To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Why Family Nurses Need to Join the Flock Online

 twitter flockWe have all seen the little Twitter bird icon, and may have noticed the box on the IFNA home page where tweets by @IFNAorg appear. As family nurses we are profoundly interested in human connections and relationships. Yet few IFNA members have embraced the connective possibilities of social media such as Twitter. While the world chirps and tweets all around us, we remain on our separate trees and bushes, occasionally flying over to visit each other, but missing the conversation going on in the air.

So what exactly is Twitter, and what can it do for family nursing?

What is Twitter? Simply put, it’s a form of online communication that uses very short posts to convey information or opinions. Unlike a blog such as this, which is a monologue, Twitter facilitates dialogue. Think of the posts or “tweets” as sentences in a conversation, where a wide variety of people interact about subjects of interest to them.

What can you do with Twitter? Twitter provides many opportunities for developing global communities of practice, as follows:

  • Follow & interact with other nurses and practitioners in your field of interest. Start with following @IFNAorg:
  • Find out what is being published in your favourite nursing journals by following them. No need to search for the latest articles; table of contents updates and links to new articles will appear in your feed.
  • Extend your reach: Get a wider audience for your information. For instance, my tweets earned 3,398 impressions during the week preceding the writing of this blog.

FAQ/Tips & Tricks

  1. How do I join Twitter?
  1. I don’t want to create an account. Can I see tweets without joining?
    • You can see anyone’s tweets as long as their account is public. However, you can’t reply to them, see any lists they have created, or participate in a chat without a Twitter account. And you would have to manually search on each person. If you have an account, all you do is “follow” certain people, and their tweets come directly to your feed.
  1. Do I have to “follow” someone to see their tweets or join a chat?
    • No, all you have to do is search in Twitter for the person’s username, or enter the hashtag of the chat. See the video here for how to join a chat: How to join a Twitter chat
  1. What’s a hashtag?
    • It’s the way topics are “tagged” in Twitter, by using the # sign and a phrase or abbreviation. Try searching in for #familynursing or #familyhealth, and you will see how this works.
  1. How do I keep from being overwhelmed or having to spend a lot of time?
    • Start with just following a few key people or organizations.
    • If you have a smartphone or tablet, download the Twitter app. This makes it easy to just check in when you have a few moments.
    • Create or subscribe to lists of people and organizations that you want to keep up with. Then just check the lists regularly.

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