On Tweeting: 14 Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird (aka Twitter)

I was recently honored to be named as one of the Top Ten Internists to Follow on Twitter by Medical Economics magazine.

But here’s the secret, and biggest kicker of it all: I was able to garner a nice number of followers by starting out just a short three months before (though it didn’t compare to those who have tens of thousands, or even -*gulp*- millions, it was a start). In turn, I felt humbled to have received the aforementioned recognition (Imposter Syndrome knocking on my door right about now).

Follow my Twitter account here, if you don’t already (you don’t? How could you?!)

Now, in true I-couldn’t-do-this-alone fashion (worthy of Oscar speeches, even if for a mere mention in a single publication), I want to thank the physician tribe (collectively, #SoMeDocs) who are present on social media with me, putting money where their mouth is, and getting on the airwaves to accomplish fabulous things. If you’re a physician, and would like to join our group on FB, do so here.

Before we get to the topic at hand, I’d like to add a disclaimer, thanks in part, to legalities embraced in this day and age. I don’t claim to have the right answers. In fact, I could probably learn from many of you. But, I’d like to still put together a list of the things that I practice, on Twitter, that helped get me noticed. I hope it will answer some of your burning Twitter quandaries, or, at the least, serve as entertainment.

..(and if you’d like to read on my iPhone photograph tips, click for those here).


On Tweeting: Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird
I like using real-life events to make points. To me, there’s nothing more motivating then the beauty that surrounds me. The people. The emotions. The everyday hustle bustle.

*Post from the Left Ventricle – err, Heart.

Find what really matters to you, and tweet about it. There are no true rules to this, mainly because it’s free rein and you pick what appeals most to you (the word passion fits in perfectly here). This is honestly what makes social media so cool. That it’s all up to you. 

Here’s a useful piece of advice I give to those interested in joining conversations on Twitter: find whatever it is that makes you smile – that special something that magically draws your finger to that bird icon, and makes it type out words into the app – and stay there. You want to feel a personal satisfaction when you tweet and keep that smile plastered on as others respond.

*Use Relevant Hashtags

A hashtag is basically used to call out others, who are interested in a topic, or word. Think a megaphone, and then picture yourself screaming out that word into the megaphone.

On Tweeting: 10 Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird (Named Twitter)For example, #parenting. Anyone who looks to learn about this topic be searching for that hashtag. So when you tweet about parenting, you could hashtag the word, and ‘call out’ to others, using the imaginary megaphone mentioned.

Another example is hashtagging groups, like Doctors on Social Media, who use #SoMeDocs (fun fact: SoMe is short for Social Media). Use a group hashtag to call out other users in the group. In our case, calling to others looking to grow their presence on the platform and wishing to spread their work. Those in the group would search the hashtag to find others #SoMeDocs tweets, and connect/support (support explained below). Our mantra is simple, and holds on the platform: elevation through collaboration rather than competition.

You can hashtag any word within your tweet, or simply add a few tags at the end.

Don’t use too many. Your tweets end up looking blue (the color a hashtagged word turns). Try to make the tweet visually appealing, because otherwise, people lose patience trying to decipher what you’re trying to say.

*Tag others.

This one fits in both the Do’s and the Don’t column, so I’ve added it to both. It’s a lot like starting patients on medication and having the infamous risks versus benefits discussion beforehand.

On Tweeting: Tips for Tackling the Blue BirdWhat does it mean to tag others? Allow me to put it into real life perspective:

Tagging others is like making a statement and including someone else’s name in that conversation.

To tag, use the ‘@’ symbol before a user’s name. The person tagged will be notified and call their attention over to your tweet. You can use a profile name or type out the first few letters (the profile name will appear underneath for you to select).

The positive of tagging is inclusivity, a quality that’s typically appreciated. If it helps the other party involved, it will especially come off as kind. Often times, tagging results in a snowball effect, and your original tweet gains traction. More visibility = more chance for engagement, which often translates into potential growth and opportunities, for both you and those you tag.

The bad? Some consider it namedropping.

*Support others. 

On Tweeting: Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird
They say that ‘Sharing is Caring’. Never has that been more true than in the Twitter-o-sphere we speak of here.

There are various ways do this. Here are 4 of them:

‘Love’, the equivalent of ‘like on FB. On Twitter, it’s a heart.

Comment underneath original tweet.


Retweet with comment.

