I just joined Twitter. Now, who do I follow?

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The other day on SOAPM a doc mentioned that he had joined Twitter but he wasn’t sure who to follow. So he asked the group who we followed and which Twitter users did we find especially helpful. He also asked if any of us that successfully marketed this service to patients.

I replied with my list of the people I thought this particular doc would benefit from. My list to him mostly included other doctors (I tend to follow people from many different industries).

Doctor Cliff Wu had an interesting reply. I emailed Dr. Wu and asked his permission to publish his response. I thought it gave a great perspective from a front-line, busy as heck pediatrician using Twitter. I added the embedded links.

One of the easy things to do actually is to take a few of these accounts, such as Vince’s or Brandon’s, and just look at who they follow, and then follow those people. I actually cannot remember how I found the people that I follow for my professional account (@KidsFirstPedsMN). I don’t generate a lot of original material; I just don’t have the time. I do a lot of retweeting of stuff that other people have written, and I find those articles/links from people or organizations that I follow.

Almost everyone that this account follows has something to offer for my clinic, with the exception of a few Olympic athletes (Natalie Coughlin @nataliecoughlin will often tweet out recipes or training tips). I think you can just look at the people that I follow for some ideas.

You do not have to follow everyone who follows you. In fact, I discourage it. I have parents who follow this account (which is what it’s for), and to follow their accounts just strikes me as creepy. The other reason is that I use this account to find articles that I can then tweet out for my followers, of which the main targets are my patients and their families. If I’m following all those people, then my home feed will have all sorts of unrelated clutter that will make finding things difficult.

Finally, I recommend that you use a social media dashboard such as Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to integrate your practice’s Facebook page as well as your Twitter account. You can then post simultaneously to your practice’s Facebook page and to Twitter. My patient population is predominantly Facebook-oriented and not so much Twitter oriented, so if you only do Twitter, you might be losing a lot of your intended audience.

Hootsuite also allows you to time your posts. One problem that I have is if I find a lot of good stuff, if I post it all at once, then that can overwhelm your audience. So I generally time the educational posts for 6 am, 9 am, noon, 3 pm, and 6 pm. Any critical announcements I just post as soon as I can.

Finally, Hootsuite has a paid option that allows multiple people to access the same twitter account but without divulging your Twitter or Facebook passwords. That way, you can post to those accounts, but so can your office manager with his or her own Hootsuite password. I’m using the free version of Hootsuite because that’s all we need at this point.

If your practice has a web page, integrating Twitter and Facebook onto that page will help build traffic to both those sites as well as your practice’s site because they’ll feed off of each other. My page (www.kidsfirstpedsmn.com) actually has Facebook stream and a Twitter stream, and most of our announcements now actually go out over Twitter and Facebook now and import to our webpage via these streams.

Finally, don’t be afraid to interact with your followers. Obviously, you don’t want to use Twitter as a patient communication tool (another reason not to follow your patients. If you don’t follow them, then they can’t send you a private direct message).

Good luck, and I started following you. Welcome to Twitter.

Great advice Dr. Wu.

Dr. Wu is a practicing pediatrician in Lakeville, MN. He runs a family-oriented practice built on love for children and the desire to make them feel comfortable with healthcare. He also blogs at on kidsfirstpedsmn.com and is a contributor at Survivor Pediatrics Blog