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An easy introduction to Twitter (part 1)

An easy introduction to Twitter (part 1) - Featured Image

 Edwin Kruys is a Sunshine Coast GP who blogs about healthcare, social media and eHealth. If you work in healthcare and have a blog topic you would like to write for doctorportal, please get in touch.

“It’s like being delivered a newspaper whose headlines you’ll always find interesting.” ~ Twitter

I was recently at a conference in Brisbane, organised by the Australasian Medical Writers Association. I met some interesting people and learned a lot about writing from speakers like Dr Justin Coleman and Ben Harris-Roxas.

Interestingly, many speakers mentioned Twitter. Social media are essential if you want to bring a health message across. Twitter is also a great tool to connect and collaborate with others and learn new things. It’s my favourite social media platform.

Twitter seems a bit daunting in the beginning, but it’s really easy to use. After reading both parts of this post, which should take you no more than five minutes, you will be ready to take the plunge.

Getting started

Because of the limited character count of 140, Twitter is called a microblogging platform. The social media giant describes itself as an information network made up of 140-character messages called tweets. A tweet is the expression of a thought or idea. It can contain text, links, photos and videos. Millions of tweets are shared in real-time, every day, all over the world.

You can read the tweets of people or organisations you follow in your timeline, and your followers can read your tweets, click on any links or hashtags you have included in your messages, or they can retweet your tweets, which means that they share your messages with their followers. I’ll explain it in more detail below. You can use twitter from your phone, computer or tablet.

To get started, first sign up at or directly from the app on your phone or tablet, and choose a public Twitter username (also called a Twitter ‘handle’). The user name is always preceded by the @ symbol. I recommend to use your own name or business/practice name, but any available name is fine.

I picked @EdwinKruys, and Twitter has assigned this Twitter URL (or web address) to me: Twitter users will see your preferred name next to your Twitter username. This is how my names appear: ‘Dr Edwin Kruys (@EdwinKruys)’. It doesn’t matter if you use capitals or not.

You may want to register a few variants of your name or business name. I have also registered @DrKruys and @DrEdwinKruys.

Here are a few examples of Twitter user names:

An easy introduction to Twitter (part 1) - Featured ImageNext, you will have to set up your profile. Make sure you add a profile photo or Twitter will give you an egg-head (see above). For professional accounts I recommend a 400×400 pixels close-up photo of your face – not the dog, cat, flowers or a stethoscope. Fill out a short description of yourself and a link to your website or blog.

If you like you can add a background header photo (recommended dimensions are 1500×500 pixels). Once you’ve done all this, start following people. See who others follow and follow the interesting people, organisations and businesses.

Click here for my list of Australian GPs on Twitter.

Twitter lingo

There is a bit of Twitter lingo you need to learn, but it’s easy. Let’s start with hashtags. A hashtag is any word or phrase preceded by the # symbol. Conferences and television shows often use a hashtag, e.g. #GP15Melb. Hashtags are also used for advocacy campaigns, like #AHPRAaction, #ScrapTheCap and #CopayNoWay.

A hashtag is like a label added to your tweets to better file and retrieve messages with a certain topic or theme. It doesn’t matter where you place it. And you can add a few hashtags if you like, although two is probably ideal. When you click on a hashtag in someone’s tweet, you will see all other tweets containing the same word or topic.

Here are some other Twitter buzzwords:

  • Tweet: A Twitter message
  • Tweeting: the act of sending tweets
  • Tweeps: Twitter users
  • Favouriting a tweet: this indicates that you liked a specific tweet
  • A follow: someone following your Twitter account. You can see how many follows (or followers) you have from your Twitter profile
  • Home: your real-time stream of tweets from those you follow, also called a timeline.

Want to learn more? Click here for part 2 of Edwin Kruys’ An easy introduction to Twitter.

This blog was previously published on doctorsbag and has been republished with permission. 

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