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Page history last edited by Anita Hamilton 13 years, 11 months ago

Page developed by Claire Hayward, Merrolee Penman & Anita Hamilton

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a form of microblogging and is different from a traditional blog in that its content is much smaller in length.  Each entry consists of a short sentence fragment of up to 140 characters, an image or video.  Microblogging has emerged as an important way to access real-time news or updates on a topic of interest. (Wikipedia, 2010). Microblogging is more mobile than accessing blogs in that you can tweet (using twitter) from your mobile phone. Your phone doesn't even have to be that advanced, if you can text you can tweet and no internet access is required (except to initially set up the account). If you  get frustrated with texting, then you can still use your twitter account from your computer. Microblogging is a bridge between your phone and your computer (if your phone isn't your computer already!).


Twitter 101

Following:  the first step in using twitter is finding some people to "follow".  By following someone you will see all their tweets on your page.  You might choose to follow other OTs, equipment providers, professional organizations, local hospitals or charities or people who tweet about life with a particular disability.  Once you follow one person, you can look to see who follows them and then snowball from there.  You can search your emial contacts for to see if any of them have a Twitter account, and you can use the findpeople link in the top right hand corner of your Twitter page too.  There are also directories such as wefollow where you can search for people by keyword.  Alternatively you can look at lists which other twitter users have made to categorise some of the people they follow.  Claire Hayward (aka enableot) has an occupational therapy list here.  Other people can follow you in the same way.


Profiles: you can customize you Twitter account by adding a profile picture, brief details about yourself and a link to your website.  This information can make it easier for other people to find and follow you.  If someone follows you, you might want to take a look at their profile to see if they are worth following back!


Tweets:  This is term given to the bite sized messages you send out to the people who follow you.  You can choose to either make your tweets public, or only set you account so you can screen people beforehand.  You send out plain text, or copy and paste a link to something which is interest, or even to a photo or file using third party sites such as twitpic.


Direct messages: as well as tweets people who follow you can also send direct messages which are like private mini emails.  You can only receive these from people you follow and equally you can only send them to people who follow you.


Blocking and spam: in the same way as an email account sometimes you get sent something you dont want, or get followed by someone you dont want connected to you!.  In either cirmcumstance you can use the simple buttons on the site to either block or report users and tweets.  You can look here for more information on safety and security issues when using twitter.


@:  when you send a message to a twitter user with the prefix  @ (i.e @enableot) in a tweet the user you named will know it is directed at them.  On your own Twitter account you can click on the @yourusername link on the right hand side of the page to see only those tweets which have been directly targeted at you using the @.  A similar system is now in place on Facebook.


Hashtags #:  The hashtag is used to tag tweets around a topic.  For example at people using twitter at a conference might use a hashtag to collate relevant tweets.  At the WFOT conference the hashtag is #WFOT2010. For a current list of Twitter hashtags that are of interest to OTs, see Twitter Hashtags List.

A helpful website is WTH: What the Hashtag, an editable encyclopaedia for hashtags found on Twitter


Re-tweets (RT's):  This is when a tweet is forwarded by a user.  For example if someone I follow sends a link to a good journal article I can just click and retweet it to people who follow me. 


A brief tour around Twitter, by @enableOT



Why is Twitter useful?

The usefulness of tweeting can be difficult to explain to non-tweeters!  After all as Westby Fisher, MD pointed out in his blog post about Twitter, who has the time to keep up with all that information streaming past you. However, twitter or other microblogging tools are being increasingly used by students in the US in higher education (See Faculty Focus report) while medical practitioners are also actively exploring the possibilities of twitter. Michael Lara suggests that medical practitioners can use Twitter as a tool for:

  1. Information collection - for example medical news updates, job postings etc or to follow related organisations in your area - charities, church groups, businesses
  2. Information sharing - for example between medical practitioners, or live updates from conferences. Using twitter to ask a question of the people who follow you, or who you follow is like asking a question over the water cooler, at morning tea, or in the lunch break of conference.
  3. Communications regarding direct patient care - for reminders to clients about appointments, or for communication between team members


Essentially using microblogging tools such as Twitter enables individuals to potentially get one message out to many people easily and quickly, without having to resort to scrolling through a contacts list in order to 'pick' the recipients. Twitter also allows you to link to other media described in this resource such as social bookmarking sites such as delicious, or feeds in from your blog, or feeds out to Facebook. Twitter can make it easy to manage a number of information sources.


Twitter is huge - with 75million registered accounts at the end of 2009 (although many of these may be for marketing, abandoned accounts etc).  As health and social care professionals increasingly adopt this platform as a fast and efficient way to communicate, disseminate and generally keep up to date with their field commentators such the blogger Kevin MD believe that use of Twitter will mature from being a fad, to an everyday tool.  


There are some great examples of occupational therapy specific Twitter streams such the account of the British Association of Occupational Therapists/College of Occupational Therapists.  You can see their Twitter stream here


Advantages and disadvantages of Twitter 


  • You can access Twitter easily either online via your computer or via your mobile phone. Compared with some of the social networking tools, it is the most mobile of them all, and therefore the most accessible of all.


  • The information you receive is brief, just a snippet, but it often points to where you can access more detailed information.


  • You can dip and out of twitter and get a real time snapshot of what the people you follow are interested in a talking about.  Its a bit like walking into a busy cafe.  This real time interaction also enable you to ask questions and get an immediate response. 



  • You can quickly clog up your inbox on your mobile phone


  • It can take time to find people who are interesting to follow.  However with the advent of Twitter list such as this one, it can much easier to find people or organizations to follow. 


  • If you set up an open (i.e. public) account it can be seen by anyone - therefore you need to be very careful about tweeting about people you are working with and you should never disclose patient/client information.


How to get started on Twitter.

The first step is to sign up to Twitter

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What does Twitter look like?




Twitter and Occupational Therapy


So what applications could Twitter have for occupational therapy?  Well for now most OT's are using it to collect and share information between therapists and students.  Running a search on the words "occupational therapy" on twitter will often lead you to twitter users who are considering occupational therapy as a career - a great point for OT's and OT students to jump in with some encouragement, advice, or to direct them to more information about the profession. Reading the tweets by people who receive an occupational therapy service can also be interesting, whether positive or negative.  Twitter can give OTs an opportunity to promote their profession to the wider world by disseminating relevant news stories, blogs, videos and other resources.  Twitter streams from relevant conferences, such as the one from WFOT2010 in Chile allow access to a huge audience and increase the impact and resonance of the conference proceedings. 

Your Therapy Source (a blog about pediatric occupational therapy) featured an article about Twitter.  Visit this link to read the article.


What do other OTs say about Twitter?






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