Twitter in Medicine, Part 4: Will anyone read my tweet?

That is the question. Will anybody read what I tweet? Much less, retweet my tweet? What does that even mean?

Our previous posts helped with getting a Twitter account and finding others to follow. This week each bullet point below has the straight facts for getting started with your first tweet. Remember why you would want to do this. It’s about connecting now, not just to read breaking news and medical alerts but to post your news and gather your community.

For example, here is a live tweet from last week’s Translational Bioinformatics/Clinical Research Informatics Summit in San Francisco. The author (a Duke bioinformaticist) gives a fact and a request. So far, there already are 4 “Retweets” and 2 “Favorites” so evidence that people are reading this tweet.

New Twitter 4.1
It’s necessary to adhere to a few fundamentals for using Twitter in order to get your message out. I suggest a bookmark to this page for future reference.

  • Definition of a Tweet: a very short message, limited to 140 characters but ideally fewer than 125 characters for reasons you will understand later. Enter your tweet to the text box at the top of your screen and click “tweet”. Notice that Twitter counts the characters automatically so it’s easy to see the limit.
  • Retweet (RT): this is a reposting of someone else’s tweet, a way to pass on something of interest to your followers.
    There are two ways to Retweet:
    (1) Click on the retweet button – find this symbol below the tweet. This is especially helpful and easy when you are in a hurry.
    (2) Or, copy & paste the content, beginning with the letters “RT” for retweet, and include the author’s name – via @jessist1023 – to show it’s a retweet and not your content. That’s good netiquette. Also, add a comment, even as simple as “Must read!”. Others are more likely to read the tweet. Now do you see why the original tweet length should be fewer than the allowable 140 characters? If the tweet is already long – like the one above – it would not be easy to add these characters to the message.
  • Modified Tweet (MT): these letters are important if you are really shortening a message by taking out a section. Maybe you are adding a relevant journal citation for the next post. Still I would include “via @UserName”.

Example of modifying the tweet:
wOOt! Have you heard the Duke-MURDOCK study has already banked 500k specimens? MT via @jessiet1023

  • # Hashtag: if you learn anything today, it’s the hashtag and it’s significance. Hashtags are a way of flagging the significance so that others can easily find tweets on this subject by doing a search. In this case, it’s adding this specific text to the tweet: #TBICRI2015. Then it’s possible to search in Twitter using “#TBICRI2015” to find all the tweets with this hashtag. For us in general internal medicine we hope to see many tweets during the upcoming annual meeting of SGIM in Toronto with the hashtag #SGIM15.
  • The shortened web address (URL): no doubt you’ve seen short web addresses that appear rather cryptic, e.g., bitly or Twitter now shortens all URLs to 20 characters. Alternatively I can shorten even further using one of these free services. Just paste the long URL into the text box and click the button. Your new URL, with copy & paste, will be ready to tweet.
  • Mention: this is a social thing to do, use the tweet with a “mention” of your colleague, sort of a shout-out for the other person. Notice how many retweets and favorites in this post!

New Twitter 4.2

  • Use caution about placement of the “mention”!
    You will see the mention appears 3 ways: (1) the “@” sign as the first character in the tweet, (2) the “@” sign as the second character of the tweet (usually after a period), or (3) the “@” sign someplace else in the tweet.

When a tweet begins with “@UserName”, only you plus the other person and your mutual followers see this tweet.

When the tweet begins “.@UserName” Twitter looks at this like any other tweet and all your followers see the tweet. The other person, @UserName, sees this in their “Notifications” feed.

When the tweet includes a mention (@UserName) elsewhere in the text, all your followers will see the tweet. @UserName sees this in their “Notifications” feed.

Learn more here:

Twitter 4.3


These basics are really all that’s necessary to use Twitter. Next week we will write about what makes a good tweet and tell about the amazing impact and influence of Twitter, especially in medicine. Watch, people will read your tweets and will follow you. We are certain.
Mention us @Duke_GIM!

Link to our entire Twitter in Medicine Series.