According to Wikipedia, Twitter has 200 million users, generating 350 million tweets and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day. Over 35 percent of those Tweets are created using a mobile device such as a smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Android), meaning people are communicating via Twitter anywhere and everywhere in the world in real time.
If you are new to Twitter, you can set up an account right on Twitter.com. After you sign up, there are many third-party apps that you can use to access Twitter, such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, which provide you with some advanced features that we’ll talk about in a future blog entry. If you are going to use Twitter from your phone or other mobile device, such as a tablet, go to your app store or market and type in “Twitter.” You’ll then be able to download a variety of free apps that will give you access Twitter. But to start, I recommend just using the official Twitter app for your particular phone or mobile device (Twitter for iPhone or Android, for example)
So how should a hospital or healthcare professional utilize this 140-character microblog – why not just use Facebook, the most popular social network in the world? Certainly Facebook, powerful in its own ways, has the potential of having a lot of “noise.” But when it comes to healthcare, people want to get straight to the point. The situation may be an urgent one. By using Twitter’s 140 characters, you need to be straightforward and clear.
So now that you have a Twitter account, what should you use it for? How should you get your points across both to educate and inform people as well as to market to them? Here are few ways to use Twitter for a hospital or someone in the healthcare industry:
Tweeting in the Operating Room. Now with mobile devices and wi-fi connections, it’s very easy to Tweet a live procedure. At Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, surgeons tweeted while removing a cancerous tumor from a man’s kidney. Now, why would a hospital do that? Well, it’s a really interesting topic to be able to communicate with in real time, and certainly something interesting for medical students and other medical professionals. Second, it shows what a hospital can do, and establishes it as experts in a particular procedure.
Using Twitter as a training tool. Many healthcare organizations have begun to recognize the potential impact of leveraging social media when it comes to training and educating medical students. By using a specific #hashtag in your Tweet (basically a keyword) professors can encourage students to participate in conversations and give them the ability to ask and receive answers to questions quickly, even if they aren’t in the classroom.
Using Twitter to communicate with people in need during a crisis. When there’s a natural disaster, including hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados and tsunamis, doctors and healthcare professionals can use Twitter to give life-saving tips via mobile devices. This in the long run can end up in providing hospitals with new patients.
These are just a few ways Twitter can educate, inform and market to potential new clients and patients. Happy tweeting!