How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Twitter
Reflecting on #MyFirstTweetUp on the trip home from Chicago after #RSNA15
I am a Twitter neophyte. I just started tweeting this past September to coincide with the start of the JACR blog. Using social media seemed like the most natural way to announce installments of the newest JACR digital initiative. I would never have signed up otherwise. I had looked at personal tweeting with skepticism. I simply wasn't interested in a seemingly narcissistic exercise where my ideas and opinions were launched into the twitterverse.
So what changed? I reframed my thinking about tweeting. I realized that if I tweet with a purpose (and add a sprinkling of social banter) then maybe I can harness the power of social media to help fulfill my mandate in stewarding the blog. So I started mission-centered tweeting to increase engagement with JACR.
With tweeting, you learn by doing. Having created a Twitter account, I quickly figured out the difference between a handle and hashtag. Handles are pretty straightforward: they are Twitter usernames, whether for an individual, like @JuliannaCzumMD, or for an organization or group, like @JACRjournal.
Hashtags are a little trickier. Hashtags allow you to sort tweets by topic, but you need to be clever and selective to make sure your tweet has maximum reach to an interested audience. You are limited to 140 characters in a tweet, making it critical that you limit your hashtags to a few lest you have no room for your message.
Now that I have basic Twitter skills under my belt, I've started venturing out. I've wandered over to Symplur to check out the Radiology Tag Ontology as I have a rather limited hashtag repertoire. This glossary of sorts helps you find the most common hashtag for a given topic in radiology. That allows your tweets to become part of the ongoing conversation around that subject.
Reach is measured in several different ways. Certainly, the number of people who follow you is important. Think of followers like subscribers to a magazine: they want to get your messages regularly. When you are just starting out, you may have few followers. But if those folks have lots of followers and they retweet your tweet (meaning they share it with their follwers), your message can be amplified many-fold.
I also check my impressions (the number of times my tweets appear in users' feeds), profile visits, mentions, and engagements on Twitter Analytics. Along with the number of followers, those analytic categories are various ways of measuring reach, and you want those to generally trend upward month-to-month. When I look at it superficially, it's a little like a computer game, where you try to rack up points in different ways. And part of me is disappointed to think of tweeting as a competition or a popularity contest. Thus some of my initial reluctance. Just as we are to keep medical care centered on patients, I keep JACR at the center of my thoughts when tweeting.
And that's what I did when I attended RSNA for a mere day and a half this year. I attended several interesting sessions, including one about the medical applications of 3D printing and another on the pros and cons of several social media platforms. But as I looked back on my brief time in the Windy City, I was surprised to admit to myself that the highlight turned out to be the Monday noontime TweetUp event, which is a tweetchat where some of the people sending out tweets actually meet up in one location. Seems funny, doesn't it? All these people in one place interacting with devices, heads down, with people doing the same thing right next to them. How ridiculous, right? But since I was game again for trying something new, I set aside my preconceived notions and took the plunge to join the discussion non-radiology perspectives on imaging.
The TweetUp was an unqualified success, judging by Symplur statistics:
And praise from those present at the ACR booth:
As well as those joining us virtually:
Interspersed between fast-paced Twitter exchanges, I actually got to see and meet several radiology leaders I had only gotten to know via tweets, like Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, (on the left, with Ruth Carlos, MD, FACR), and Richard Duszak Jr., MD, FACR.
Since most people include a profile picture on Twitter, it was pretty easy to find a person, introduce myself, and discover that they recognized me too. In fact, a few times, it was the other way around, with people finding me and introducing themselves.
So it turns out that Twitter was very effective as a social media platform for me not only as a service I provide for JACR, but as a way for me to build actual in-person relationships. What an epiphany! Social media can actually be social in a rather traditional way. So at #RSNA16, please join us for our next TweetUp. You don't even have to tweet, you can just meet!
The next tweet chat is on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, at 12 p.m. EDT. We also post summaries and transcripts from past chats on the JACR website. If you missed the TweetUp, check out our TweetChat archive or this Storify.
If you missed the TweetUp, but still want to keep up with the topic, the December 2015 Special Issue of the JACR, Non-Radiologists' Perspectives of Health Services Research and Policy in Radiology, coincides with the focus of the TweetUp. This issue is edited by JACR Deputy Editor Ruth Carlos, MD, FACR, along with Richard Duszak Jr., MD, FACR, and Danny Hughes, PhD, from the ACR's Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute, who were the #RSNA15 #JACR TweetUp moderators.