Twitter is an excellent platform to learn about: therapy ideas, therapy practices all over the world, research, assistive technology and more. Many people use to twitter to enhance their personal learning network (PLN). For those of you who are new to Twitter it is a short messaging service where you can follow other peoples messages or create your own 140 word character tweets. Because the messages (other wise known as "tweets") have to be so short they must be concise and to the point. This allows you to read through a significant amount of information in a short amount of time.
Here are 5 steps to getting started with Twitter:
1. Create an account. Go to www.Twitter.com and create an account.
2. Organize tweets. If you plan on following many people I recommend that you use a tool like TweetDeck or Hootsuite. These tools allow you to follow many tweets and manage them. It can be become very difficult to read all the interesting information that comes in if it is not organized. You can create columns of different topics i.e. OT, PT, assistive technology, autism, ADHD, etc. This makes all the "tweets" more manageable to read and follow. If you want more than one Twitter account, for example personal and professional, you may want HootSuite to manage those accounts.
3. Send a message. Type your 140 character or less message in the box at the top of the page and hit update or enter. If you are referencing a website you have to include http:// before the www part of an Internet address. Most people shorten the web address to leave more room for the message. To do this you can create a tiny url right in TweetDeck. Paste in the full web address and hit the shorten button.
4. Find people to follow. This can be a slow process. You can search keywords in Twitter via TweetDeck or Twitter Search. For example, type in the keyword occupational therapy and see what comes up. If you find any interesting tweets, choose to follow that person. To perform a more specific search use a hash tag. A hash tag in twitter is the # sign. You put that before words when you want to tag a tweet. For example, we frequently use the hash tags #OT, #PT, #ADHD and #autism to mark our tweets on specific topics. This allows people to track the topics easier. Another way to find people to follow is to find one person who shares your interests (we recommend @YTherapySource - that is us!) Then check who we follow and who follows us. Many of these people will also have common interests.
Here are 2 great Twitter accounts that I recommend to follow for pediatric therapy topics: @YTherapySource - pediatric occupational and physical therapy news, research, ideas and activities. @pediastaff - more pediatric OT, PT and speech news stories, research and tips.
5. Retweet, Reply or Direct Message. Here is some Twitter lingo to review. When you retweet a message, you can resend a message to all of your followers that you think is important. For example, you read a post that we wrote and you want to share it with others. You can just click on the retweet button in TweetDeck or type in RT@YTherapySource and paste the message.
You can reply to any message by simply typing in the twitter account name with the @ sign before it i.e.@YTherapySource - thanks for all the great information.
If you want to send someone a message but do not want all of your followers to view it, you can direct message someone or DM. You can click on the direct message button in TweetDeck or type in D@YTherapySource followed by your message. This tweet will only be seen by the person you are sending it to.
Twitter can be a great source of information. Give it a try!