Following the Tweets of Health

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows users to send and receive updates or “tweets”, which are short text-based posts. In contrast to a conventional blog, which combines text, images and links to other websites, a micro-blog post is typically restricted to 140 characters. Twitter users can “follow” others by visiting their profile page and clicking the “follow” button. Following someone simply means you will receive their Twitter updates. Interestingly, Twitter is also frequently being used as an instant messaging service, with lengthy real-time exchanges between users.

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You might think that very little can be said when you’re restricted to 140 words, but just the opposite is true. You have to be succinct and get straight to the point. This has been a criticism of Twitter since it was launched in October 2006. Call it what you want. Soundbites … media snacking … everyone is busy today and consuming small bits of information is how we’re keep up with the world’s never-ending data stream.

Although there’s been a great deal of speculation in the blogosphere about the death of Twitter, it remains the most widely used micro-blogging service. I’ve mentioned previously that Twitter is a useful communication tool. The social media service allows you to connect with other people who share your interests. I’ve found a great many people interested in health and medicine on Twitter, and have been actively using it since early this year.

Mark Hawker, a health care informatician in the U.K., recently published a list of the Top 30 Health Tweeple or Twitter users. I’m honored to be one of the 30 Twitter users on the list. The top 30 health tweeple include physicians, nurses, medical librarians, medicine and health 2.0 educators and advocates, and healthcare entrepreneurs from around the world. Mark compiled the list of health tweeple you should follow “based on the quality of their contributions and their overall influence in the field.”

However, it was soon realized that many health tweeple were missing from the list. Thus, Mark’s follow-up post, The Forgotten Health Tweeple rounds the list up to 50. Although many of the top 50 health tweeple I already follow, Mark’s list introduced me to others I had not yet discovered.

Even though it’s subjective, I think Mark’s top 50 list accurately identifies people that are actively “tweeting” and discussing health, health 2.0 and medicine 2.0 online. This niche social network within a social network — the health community on Twitter — posts useful and informative content and frequently engages one another, exchanging information and resources. If you use Twitter and you’re interested in health, I highly recommend you follow the top 50 health tweeple.

Interestingly, consumers are also looking for companies on social media websites. Indeed, a recent study found that 93% of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media [1]. This means that brands are being recognized and sought after in a social media environment. I mention this because I maintain two separate Twitter accounts, one for Highlight HEALTH, which provides a way for Twitter users to stay up-to-date with new articles and resources posted on the Highlight HEALTH websites, and a second for personal use (my personal account made the top 30 list). Feel free to follow both.

A word of caution: in my experience, it’s difficult to keep up with the flow of information when you follow too many people. I try very hard to only follow people that are engaging and share my interests. Even when you’re media snacking, you can eat too much!

Here’s a tip: easily keep up with tweets directed at you by locating the RSS link at the bottom of the @Replies page and subscribing to it in your feed reader. You can also convert the feed to email using a service such as Feed My Inbox and you’ll always know when someone sends you a tweet, even if you’re not currently using Twitter.

References

  1. Cone Finds that Americans Expect Companies to Have a Presence in Social Media. Cone Inc. press release. 2008 Sep 25.
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.