Twitter may not be on your social media radar, but should it be? Unknown to many, Twitter is a social haven for people with diabetes.

What in the world is Twitter?

Twitter is a quick, to the point, mode of communication with a limit of 140 characters. That can be a frustratingly small number of keystrokes when you're attempting to post an educated comment.

With this character limitation, the challenge lies in choosing words that have the most bang for the buck and omitting those that don't. It truly makes you think about every word you post.

I've heard Twitter referred to as a superhighway (the Twitter stream) with billboards (individual posts, called Tweets). Some posts may go unnoticed while others may go viral.

A tiresome aspect of Twitter occurs when people tweet the nitty-gritty of their day. Granted, it's an easy thing to do with the small dollops of information posted. Here's a helpful hint: No one wants to know what your blood sugar is every time you test; that's annoying. It may garner a quick 'unfollow' from your newfound friends.

How to use Twitter

People use Twitter effectively (in my opinion) for 'Tweet-chats,' to tweet important snips from conferences and reference articles, or to network and communicate with online friends. Twitter allows the user to tell others what they're doing when they're doing it - no fuss, no muss.

The most difficult task may be for you to come up with a Twitter handle, aka your online Twitter name. Diabetic Connect's Twitter handle is @DiabeticConnect. Here's a snippet of Diabetic Connect's Twitter profile.

How To Use Twitter

How do I direct a Tweet at someone?

The new way to 'address your envelope' is through an @reply. Your Tweet will be brought to the attention of the recipient under their @connect tab.

You can also send a DM (Direct Message) to someone and it won't post as a public message for everyone on Twitter to see.

When you like what someone has to say, you should place a RT (Retweet) or an MT (Modified Tweet) before the original poster's Twitter handle. If you change the text in any way from the original Tweet, use the MT abbreviation.

How do I direct a Tweet at someone

How to build a Tweet

A recipe looks something like this:

Your thoughts + url (if you have one for an article for example) + hashtags + cc: @twitterhandle (to bring to someones attention) = under 140 characters.

How to build a Tweet

Hashtags

Twitter has turned hashtags (#) into popularized social words (and an overused keystroke). Hashtags essentially mark keywords or topics within a Tweet.

  • #DOC - Diabetes Online Community
  • #T1D, #Type1diabetes - Type 1 Diabetes
  • #Diabetes (according to Symplur this hashtag sees the most action)
  • Other diabetes-related hashtags: #Diabetic, #Diabetics, #Gestationaldiabetes, #Diabesity, #Dexcom #Autoimmune, #Obesity, #Overweight

Twitter Chats

If you participate in a Tweet chat it may be a bit overwhelming at first because the Tweets can fly by like cars on the superhighway I mentioned earlier. A moderator posts a question and everyone responds to it and to one another.

Among other things, this generates informational and opinionated conversations within the medical community that can be of special interest to people with diabetes. You'll find yourself in conversations with doctors, nurses, patients, dietitians and other health professionals on Twitter.

Because of the rapid pace of Twitter, some prefer to use applications other than Twitter's such as: TweetChat, Tweetdeck, and Hootsuite.

Two chats to start with

You can start out by being a "lurker," just watching and getting the gist of what's going on.

  • #DSMA - (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) This is a Wednesday evening chat at 9 p.m. EST; the most popular Tweet chat within the diabetes community.
  • #HCSM - (Healthcare, Communications and Social Media) This is a Sunday evening chat at 8 p.m. Central Time.

Now what (how do I interact)?

With all that said, how do you find PWD (people with diabetes) on Twitter? And are you sick of these acronyms yet?

Get networked by: creating a Twitter account and following Diabetic Connect on Twitter, or start out in a Tweet chat to identify people you may be interested in following. By using the search bar to look up the hashtags mentioned above, you'll come across a plethora of folks tweeting about - yes, diabetes.