Whichever way you choose to interact with, doing so gives other tweets support. Because their profile is notified when you show them attention, they’ll be more likely to reciprocate with your tweets. Or at least notice your profile and follow.

Simply put, interaction is a part of interacting in the Twitter world.

*Stay Positive

The old adage applies: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

This isn’t as straightforward as my other tips and I’ve actually encountered twitter users who do the opposite, and successfully garner attention by calling others out. It’s a matter of personal choice, to be honest, as well as what you’re setting out to do. For example, those of us fighting against pseudoscience may encounter uphill battles filled with personal attacks that may require a certain form of crafted response. Is it odd to picture pseudoscience-busting crusaders as modern day ghostbusters, proton pack projectors in hand, ready at a moment’s notice to trap those who spew fallacies in their handheld bullshit-traps? I don’t think so (see my article on it here).

In general, I think we can show each other respect within the profession, and avoid getting down and dirty, when it comes to personal issues. We’re not here to hurt anyone, nor do any of us enjoy watching others fail, especially when they’re colleagues. I realize it’s somewhat naive to say. Yet it needs to be said and I’ll say it.

Remember, first and foremost, that behind every profile is a human being.

*Professionalism Matters


At the least, if you choose to engage in a disagreement, do so professionally. Because you can’t undo anything you tweet. Sure, you can ‘delete,’ but many regretted tweets have been erased, only to resurface as someone else’s screenshot, later on down the line.

Another point to make: professionalism is relative. How we interpret the term differs on a case-by-case-basis. At the end of the day, you have to feel comfortable with the statements – err, tweets – you make, while must also considering the ‘worst case scenario’ of your tweets. Remember, each of us has an employer and a day job. Consider the implications of any given tweet.

*Practice Good Twittermanship.

As with other platforms on social media utilized for business and professional growth, use discretion. I compare it to sports because I have children who play, and find myself regularly reminding them about the value of keeping cool, when playing – also known as sportsmanship. It’s not necessarily an inherent trait, but a beautiful one to adopt, and to reinforce as a parent. Discussions involve showing respect when we don’t win, being kind, and avoiding jealousy while working hard alongside others, as difficult as they may be. The same can be said of ‘exercising’ Twitter manners.

For example, when Twitter users earn achievements, or tweet something that resonates with you, show support. It’s a simple part of the algorithm. Pay it forward. It typically comes back.

I personally learned the value of this long ago, not just in my virtual work, but in real life, too. In a field where competition can be fierce, many of us encounter this type of behavior in one form of another, especially in training, when rankings depended on a bell curve, and collaboration meant jeopardizing your own spot.

But we’re adults now. Others’ achievements shouldn’t reflect negatively on our own. So adopt a more collaborative mindset, when possible.

On Tweeting: 10 Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird (Named Twitter)
Blog Lovers: Pinned tweet is to Twitter as Sticky post is to a Blog.

*Pin a Tweet

‘Pin’ your favorite tweet to the top. What this means is that the tweet will appear as the first tweet on your profile, when someone clicks into it, regardless of what you’ve tweeted last (otherwise your feed displays tweets in tweeted-order). Pinning works like a sticker on the top.

Pick the tweet that best represents you, or what you want to resonate most with someone who lands there momentarily.

*Pick a Representative Headshot

The circular profile pic follows along with you, whenever you comment on others’ tweets. Pick one carefully.

The background photo, called the header, stays only on your own profile. The optimal dimensions for that, according to Google, is 1500 px x 500 px.

On Tweeting: 10 Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird (Named Twitter)
1500 px x 500 px, according to Google University.

Do.. or Don’t (You Decide!):

*Controversy is a Catch-22.

Decide if you’d like to be controversial. You can reconsider at any point, but I suggest you commit in advance. You’re building your ‘brand’ and it’ll stay with you.

Some Twitter users look at controversy as potential for growth. Realistically, it can mean the difference between a boring account, and a feisty one, worthy of cringe, but also filled with followers. Always remember that a juicy virtual altercation can spill over into the real world. A prime example is Eugene Gu.

