By Spitz (@SpitzStrategy)

Filtering the Twitterverse

When Chris Messina first tweeted the recommendation to use hashtags back in August 2007, he likely had no clue that their use would not only go mainstream, but also provide the RSS-driven social media platform with astonishing functionality and versatility.

Twitter, after all, is basically one gigantic global pool of text feeds, filling in real time and archived for search. Most features therefore rely on tagging and filtering tweets into relevant streams for users. For example, if you “follow” someone you have simply tagged their profile so that their tweets automatically populate your stream; the @ and # symbols operate as keyword designators to categorize tweets as addressed to particular people, or arranged into focused streams devoted to particular topics.

I use Facebook for fun, and Twitter for work, firewalling them off so as not to mix business with pleasure. The two respective platforms work particularly well in each (although many professionals use Facebook and even Google Plus for their business feeds), since the immediacy and openness of Twitter are ideal for fast-paced communications and data sharing across the widest possible, public domain networks.

How Twitter Killed the Newspaper

I’m so enamored by Twitter, in fact, that what began as a supplementary source of news and information has now basically replaced all my digital widgets, aggregator tools, and especially hardcopy reading. What tipped the scale for me was TweetDeck (HootSuite works just as well), an app that filters tweets into multiple columns organized by category.

Filtered by @, #, and user-specified profile lists, I have my morning green tea or coffee and literally scroll and scan columns of feeds to get all the latest information I need as a digital health professional. In addition to specifying and tracking my favorite tweeters in the space, I monitor established hashtag filters including #hcsm, #hcsmeu, #socpharm, #fdasm, #mhealth, #epatient, and others. When I click on and read an embedded shortened-linked article that I like, I often retweet it to my own followers, swapping hashtags so as not to crowd the prior lists with redundant tweets, and “cross-pollinate” the information across the relevant digital health categories.

But information push and sharing is only part of tweeting around: With a click of an @ I can speak directly to anyone on these feeds, asking questions, adding info, making a point, and often triggering a lively conversation; and since the dialogue is all public domain, others randomly (and sometimes chaotically) join the mix in real time from throughout the world, making for history’s liveliest and most interactive way to “read” the news. Indispensible for any field, especially digital health.

The Joy of Tweetchatting

Yet another unexpected but fascinating extension of hashtags is the ability to engage in chats within any category. All that’s required is an organizer chooses a date, time, and specific hashtag, and the chat begins, fueled by anyone embedding within their tweets the designated hashtag. Using TweetDeck or HootSuite, the “tweetchat” fills a filtered column, the dynamic identical to Facebook or Google or IM chats, but completely public domain.

Getting the most from tweetchatting requires active participation, although simply reading the stream can be informative, too. To best engage, participants need to get accustomed to multiple threads flowing simultaneously and often crossing over each other; fast typing certainly helps, as does a boldness that’s willing to embrace real time content in 140 characters or less. I love the forum, because it compels me to capture and express my thoughts as quickly, succinctly, and actionably as possible, great practice for a working client world that demands immediacy, alertness, and quick (hopefully accurate and successful) solutions.

I try to join a tweetchat or two every week. My current favorites are the #mhealth chat on Wednesday evenings at 9pm EST, sponsored by the fine folks at, and the #hcsmeu chat on Friday early mornings at 7am EST, noon London time for our EU digital health compatriots. You can check the links above for tweetchat transcripts, so even if you can’t participate or lurk in real time you can read through the conversations at your leisure, and follow folks who seem most captivated and relevant to your interests.

Join the Conversations!

Here’s a calendar of healthcare tweetchats. If anything is missed, or you want to promote your own favorite tweetchat, feel free and comment below.

Happy Tweetchatting!

Michael Spitz , known most often as just "Spitz," is Editor-in-Chief of the Pixels & Pills and a prollific tweeter, blogger, and article writer, active in digital health across all specialties. Follow him @SpitzStrategy.



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