Aetna Avant-Garde.

When I first started in health IT, I noticed that the people who used Twitter were the cool kids. So, in 2012 I made an egocentric New Year’s resolution to exceed an arbitrarily “cool kid” threshold of 100 Twitter followers. Since I’m a fan of efficiency, I decided that the best way to do this was total automation. I found a tweet scheduling platform and used an excel spreadsheet to schedule all of my tweets for the entire week on Sunday as if I was a company engaged in a massive PR effort. Over the next few months my following barely increased. I had no idea what I was doing wrong; by all accounts, my tweets were perfect - filled with descriptive words, hashtags, and links. When the HIMSS annual conference rolled around, I attended my first tweetup and people went around and introduced themselves and said why they joined Twitter – one person’s comment stuck with me – they joined because they “wanted to be part of the conversation.” Who said this? None other than Wen Dombrowski, @HealthcareWen, last year’s #HIT100 champion.  If people wanted a feed of cool articles they’d just follow Kaiser Health News or Histalk on twitter. The real value add is finding people who think the way you do (or, better yet, think opposite of you). So yes, formulaically my tweets were perfect – but they weren’t interactive. Turns out that interacting is actually what Twitter is about - relationships, not mindless self-promotion.

Ready to join the conversation and need some people to follow? Here’s some of my favs:

In a League of her own: Wen Dombrowski (@healthcarewen)

  1. Feds:
    1. Feds: Steven Posnack (@HealthIT_Policy),  Claudia Williams (@claudiawilliams), Ryan Panchadsaram (@rypan)
    2. Fed Translators: Brian Ahier (@ahier), John Halamka (@jhalamka), Mandi Bishop (@MandiBPro)
    3. ONC Alums: Rebecca Coelius (@RebeccaCoelius), Sherry Reynolds (@cascadia), Ross Martin (@RossMartin, of @Acmimimi fame), Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia), Sachin Jain (@SacJai)
  2. The Technical Side: Erik Pupo (@erikpupo), Keith Boone (@motorcycleguy), Chad Johnson (@ochotex), Mark Silverberg (@skram), Greg Norman (@Raelshark), Leah Vaughn (@HealthPolicyGrp)
  3. Startup Buzz: Startup Health (@StartupHealth), Rock Health (@Rock_Health), Brian Dolan (@mobilehealth).
  4. Straight Shooters:  Matthew Holt (@boltyboy), John Moore (@john_chilmark), Henry Wei (@henryweimd)
  5. Public Health Mavens: Michelle Holshue (@PHNurseMichelle), Whitney Zatzkin (@MsWz), Nina Jolani (@ninajtweets, runs #phtweets chat under @PublicHealthTalks).
  6. Big Data Evangelists:  Aman Bhandari (@ghideas), Fred Trotter (@FredTrotter), John Brownstein (@johnbrownstein).
  7. #TheWalkingGallery: Regina Holliday (@ReginaHolliday), Ted Eytan (@TedEytan), Donna Cryer (@dcpatient), Erin Gilmer (@GilmerHealthLaw), Anna McCollister-Slipp (@AnnaMcSlipp), Amy Gilmer (@ThePatientSide)
  8. Practicing Physicians: Wendy Sue Swanson (@SeattleMamaDoc), Dirk Stanley (@dirkstanley), Jen Dyer (@endogoddess).
  9. Famous Physicians: Farzad Mostashari (@Farzad_MD and, of course, @FarzadsBowtie), Eric Topol (@EricTopol), Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande)
  10. Leaders: Margaret Cary (@Boundroid), The #HCLDR Team - Lisa Fields (@PracticalWisdom)/Colin Hung @Colin_Hung), Gregg Masters (@2healthGuru), Pat Masters (@DocWeighsIn)
  11. Transformers: Leonard Kish (@leonardkish), Susannah Fox (@SusannahFox), Jane Sarashon Kahn (@healthythinker).
  12. Some Quirky Non-Health Related Follows: Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki), Boing Boing (@BoingBoing), and Crumpy Gat (@CrumpyGat).

Need a little Twitter 101? Here ya go:

  1. @ signs are put in front of user names to mention them in tweets. Follow people you think you’ll be mentioning often so twitter knows to autocomplete the username.
  2. Brevity is king. You have 140 characters, use them wisely. Resist the urge to use strange abbreviations. (Example: you want to use the word “atrocious” but it won’t fit, so use “bad” instead. Don’t try to abbreviate it “atrocs”).
  3. Make sure to use #Hashtags at conferences – search by hashtag to figure out who else is there and meet up in person. Check out for a list of commonly used healthcare hashtags.
  4. Favorite things (clicking the star button) you want to find later. I usually favorite things when I don’t have time to read the link someone posted but want to eventually and/or someone says something nice about me that's nice to remember).
  5. While retweeting is nice, adding something to the tweet is even nicer. Unfortunately you can’t do this in the Twitter browser without a third party app like Buffer. If you use an iPhone you can click “quote tweet” and add to the conversation. Even if you retweet without modifying tweets you’re still broadcasting the information to your audience which spreads the content.
  6. A lot of people like Direct Messaging (DM). Personally I find it annoying because the Twitter messaging service is a little janky and only works half the time. Use at your own risk.
  7. It’s good practice to reply to people who mention you and thank them. A lot of people thank people for retweeting or following them. I don’t usually do this, but I probably should. Sorry Twittersphere…
  8. When you write your bio you get 160 characters, not 140. Use the extra characters to add a “Tweets are my own.” Many companies have social media policies require a statement like this. Even if yours doesn’t currently, it probably will, so get ahead of the game and disclaim!
  9. Don’t be a creeper – make sure you upload a profile picture.
  10. Join the conversation.