Dr. Gu’s recent all-out feud unfolded over the Twitter airwaves, first with his battle with Vanderbilt (which angered the institution, but garnered many followers for him), then with his infamous tweet on new interns (which angered physicians but garnered positive attention from the non-medical world), and finally, the downward spiral of his full-on explosion mode, including allegations of made-up Twitter accounts and even real- life sexual misconduct. While the jury is still out on what he made up and what he didn’t, the Twitter-sphere blew up with responses like these:

and this:

On Tweeting: 10 Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird (Named Twitter)


I wouldn’t want to end up there. But keep in mind that social media is a free for all, so you may nonetheless encounter negative tweets in response to things you share (either from those who seek attention, or simply disagree). Sadly, on social media, ‘negative attention is still attention’, and many capitalize on that idea.


*Feel Pressured to Post.

You can tweet repeatedly, if you want. It’s what appeals to many about the platform in the first place: the fact that you can blurt out short statements and it doesn’t clog up followers’ feeds. In fact, the platform is built around clogged feeds (as long as that content is clog-worthy!)

But don’t feel pressured if you don’t. Do it when you’re up for it, or you can get an app that schedules it ahead of time and posts it for you (like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite).

*Stress about a Niche.

It helps if you’ve got your niche all picked out. For example, if your brand speaks out on a particular topic, then you can gear your tweets towards that, and hone in on hashtags that work.

But don’t feel pressured if you don’t. I didn’t (I tweet as an internist, on general medicine, but also on doctors on social media, and even on interesting facts from my own personal life).

Take in the big picture, and choose a style that suits you, first and foremost. Then, as you tweet, you will master the platform and discover your tweet-personality. Your niche may then take shape. You’ll see what works and what doesn’t, and your followers will come along on that ride.

Allow tweeting to be a journey rather than a job (so pick a niche you love, or don’t pick one at all). You’ll be less likely to burn out doing it, and more likely to actually enjoy doing it.

*Tag others.

As mentioned above, this can be a fabulous thing to incorporate into your tweets but is, in fact, a double-edged sword.

The negative is that not all tagged parties like being tagged. For example, if there are too many others tagged, it can feel like tagged profiles are being used to generate followers, rather to genuinely engage. It can be viewed as namedropping.

Another possible negative is that the person tagged may not wish to be a part of that particular conversation. Thankfully, there’s an option to untag your handle from a tweet.

To avoid this, keep tweets positive, or be constructive when you can’t (for example, when fighting pseudoscience). Another rule of thumb is limiting those tagged. Think of it like the NNT (Numbers Needed to Treat) of a research study. Keep that number as low as possible while getting the ‘biggest bang for your tag’.

*Focus on Numbers. 

Most of the time, they truly don’t matter. In fact, most twitter users log into the platform for reasons other than networking and growing a following. A study from 2015 showed the majority of Twitter users engage in the app to read about news and pass the time. Unless your agenda involves a number-dependent profile (like a deal that’s based on Twitter stats), then put your worries aside, and just tweet. The numbers will come.

If you do want to consider numbers, you can track specific followers by clicking into the ‘followers’ and ‘following’ tabs of your profile screen. It’s handy for those looking to reciprocate, or conversely, for ‘unfollowing’ those who don’t follow back, a popular tactic in this day and age.

On Tweeting: 10 Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird (Named Twitter)
Unlike other platforms, like Instagram, you can click into your Followers and see who follows you back.

That’s it. Take a deep breath.

You can now use Twitter for fun. Or professionally. Or, as I do, for a mix of both.

By incorporating these tips into your day-to-day Twitter activities, you can be sure to watch as your account significantly grows. If it doesn’t, simply come back to these tips and re-evaluate, and always reach out if you aren’t sure.

Please don’t forget to share (or tag!) this post. Pay it forward.

Tweet away, if you may:

In the world of #medical social media, it's important to remember that elevation works best through collaboration rather than competition.. just ask #SoMeDocs. Click To Tweet #Tips on Tweeting: Tagging includes others in #conversations. The good: inclusivity, gaining tweet traction, inc engagement, which translates into potential growth & #opportunities. The bad: namedropping. Click To Tweet Twitter Tips and Etiquette: We're #adults now. Others' #achievements typically don't reflect negatively on our own. So work with a #collaborative mindset. Click To Tweet Twitter is a #platform built around clogged feeds (as long as that content is clog-worthy!) #twitterirony #SoMedocs Click To Tweet Tweeting is a double-edged sword. Etiquette includes keeping things #positive, limiting numbers of tagged accts & reciprocation, when possible. #SoMeDocs Click To Tweet


For your pinning consideration:

On Tweeting: 14 Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird (aka Twitter)


On Tweeting: 14 Tips for Tackling the Blue Bird (aka Twitter)


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