May 1, 2013 Columns

Spreading the Word: Making Twitter Work For You

As professionals who recognize and value the power and important of communications, audiologists and speech-language pathologists are perfectly positioned to leverage social media for public relations.

You already may be active on social media networks such as Facebook to keep in touch with friends or stay current with speech-language and audiology news and developments. You've surely heard the buzz about Twitter-or perhaps you're already on. There's only so much time in the day, but using social media wisely can further develop your professional identity, keep you abreast of the latest developments on everything from health insurance to research studies and trends, and raise awareness about your profession or practice.

Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based messages (affectionately known as "tweets") of up to 140 characters. With more than 500 million registered users, Twitter generates 340 million tweets daily. So, how can you participate in the Twitter universe, find relevant content and connections, and not get lost or overwhelmed?

Twitter can serve dual purposes—it can keep you well-informed (if you know how to use it) and it can promote you. Here are some tips on how to make Twitter part of your professional public relations or outreach activities:

Know about hashtags and how to use them. Hashtags are the "#" symbol, as used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. For example, #hearing or #AmericanIdol. They make it easier for your tweet to appear in search results. People searching for any of the day's tweets mentioning the word "hearing" will be more likely to see your tweet in their search results.

Create a Twitter "handle." This is basically your Twitter "name." It's how you'll identify yourself on Twitter and what people will see when they see your Tweets or read your Twitter profile. For example, @PreschoolAud or @ChicagoSLP. Choose your handle wisely; have it reflect your expertise or area of focus.

Find good content. Search for content that's relevant to your work and interests. For example, go into the search bar and use a hashtag such as #speech and you'll pull up tweets that have the word "speech" in them. Using tabs at the top of the page, you can even choose top tweets, people you follow, or all tweets.

Follow people, organizations and media outlets relevant to your profession or specialty area. Are you a speech-language pathologist? Check out @SLPeeps, a global community of speech and language professionals that currently has 1,500 followers. Go to the search bar and type in "SLPeeps." Follow @ASHAweb, ASHA's official Twitter handle, followed by 16,600 people. Think of professional trade magazines you read, local health reporters you may want to pitch, colleagues you admire, and researchers or experts in your field. Enter their names in the Twitter search bar, find them and click "Follow." When you see something you like, you may want to further promote that tweet or share with your followers by hitting "Retweet."

Start tweeting. Share your expertise, comment on a new study or local development or just convey your thoughts about a current topic or trend. Compose a tweet, remembering to use the # sign in front of keywords and work within Twitter's 140-character limit.

For more detailed information, see this online Twitter guide for beginners.

Happy Tweeting!


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