Introducing TwittIR chat
By Keith Pereira, MD Fall 2018
As recent surveys have confirmed, public awareness of IR and our minimally invasive treatments continues to struggle. A case in point—most women with fibroids think that hysterectomy is their only option, even though uterine fibroid embolization has been in existence for more than 20 years and is supported by level A medical evidence. Although the society continues to educate patients, referring physicians and others about IR, there is a tested and inexpensive way we can all help spread the word about IR—social media.
A whopping 69 percent of Americans use social media. One particularly effective tool is Twitter, which (unlike the “friends-only” limitations of Facebook) allows you to broadcast your message to people, regardless of the moment, geographical barriers or “friend” status. In this way, Twitter brings together widely disparate people and organizations for idea creation and sharing.
Despite Twitter’s tremendous benefits, its nature brings with it a significant downside: although there are plenty of inspiring posts on Twitter, the volume of messages means it is too often a one-way street.
Enter Twitter chat
A Twitter chat (what SIR dubs #TwittIRchat) is a public Twitter conversation between multiple Twitter account holders, typically scheduled in advance and based on a specific topic (e.g., fitness, technology or even medicine). These chats are moderated by an authority on the topic and are promoted to individuals interested in that topic. Users join the Twitter chat by incorporating in their Tweet a hashtag uniquely created for the chat.
Although the society continues to educate patients, referring physicians and others about IR, there is a tested and inexpensive way we can all help spread the word about IR—social media.
Although this mechanism is an excellent way to engage with multiple users on a single topic, keeping track of the live updates and shifting Twitter feed can be confusing for first-time users. I remember the first time I logged into a Twitter chat—I felt so overwhelmed, I wanted to dive back into my Facebook refuge and hibernate!
Figure 1: The Tweet Deck column on the left is following a person/organization, @SIRspecialists (the Society of Interventional Radiology).
The column on the right is following the hashtag, #fibroids.
Fortunately, a number of tools make Twitter chats easier to navigate. Tweet Deck, an app developed by Twitter, is a user-friendly application that lets you track specific hashtags or user handles, notifying you of new tweets during a chat. In addition to following and participating in Twitter chats, you can use Tweet Deck to like, comment and retweet multiple tweets on one screen.
Once you’ve logged in and you are following updates from a given Tweet chat, it’s important to understand the flow of the discussion. For example, the moderator might start the discussion by posing a question, starting with “Q1” (for “Question 1”). Participants in the chat might chime in with their answers, starting with “A1” (for “Answer 1”) or post questions of their own. The moderator poses a new question every few minutes until the conclusion of the Twitter chat.
In a recent example, SIR served as moderator of a #TwittIRchat about #fibroids and #UFE. After introductions, SIR started the chat by typing: “Q1: What are #fibroids? Who is at risk of getting them?” One Twitter chat participant replied, “A1: #Fibroids are noncancerous uterine growth! #TwittIRchat.”
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a Twitter chat is its flexibility—you can engage in whatever level feels appropriate and comfortable to you. Want to remain in the shadows and simply watch what others say? Want to chime in on questions of particular importance to you—or ask your own questions? Want to stay for the duration of the chat—or just engage for a few minutes? It’s all good—as long as you include the relevant hashtag in every comment or reply you post. Without the hashtag, your tweet will not appear in the conversation, which means your message may be lost.
It may take a couple chats for you to get the hang of it but, in the end, it is worth it for the new connections and information you can gain.
Why should I participate?
Figure 2: Tweet Deck allows you to tweet your own messages, the same way you can do
from your phone.
Whether you are moderating or merely participating, a Twitter chat is an effective way to:
- Build a following and be an influencer: When chat participants follow a hashtag they’ll see all the Tweets that use it—a way to instantly educate a user by giving them access to a wealth of information about the topic. This means hundreds of new people have the potential to learn about our specialty during each chat. Over time, this allows us to build credibility and make us and our society social media influencers with access to a large audience and the ability to persuade others by virtue of our authenticity and reach.
- Receive expert advice and instant feedback: A Twitter chat is a great opportunity to offer your expertise and listen to your community.
- Network with other enthusiasts and advocacy groups: As IR specialists, we are often labelled as proceduralists, not disease experts. Being able to talk about a disease can secure attention from advocacy groups who can then promote your expertise to their Twitter followers. For example, our recent fibroid chat caught the attention of nonprofit fibroid foundations worldwide, allowing for widespread engagement. Furthermore, online interactions can sometimes lead to offline connections that are more fruitful than the chats themselves.
- Turn your followers into patient advocates: A Twitter chat is one of the most engaging social media activities. Chat followers tune in, interact with each other, follow, retweet and respond to each other. Patients who have been treated by an IR can become ambassadors to the wider patient community, disseminating information about our specialty and disease topic.
- Enhance your knowledge: Twitter journal clubs are excellent way of discussing a certain article on Twitter and learning from our colleagues.
SIR #TwittIRchat by the numbers
The SIR communications department recently moderated two chats.
A May 21 chat was organized following First Lady Melania Trump’s embolization procedure. The goal was to respond to popular interest in the treatment with expert information about IR. Although the chat was organized quickly, without much time for promotion, the #TwittIRchat hashtag garnered 775,000 impressions.
A July 11 chat was organized as part of Fibroid Awareness Month. With significantly longer lead time, SIR was able to advertise the chat on Twitter and Facebook and promoted it to women’s health advocacy groups, like the Fibroid Foundation. The result was that #TwittIRchat-tagged tweets earned more than 1.2 million impressions, roughly the equivalent of one day’s worth of impressions on SIR’s Annual Scientific Meeting hashtag.
As you can see from these results, Twitter and Twitter chats represent a unique opportunity for our rapidly expanding yet still not universally understood specialty.