• A paramedic’s guide to Twitter

    by Alan Batt. Last modified: 01/02/14


    What is Twitter?

    Twitter is online social networking and microblogging service which allows users to post messages or “Tweets” via instant messaging apps, SMS or a web interface. As of February 2013 it has 200 million users.

    How do I sign up?

    What is a Tweet?

    A tweet is a message composed of a maximum of 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users can tweet via the Twitter website, compatible external applications (such as for smartphones), or by Short Message Service (SMS) available in certain countries.

    Users may subscribe to other users’ tweets – this is known as following and subscribers are known as followers or tweeps.

    How do I tweet?

    Twitter has mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Firefox OS, and Nokia. There is also a mobile version of the website for mobile devices, and there are SMS and MMS services. A number of applications also exist inlcuding TweetDeck, TweetCaster,  HootSuite, Twhirl , and Twitterfeed to name but a few.

    Most URLs will be too long for Twitter, so they can be shortened using bitly.com or tinyurl.com.

    Click on the compose icon, type the content of your tweet, including any @ or # entries needed, and then click on Tweet.


    Be careful about your reputation and that of the institution you represent. Don’t tweet anything which could be detrimental to either, and avoid tweeting when you feel angry or are drunk.

    What are @ and # symbols?

    To group posts together by topic or type, a hashtag – word or phrase prefixed with a “#” sign, is included in the tweet. This allows one to search for all tweets containing a particular hashtag.

    The “@” sign followed by a username is used for mentioning or replying to other users (e.g. our Twitter username is @prehospresearch). Clicking on it enables you to reply to that question, although in a public forum.

    Here’s a tweet that displays using the @ and # conventions:


    How can I use Twitter for research?

    Background Research

    An important part of research is finding good sources and carrying out a literature review. Twitter can help you here by allowing you to search for hashtags, keywords and identify trends. If you want to find out what’s topical at the moment, Twitter gives a list of “trending topics” at the bottom left hand corner of your home page. It’s automatically set to your nearest location, but there is an option to change.

    You can also follow academic libraries, research institutes, professional organisations, research bodies etc. – quite a number of which are on Twitter.

    What are trending topics?

    A word, phrase or topic that is tagged at a greater rate than other tags is said to be a trending topic. Trending topics become popular either through a concerted effort by users, or because of an event that prompts people to talk about one specific topic

    Obtaining Data

    Twitter is great for obtaining data from a survey allowing you to get responses from thousands of participants, creating an automatic database of information in real time.

    Disseminating Information

    The end result of most of our research is – to get published. Twitter can help you to get information regarding various aspects of your work. Use Twitter to showcase your in-process work, findings, published articles etc.

    Conference Tweets

    One of the most common and most interesting uses of Twitter is for following and tweeting about conferences. Many medical conferences today have an associated hashtag, allowing attendees and those interested to both tweet about and follow the proceedings at the conference. Check out the next conference or event you are attending and see if it has an associated hashtag.

    Using Tweetchat for following conferences & chats

    TweetChat helps put your blinders on to the Twitter-sphere while you monitor and chat about one topic. Go to www.tweetchat.com. Choose hashtag to follow (for instance, #smaccGOLD). Choosing a hashtag directs you to a TweetChat room, where you can converse in real-time. Each tweet automatically gets the hashtag added and the room auto-updates.

    How can I use Twitter for education?

    How to use Twitter

    Video courtesy Howcast Youtube Channel.

    Further information


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    Alan Batt

    Alan Batt

    Paramedic, educator, researcher
    Alan is a critical care paramedic, paramedic educator and prehospital researcher, currently working around the world as an educator and researcher. He has previously worked and studied across Europe, North America and the Middle East. He holds a Graduate Certificate in Intensive Care Paramedic Studies, and an MSc in Critical Care. His main interests are in care of the elderly, end-of-life care, patient safety, professionalism (including role and identity), and paramedic education.

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    One thought on “A paramedic’s guide to Twitter

    • Alan Batt Alan Batt says:

      One very important point is when tweeting from a conference, don’t start your tweet with the @name of the speaker – otherwise only people who follow you both will see the tweet (it’s just how Twitter works!).

      You can start your Tweet with anything else, such as their surname, a period . , or a hashtag #.

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