Twitter Takes off at #ENDO2018

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I had the privilege of speaking at the Early Career Forum of the Endocrine Society on the day before ENDO 2018, where I shared with students, fellows and early career professionals strategies for “Using Social Media to Advance Your Career.” Here I’ll discuss my reasons why social media use can be a valuable professional resource, and some tips on how to get started.

Why use social media?

Social media use is becoming more common. Data from the Pew Research Center show that over the past decade, more adults are using social media every year. Not surprisingly, younger adults are the earliest and most frequent users of social media, but social media use is rising among all age groups. More people are getting their news online and from social media. As of 2016 social media is already the second most popular news source after television, well ahead of radio and print, and social media is the most common news source for adults under the age of 50. Hence, social media can be a very effective way to reach and engage the public and particularly younger adults, which includes students, fellows, and future endocrinologists.

What are the benefits of social media?

  • Networking. Twitter is a valuable resource for networking with colleagues in endocrinology around the globe. By following hashtags on specific topics like #diabetes and #osteoporosis, you can “listen” to discussions on the latest findings. The Twitter community can also offer collaborations and a sense of camaraderie.

  • News and publications. Follow the Twitter accounts of various publications like the Endocrine Society Journals (@EndoSocJournals), The New England Journal of Medicine (@NEJM), and The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology (@TheLancetEndo), which will deliver the latest articles directly to your Twitter feed. More importantly, by following colleagues in your field of interest you will have the added benefit of hearing the commentary around recently published articles. You can also use your Twitter account to effectively promote your own publications, along with those of your trainees and colleagues.

  • Education. The Endocrine Society’s public education resource Hormone Health Network (@HormoneHealthN) provides medically accurate information about endocrine glands and hormones for patients, and many other patient resources are available on Twitter as well. Twitter also offers medical education (#MedEd) resources with links to articles, case studies, and visual aids.

  • Advocacy. The Endocrine Society actively advocates on behalf of patients, physicians, and scientists, and its Twitter account @TheEndoSociety updates Society members on how to get involved. Your elected representatives are also on Twitter, so let them know about issues of importance to you.

  • Research. In a new but growing area of investigation, social media itself is becoming a focus of healthcare research, as shown in this publication in JAMA Cardiology.

How do I get started?

  • Create a profile. Select both your profile name and your handle (for example @JoyYWu) at Twitter.com or on the mobile app. Keep your handle brief but informative, given character limitations. For Twitter, I strongly recommend having a separate account for professional use. Your profile should include a brief bio, so give some thought to your “brand” and who you are on Twitter.

  • Select other Twitter users to follow. These can be colleagues, leaders in the field, journals, and organizations like The Endocrine Society.

  • “Listen” for a while. Search for hashtags to follow topics of interest, such as #diabetes, #thyroidcancer, and #osteoporosis. And conference hashtags like #ENDO2018 are a great way to follow what is going on at annual meetings.

  • Use analytics. There are programs that can tell you the number of impressions for each tweet. For instance, posts with photos are more widely shared than those with only text.

What are best practices for social media posts?

  • Adhere to HIPAA rules and never post protected health information on patients.
  • Proofread before posting. And beware auto-correct!

  • Remember that Twitter posts are public. Tweets have the potential to be permanent and amplified, and keep in mind that potential employers will almost certainly check your public social media feeds. Use this to your advantage by highlighting your publications and expertise.

  • Use good judgment. Remember that everything you post reflects not only on you but also your institution.

  • Respect copyright rules and intellectual property rights.

How do I live tweet at a conference like #ENDO2018?

  • Respect the science. Post photos of the meeting but not of unpublished data unless the speaker gives permission. Instead, link to published articles or speaker websites.

  • Share resources. Tweet links to databases, review articles, etc.

  • Summarize and add value. Don’t just tweet verbatim, and be sure to summarize the presented material accurately.

  • Use the conference hashtag. Here are some examples from #ENDO2018:

Some common concerns about using social media:

  • It’s too time consuming. Twitter can be a valuable resource for news, networking, and collaborations. Decide on your value and time tradeoff as you would with any other career-related activity.

  • Isn’t there a character limit? This has been relaxed to 280 characters, allowing for longer tweets. But concise writing is a valued skill, so Twitter can be great practice.

  • My chairman/division chief does not value social media. Show them the data — the impact of tweets on journal citations, invitations to give seminars, and collaborations.

  • Don’t social media platforms keep changing? Maybe, but so do medications, research tools, and guidelines. Part of life as a physician or researcher is keeping up with advances on many fronts.

  • What about negative comments? Sometimes there are opportunities to share different views, but otherwise there’s no need to engage.

In summary, social media, especially Twitter, is an effective means for physicians and researchers to network, especially with younger professionals, and to stay up-to-date with news and publications.

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