Using Social Media – Twitter

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Follow us @BritishHernia

What’s a hashtag anyway? An easy guide to making the most of Twitter

Twitter – available online – is a fast, real-time way to put messages out to our existing ‘followers’ and to attract new ‘followers’. Tweets have a maximum of 140 characters but can include links to websites to allow content sharing.

It allows you to read the latest news about subjects which are work-related or which interest you. It’s like receiving a newspaper whose headlines you’ll always find interesting – discover news as it’s happening and learn more about topics that are important to you.

Twitter is free and The British Hernia Society has a Twitter account, which we use to network across the hernia community and to engage new people in our work.

Our Twitter account is @BritishHernia and we tweet regularly. Join us!

The first step: Create a Twitter account:

  • Go to http://twitter.com and look for the ‘sign up’ box, or go directly to https://twitter.com/signup.
  • Enter your full name, email address, and a password (of your choice).
  • Click Sign up for Twitter.
  • On the next page, select a username (usernames are unique identifiers on Twitter) – your own or otherwise. Twitter will tell you if the username you want is available.
  • Double-check your name, email address, password and username.
  • Click Create my account. You may be asked to input some figures which appear on the screen or similar – this helps Twitter avoid spam.
  • Twitter will send a confirmation email to the address you entered on sign-up. Click the link in that email to confirm your email address and account.


Tweet : A message posted via Twitter containing 140 characters or less.

Retweet: Pass along someone’s Tweet by retweeting it. Just hit the Retweet button to send the original message to all of your followers.

A hashtag (#) is a way to organise your Tweets around a specific topic. Just put a # in front of a phrase to help people search for your Tweet and join in the conversation. Click on hashtags to see similarly-themed Tweets.

Message (or DM): A direct message (DM) is a private message that only you and the recipient can see. To DM someone, start your Tweet with DM or D, eg “DM @joesmith21 let’s talk”

@reply: An @reply is a Tweet posted in reply to another user’s message. This is usually done by clicking the “reply” button in their Tweet. @replies always begin with the “@” symbol, followed by the username.

Timeline: A list of real-time Tweets from the users you are following.

Follow, Follower and Unfollow: To follow someone on Twitter is to subscribe and receive their Tweets in your timeline. A follower is another Twitter user who has followed you. To stop following another Twitter user is to ‘unfollow’ them. Once you do this, their Tweets no longer show up in your timeline.

Making the most of Twitter

Tweet in a pleasant conversational tone. Strive for an approachable communication style and avoid jargon.

Ask questions. Tweets ending with a “?” typically get higher engagement than those without.

Employ a call to action. Make it clear what you want your audience to do and why. Ask them to call, click or share.

Make it shareable. Use helpful, newsworthy or inspiring content. When you write a Tweet, imagine how your followers will use it. How will it help them? Every Tweet should have a purpose.

Be a follower. Look for businesses you love, public service accounts, people you know or news sources you read. One way to find interesting accounts is check who those you know or admire are following.

Find interesting accounts. Click ‘Discover’ at the top of your Twitter page. You can then find and follow other accounts in four ways:

1) browse accounts by category,

2) browse accounts that Twitter suggests  might be of interest to you

3) import your address book contacts to find out which friends are already on Twitter,

4) search one by one for people or groups of interest.

On the go: Twitter is portable. Connect your account to your mobile phone or download a Twitter application to begin reading Tweets on the go. Using Twitter via SMS allows you to pick and choose which updates you want from those you follow, so you can get mobile updates from the accounts that matter most when you are on the go.


What’s the best way to engage your followers?

Ask questions. Listen. Then show people you’re listening by responding.

Watch the clock. Twitter happens in real time so there’s plenty of opportunity to guide conversations when they are most relevant to users. Keep your messages timely by tweeting relevant Tweets during events or breaking news.

Create Tweets that resonate. Combine exciting, useful content with an engaging, unique tone to emotionally connect with your audience. Include links, pictures and videos.

Build your voice. Use existing information (other people’s Tweets) on Twitter to find your own voice and show others what you care about. Retweet messages you’ve found and love, or @reply with your reaction to a Tweet you find interesting. Tip: If you’re a new user, others are more likely to find your messages if they are Retweets or @replies.

2. Connect with others. Once you’re ready to begin authoring your own messages, consider mentioning other users by their Twitter username (preceded by the @ sign) in your Tweets. This will draw more eyes to your message and can even start a new conversation.