As the Director of the Division of Member Services at the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and a regular tweeter, I find Twitter to be an effective means of staying abreast of what rank-and-file members of our organization are experiencing, of exchanging ideas with colleagues, and of remaining current with the surgical literature. I employ a range of social media, including Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and more, in addition to Twitter. And, like most people, I use different platforms in different ways, but tend to favor Twitter, professionally, for many of the reasons cited in the accompanying article.
One of the Twitter functions that I find most valuable is the ability to curate feeds on topics of interest. This functionality makes it easier to keep track of what’s going on in areas of interest without wading through a random assortment of posts. For example, I can readily access tweets from surgical organizations like the ACS, the American Board of Surgery, the Association of Women Surgeons, or the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons; medical organizations like the American Medical Association or the Association of American Medical Colleges; research organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and my favorite journals with just a few clicks. I can also can add or delete organizations or individuals just as easily as their shared content becomes more or less relevant.
Twitter also allows for two-way communication between followers and the people and/or groups they are following, which allows sharing to be more interactive and nuanced than on some other social media platforms. For the ACS membership, Twitter provides a venue for the exchange of ideas and concerns with the College’s Officers, Regents, Governors, other committees, and Executive Staff, some of whom have an active presence on Twitter.
Another benefit of Twitter—interesting people tend to follow interesting people. Consequently, each time you engage with someone new, you are exposed to his or her followers and potentially those whom they follow. As a result, your community is ever enlarging. The information that you want and need becomes more readily accessible and your opportunities to learn and grow expand every time you click the “follow” button. Furthermore, your exposure spreads as well, as your followers retweet or respond to your posts and their followers are, in turn, exposed to these interactions.
Perhaps most important for time-pressed surgeons is the fact that posting on Twitter is quick and easy, because the platform is responsive and well-suited to handheld devices. Thus, it’s easy to post an interesting sound bite or slide from a meeting in real-time, particularly for colleagues who were unable to be present, without having to wait until you’re back in the office or until the presentation is posted on a website or printed in a publication. Notably, these types of posts often spark immediate discussion and interest among followers.
Due to Twitter’s ease of use, as well as its potential to reach countless users, online Twitter virtual journal clubs have become quite popular, and nearly every science journal shares seminal papers online prior to their availability in print. In this way, one can learn the newest science first by engaging on Twitter. The platform’s design also makes it a good place for posting photos, short videos, and other visuals. One of our Member Engagement activities at Clinical Congress 2015 was the ACS Selfie Scavenger Hunt, which encouraged attendees to post photos of themselves with ACS leaders, colleagues, and friends, and at sessions and networking functions. The response was overwhelming, with surgeons in all categories of membership sharing their memorable experiences on Twitter. A video of some of these memorable photographs can be viewed on YouTube.
Finally, Tweeting can be an effective means of letting your patients, legislators, the public, and the press know that you’re staying informed about innovations in surgical care, of your opinions about timely events, and what being a Fellow of the ACS means. Start tweeting about the issues that affect your practice and your patients. In this way, Twitter allows you to exert influence on matters pertaining to our profession.
We are fortunate to practice at a time when it’s possible and encouraged to access and share information rapidly. So take advantage of Twitter as a forum for exchanging ideas, learning about innovations, and sharing concerns of interest to our profession.