By Camila R. Guetter, MD MPH
The Internet and social media have expanded our ways to communicate and interact with one another. In medicine and research, the Internet facilitates discussions and scientific advancements. Social media, more specifically Twitter, is a great forum for discussions on research/innovation, clinical care, and medical education in surgery.
A specific strategic way to use Twitter to connect individuals and promote discussions on predetermined topics are Tweetchats. The Association of Women Surgeons has hosted many of these, approximately one per month for the past few years. You are likely to have come across an advertisement for one of these Tweetchats, also called #AWSChats in AWS. Other societies have also been using this tool regularly. Examples of recent AWS tweetchats (and topics discussed) include:
- Surgical education (August 1, 2022)
- Dear intern: welcome to residency! (June 20, 2022)
- Increasing representation for LGBTQIA+ surgeons, trainees, and patients (May 23, 2022)
- Global surgery (April 18, 2022)
- Surgical innovation (March 28, 2022)
Although you may have come across our social media advertising for our upcoming tweetchats, maybe you feel like you don’t know enough about them, how to participate, or feel hesitant to join. Or even, maybe you have joined a tweetchat in the past, but did not know how to follow the discussion or participate effectively in the conversation. For those reasons, I have put together this blog article to share a little bit about the basics of tweetchatting and how to best take advantage of participating in one.
What is a tweetchat?
Tweetchats are pre-scheduled online discussions that take place on Twitter on a specific topic of interest. Participants log on Twitter at that specific date and time and follow questions that are posted from the host institution’s twitter account, or through a specific hashtag chosen for the tweetchat. Anyone on Twitter can participate in a tweetchat, if they are interested in the topic of discussion. These chats are also usually moderated by a few individuals who post questions and/or ensure that the discussions keep going.
What are the advantages of participating in a tweetchat?
It is a great opportunity to learn about new topics. It is an open space to people all over the globe to share their thoughts and experiences. It is also great to connect with people from various backgrounds, institutions, and countries, and expand your network. Lastly, if you are not available at the time, tweetchats allow you to participate asynchronously, as you can just access twitter later and look for the chat hashtag or click on the host institution’s profile and find questions, answers and threads you can still post comments to.
Should I prepare ahead of time for a tweetchat?
The most important thing is setting time aside to be able to get immersed in the discussion. If you do have to multitask, that is totally ok! It may just be harder to keep up with all the posts and discussions, so avoiding it as much as possible is helpful. It is also good practice to let your followers know ahead of time that you will be participating. You will likely be posting/commenting/retweeting a lot of things, and this can get overwhelming for other people that follow you if they are not interested in the topic. This way they can know and decide if they want to mute you for the evening, or if they actually want to join the conversation or closely follow your thoughts in the discussion!
The most important question: How does one participate in a tweetchat?
Log on twitter at the time and date of the tweetchat. Follow the chat hashtag or click on the profile of the host institution to find the questions for discussion. There is usually a message sent by the host institution or moderators letting participants know that the tweetchat started. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself in the beginning of the tweetchat and share why you are interested in this specific discussion. Now you can decide how much or how little you want to participate. It is totally acceptable to lurk the first couple of times until you get a better sense of how the tweetchat works. You can also like/retweet other people’s comments. Or if you are feeling comfortable, you can post original content (new post or respond to someone else’s comment with your thoughts).
Use this opportunity to start following individuals and institutions that also participated and/or moderate in the chat, you will start growing your network this way. If you post a new comment or answer, remember to add the tweetchat hashtag, and to tag other people that are in the discussion that could give any additional thoughts. Adding images and/or links to your posts are also likely to help increase visibility.
Now that you know all you need about the basic principles of tweetchatting, we look forward to seeing you in the next chat and hearing your opinions and learning from your experiences!
Camila R. Guetter, MD MPH, is a General Surgery resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. Born and raised in Brazil, she graduated medical school from the Federal University of Parana in Curitiba, Brazil. She obtained a Masters in Public Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health before starting residency. She has been a proud and active member of AWS since 2015. She has been a part of the AWS Blog Committee since 2016 and has also served as the Vice Chair of the AWS National Medical Student Committee. Camila is very grateful to be part of the blog team and to read the stories shared by surgeons and trainees from all across the AWS community. You can find her on twitter at @camila_guetter.
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and, as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.