it’s appropriate.
  • Use Hashtags: Hashtags are the hallmark of aggregating, searching, and tracking tweets. You want your valued message to be noticed and shared so include a hashtag – always. If you’re responding to a tweet or commenting on a trending topic, the hashtags are obvious. On the other hand, if you would like to comment on something specific to your medical field, try searching these healthcare hashtags to find an appropriate tag! Keep in mind you can also search hashtags.
  • Add Multimedia: More often than not, your tweets will be a quick comment. If you’re sharing specific content or posing a strong opinion, try pairing your tweet with a link, graphic, infographic, or a comical GIF. These are visually more appealing, more informative, and more likely to be shared.
  • Try Using a Twitter Tool: There are several twitter productivity tools, such as “Hootsuite,” which can help you manage your twitter account.  Try experimenting with one to pre-program your tweets!


Last updated on May 3, 2019