The Queen of England is on Twitter. Should your fertility company be on it too?
Stymied about how to start engaging on Twitter? It seems like everyone is tweeting, even the Queen of England has a Twitter handle @BritishMonarchy. But does that mean your company will benefit from it? Well that depends on your goals and objectives, as well as how much time and resources you are ready to commit.
Twitter has pros and cons, as does every social media venue. It is not as large as behemoth Facebook, but more social-media savvy patients and clients may be on it, especially bloggers who use it to promote their writing. Also many patients find it a safe haven to discuss anonymously their journey with other IF’ers. You also will find an array of infertility professionals on Twitter, including clinics, physician bloggers, professional societies and infertility nonprofits, third party agencies, commercial ventures, natural fertility providers, coaches and mental health specialists. I am attempting to catalogue all the infertility clinics and physicians who have Twitter handles and so far I’ve identified 120 U.S. clinics with active accounts and another 80 plus that either are inactive or never started, but I still have another 200+ to review. So my work is far from over and that is only one category; there literally are thousands of English-speaking infertility ‘tweeters.’
But if you’ve decided to take the plunge on Twitter, here are some tips to help make your tweeting more harmonious.
How to set up a handle
You can set-up an account directly on Twitter, www.twitter.com. The first step is to determine your Twitter handle, so you need to do some research before you decide. Is the name of your practice available? Is it 15 characters or less? If not, can you abbreviate it in a way that is memorable? Can you use descriptive words like IVF, infertility, fertility, etc, if your name is too long and/or not available? Above all, do not create a handle that is hard to remember to spell.
The shorter the handle the better; Twitter is all about real estate, which is limited to 140 characters. So if you want to be retweeted and mentioned, keep it short. You can change a Twitter handle if you need or want to and you won’t lose followers. But still think carefully before changing, especially if you already have an established group of followers with whom you regularly engage.
In addition to a Twitter handle, you will want to create a profile and graphic representation on Twitter. If your clinic name is not available to use as an account handle, then it still can be found via search if it is in your profile.
You’ve heard of them, but what do they do? Hashtags are represented by the # symbol. They can indicate a search term, e.g., all the tweets related to infertility. They can represent a particular event, like a Twitter chat or seminar, or a current event, #IFselfcare, a recent Twitter chat. Searching on the hashtag will allow you to see all related tweets. For the Twitter newbie, using hastags allows you to find content on related topics like infertility or IVF.
The symbol for the retweet is RT. Retweets are a great way to get to know another account on Twitter. It is telling that account you think their content is good enough to share. Retweeting is like giving a complement to someone. Also be sure to acknowledge if an account has retweeted your post.
To follow and be followed
Follow the people your colleagues and competitors are following. These can include infertility nonprofits, clinics, professional organizations, individual professionals, patients, bloggers, third party agencies, natural fertility specialists, reproductive commercial companies, etc.. Twitter will recommend accounts you should follow. Depending on what an account includes on its profile, you may not know where they are located. If a website is listed, can look there for location. It is also possible to follow local organizations and the media, local and national, which should interest geographic-based businesses like clinics.
The best content to share on Twitter should be unique, beneficial and interesting to the infertility community, especially the type of audience you want to attract. Clinics should also post local content to find local Twitter accounts. Use the hastag for your city/location. Quotes and motivational sayings are always popular and get retweeted.
Also look for hooks like #FFF, Favorite Fertility Friday; TBT, #ThrowbackThursdays; #WordlessWednesdays — use a photo; and #TellAllTuesdays, to name a few. You can use these special days to plan and organize content.
If you need ideas for content, set-up Google Alerts for various search terms like infertilty, IVF, egg donation, etc. Also use resources like the ASRM’s Headlines in Reproductive Medicine. Plus conduct searches for specific hashtags on Twitter itself or third party applications like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.
Though Twitter and other social media venues should not be used to only/constantly advertise or promote your clinic, it can and should be used to highlight staff, programs, services, and events like seminars, webinars, etc. Also highlight accomplishments of staff members. Reserve 10-30% of your tweets for these purposes, i.e., branding tweets.
Don’t forget holidays and current (nonpolitical events), both for how they relate to the infertility community and the general public.
To simplify your work, we suggest using a third party application like Hootsuite or Buffer, which allow you to schedule posts in advance, conduct keyword searches, etc. They will save you time and allow another person to monitor. They usually are free for a limited number of accounts.
How can Twitter help promote your clinic
First, remember that Twitter is a global venue. You will attract followers from all over the country and world.
We live in a global world, so even if you have infertility patients following you from another country or state, they might know patients/friends/relatives from your geographic area. Social media is word-of-mouth referrals on steroids.
Infertility patients often prefer Twitter because it is more anonymous and they can use a pseudonym in their handle. Bloggers also like Twitter, so you will find Twitter good for finding this type of content, which often focuses on the emotional aspects of infertility, which is good for sharing. Twitter also is an excellent way to meet local and national journalists, pitch media stories, etc, as well as find local groups and organizations.
You can also monitor your reputation and those of your competitors. You will learn what people are saying about you and can conduct a search for mentions of your Twitter handle and name with or without hashtags.
In another blog, we’ll address analyzing progress and reporting results, Twitter chats, Twitter cards and images, how often and when to post, and suggestions about how to engage. Meanwhile, happy tweeting!