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Social Media 101: Twitter, Part One:

January 22, 2009
by Gwen Darling
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Getting tour tweet on

As promised, today we begin peeling back the layers of that mystical onion known as “Social Media,” “Web 2.0,” or, as I overhead one older gentleman call it as he stepped over me and my laptop on the floor at O’Hare, that “computer jibber-jabber crap.” Call it what you want, but it’s here to stay, so let’s begin!

Social Media according to Wikipedia:

Primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”

Technically that definition is correct, but what a sterile way to define a phenomenon that has completely changed the way our world communicates! Back when “Web 1.0” first began, companies put together a corporate Web site that was basically a glorified online brochure, threw their domain name on business cards and letterhead, learned how to add a signature file to outgoing emails, and called it good. If they really hung it out there and provided a feedback form, it was deemed brilliant, and the few who actually dared to venture into the possibility of a discourse by including a discussion board on their sites were considered visionary, crazy, or a little bit of both.

For many years that was the extent of the online “conversation,” which really wasn’t much of a conversation at all, but rather a one-sided “don’t speak until you are spoken to” kind of monologue. Of course (as I’ve discovered with my teenagers), there is a simple beauty to talking without expecting or wanting a reply (okay actually I just daydream about this scenario), but this one-dimensional approach left much to be desired. To really make a long story short…enter Social Media/Web 2.0.

First Social Media App Up: Twitter

Twitter is an increasingly popular “micro-blogging” platform that allows people to share thoughts, ideas, anything-140 characters at a time. If you’re wondering what 140 characters looks like, take another look at the previous sentence – exactly 140 characters (spaces count, too.) If you engage in “Twittering” you are known as a “Twitterer,” one in a group of Twittering “Tweeple,” and the 140-character messages that you post are called, “Tweets.” Okay, if this all sounds ridiculous and like a colossal waste of your valuable time thus far, I completely understand. When I first looked into the Twitter app, I thought it could only be, to put it very bluntly, a total time suck. And for some people it is. But used intelligently, Twitter can be an amazing source of relevant information, and an unparalleled networking and recruiting tool. Here’s how:

When you register for a free account at Twitter, you instantly have access to millions of other Twitterers’ thoughts, comments, ideas, advice, experience, and expertise. The vast majority of Twitter users allow open access to their Tweets, and you can choose to “follow” anyone who interests you. Each Twitterer is assigned a unique Twitter name or address, beginning with the “@” symbol. For instance, I have two Twitter accounts – one specifically for HealthcareITJobs.com (@healthcareitjob), and one for my general Internet consulting business and personal use (@gwendarling). Here’s a look at a recent string of Tweets on the HealthcareITJobs Twitter site:
 
 
These Tweets were sent to my Twitter site because I chose to follow these people or groups, after taking a look at their bios and previous Tweet content. In some cases, these Twitterers found and followed me first, and after review I decided to follow them back. NOTE: You neither need to, nor do you want to, follow everyone who follows you. Trust me on this one. This will be explained in more detail next week.

Hopefully you’ve now got at least an inkling of what all the Twitter is about, but, like your first really memorable kiss, this Social Media application is one of those things that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. So, here’s your homework:

1. Go to Twitter.com and set up an account. I highly recommend starting with a personal account, using your name as your Twitter name. Once you get a better feel for how Twitter can be used in a business environment, you can always add an additional corporate account. Find a nice close-up photo of yourself (not your dog, your kids, your motorcycle) and upload it.

2. Go to “Settings,” fill out the info, and take more than two seconds to fill out your bio. Tell us something interesting about you that would make us care about what you have to say, think, feel, and need. No pressure, but this is your 160 character personal elevator speech – make it sparkly.
DO NOT CLICK THE BOX TO PROTECT YOUR UPDATES.

3. Still in the “Settings” area, click on “Notices.” Under “@replies” select “@replies to the people I’m following.” Trust me on this one, too.

4. For starters, find 25 people to follow. The “Find People” link at the top of the page is a good place to start. Here are some other suggestions that may interest you:

@healthcareitjob
@gwendarling
@HCInformatics
@HIMSS
@levarburton (of Roots fame)
@zappos (CEO of Zappos – great example of someone who “gets it”)
@brookeburke (yep, Dancing With the Stars hotter than hot Brooke Burke)
@lancearmstrong (yep, Tour de France hotter than hot Lance Armstrong)
@williamshatner (seriously)
@bobvilacom (this Old House Bob Vila)
@Starbucks (another great corporate example setter)
@the_real_shaq (yep, the real Shaq)

Next week, we’ll take a look at examples of who “gets” the corporate power and potential of Twitter, and who is missing the point completely and embarrassing themselves in the process. I’ll also introduce you to some healthcare IT colleagues who are successfully leveraging Twitter to extend their recruiting reach, and teach you some valuable “Twittiquette” lessons that will keep you from being shunned by the Twitterverse. The following week, we’ll wind up our Twitter exploration with a corporate hospital branding and recruiting strategy that will help you attract the very Tweeple you need on your team. Stay twuned!

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