Twitter Etiquette for PAs

We have already written about Why Physician Assistants need to get on Twitter, as well as the basics of Signing up for Twitter Account and how to post updates. Here are some quick helpful tips to get the most of your experience on this social media platform.

Twitter is an excellent tool, but like giving your contact information to a co-worker, friend, or client – you have entrusted them to not exploit or abuse that contact information. After all, networking is about building relationships and twitter is no exception.

Twitter DO’s:

Time your Tweets: In order to initiate and maintain interest, try tweeting on a regular basis. This doesn’t require tweeting everyday, but even once a week, or once a month. Less than that may be too infrequent. This will help you maintain relevance and keep your followers updated. Followers may be less likely to interact if twitter updates are scant.

Keep Your Tweets Focused: Decide whether you want to make this a personal or professional account. As a Physician Assistant, I try to keep my tweets relevant to the profession, health care social media, conferences I attend, topics related to my area where I work (Orthopaedics). Examples of things you can tweet about:

  • Call to action
  • Upcoming professional events
  • News articles relevant to PA’s
  • Links to material you have generated – blog entries, articles, graphics

Tweet with your Audience in Mind: My tweets are written with a specific audience in mind – other physician assistants, MD’s, RNs, NP’s, patients, and other health care stakeholders in mind. This allows me to keep my tweets and focused and relevant, which I am sure my followers appreciate as well.

Be Professional: I avoid writing tweets about my meal of the day, concerns, singers, celebrity gossip. I reserve that for my personal twitter account which I keep private and separate. Be mindful that if you are promoting yourself on your twitter account as a Physician Assistant (or any health care professional for that matter), you are also posting material that may undermine the reputation of the profession.

Consider placing a disclaimer on your twitter page: stating that your tweets are your own and that do not represent the organizations that you are affiiated with.

Think Before You Post: There are many examples of employees that have been reprimanded for complaining about their bosses, or making offensive statements on social media platforms such as twitter and Facebook. Remember, what stays online, can stay online forever.

Direct Message: To use direct messages, type “DM” before a person’s twitter username.  Individual replies, or even thanking new followers. If you are asking the same question directed at different users, consider using direct message. There is no need to spam your current followers with messages that are relevant to only a few.

Listen to Feedback: Twitter is a great way to gauge what groups or individuals think about your brand, a health care topic, profession, government or company.

Twitter DONT’s:

Don’t ask other twitter users to follow you – You should allow the process of amassing twitter followers happen organically. I have found that following users who I chat with regularly on twitter, and users that I have interesting discussions on tweet chats,  are ones that tend to follow me. This saves you from resorting to asking other users to follow you.

Don’t follow everybody. Start by following users you would like to read tweets and updates from (e.g. @CanadianPA, list of government MPPs, other Canadian PA’s). This allows you to keep your timeline of tweets that you receive relevant.

Avoid Shameless Plugs: A link to your website and information about what you do does not need to be posted over and over again as tweets. Generally by modifying your profile, you can change your bio and website. Individuals who want to learn more about you will be able to find it.

Don’t spam: Just as you wouldn’t want too many email forwards or advertisements sent to your email inbox or mail, don’t spam your twitter followers with unrelated links or material.

Don’t use too many Hashtags: Every word in your tweet should not be hashtag. It’s good to include one or two hashtags within your tweet, and perhaps more at the end.

Do not put identifying information about patients: Posting and discussing about case studies are always interesting, however including any identifying information is a breach of patient confidentiality. Always keep in mind the Health Information Protection Act (in Canada) and HIPPA (in the US).

What consists of identifying information? A good example is illustrated in the case with Dr. Alexandra Thran:

“Dr. Alexandra Thran, 48, was fired from the hospital last year and reprimanded by the state medical board last week. The hospital took away her privileges to work in the emergency room for posting information online about a trauma patient.

Thran’s posting did not include the patient’s name, but she wrote enough that others in the community could identify the patient, according to a board filing.” – Conaboy,

Other Resources

Do you have any general guidelines for health care providers that use twitter? Let me know in the comments!

Otherwise head on over to our post about advanced networking on Twitter using Twitter Hashtags and Tweet chats.

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