Beyond the ‘why’ of twitter: Remember there are lots of ‘hows’

A recent tweet got me thinking

There are many reasons for health care professionals to use twitter (all described well elsewhere). One of the things that puts people off is the feeling that they have to constantly, and actively, participate. When introducing someone to twitter it is worth demonstrating that you can simply just watch timelines of hashtags. Examples of this are in the NHS Employers app which contains the @nhsemployers twitter feed. Anyone downloading the app can get a sense of what happens on twitter without having to create a username or password. A more bespoke way of doing this is using a hashtag website such as You can simply type in a hashtag and follow all the conversations related to it (also useful for twitter journal clubs).

Those who are not typical ‘social media’ types (trying not to be discriminatory here :-/ ) usually come across twitter at conferences. The ability to see ongoing debate without actually having to sign up for something can be appealing; and so the above methods provide a ‘way in’. Technically your ‘interaction’ with twitter could stop there. For those whose interest is peaked they then probably do need to create an account. I try to explain to novices that twitter users fall into one of three categories [There is absolutely no science behind this but if you want an equally anedoctal breakdown but from someone with more credibility see here.]

i) Observers      [the Outpatients]

ii) Engagers        [the Wards]

iii) Captivators  [the Emergency Department]

Basically some people (observers) just watch others, learn from conversations and favourite the occasional interesting link. You then may engage in some conversations, tweet some stuff that appeals to you or join in in the odd tweet chat or journal club. Engagers may only be on twitter at certain times, or leave it alone for days/weeks on end. There is probably a spectrum of engagers however some will end up  captivated by the whole experience. Providing the material for observers and engagers, the captivators provide the material for the twitter to work. Taking in, and then throwing out ideas, at an outstanding rate.

No type of person is any better or any worse. They are just participants to varying degrees. So there is not just one way of engaging with twitter and by not being clear about this, to those dismissive or curious about it, is doing it a disservice. There are lots of reasons to be on twitter, there are even more ways of being on it.


COI: I was involved in the design of the NHS Employers app via

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