Carol Bush, BS, RN
One of the most complex features of Twitter for new users to understand is the hashtag, a topic with a hash symbol ("#") at the start to identify it. Twitter hashtags like #NurseTechMonday or #NurseBlogLove help spread information on Twitter while also helping to organize it.
The hashtag is a favorite tool of conferences and event organizers, but it's also a way for Twitter users to organize themselves. Think of hashtags as keywords, which are easily searchable. A hashtag search on Twitter will show me live results of tweets using my chosen hashtag.
For example, let’s say I see a tweet from someone I follow about a local event, using the hashtag #GoRunWichita. I would be very interested in searching for that hashtag to see what other people, who I don’t follow, are saying about that topic.
Ever wonder who used the first hashtag? You can thank Chris Messina in 2007 on Twitter! However, it wasn’t until the San Diego wildfires when hashtags really took off.
Where Do I Find Healthcare Hashtags?
Before you start using hashtags in your tweets, it can be helpful to do a little research first, to find out if the subject you're tweeting already has an established hashtag. Lucky for us, we have our friends at Symplur.com who built The Healthcare Hashtag Project
. This is quite literally the single most important tool I use to locate healthcare topic hashtags, conferences, and chats.
You won’t want to miss the Symplur blog, either! It’s full of practical information and analysis of trends in healthcare social media. Check out this post
: “The Life Cycle of Ebola on Twitter.” It’s guaranteed to channel your inner epidemiologist!
Conference transcripts are great places to find current evidence-based resources and
connect with key influencers in your specialty. Symplur has aggregated the Twitter activity from last year’s Oncology Nursing Society Annual Congress to give you an idea:
Source: Symplur – The Healthcare Hashtag Project
- Impressions = 7,732,021
- Tweets = 3956
- Participants = 438
How Do I Use Hashtags?
Using a hashtag in a social post is as simple as adding the ‘#’ sign before a single word or phrase without spaces or punctuation (numbers are okay). Like this:
Nurses: Think of LinkedIn as your professional anchor online via @thesocialnurse #NurseBlogLove
Just so you don’t get too nervous, here are 3 tips for beginners—and great reminders for all of us:
- Don’t string #toomanywordstogether with a single hashtag.
- Avoid #spamming #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a #single #tweet.
- Use hashtags only on tweets relevant to the topic.
Flaunt Your New #Healthcare #Hashtag Wisdom
If you don’t already have a Twitter account, mosey on over to my blog post, Teach a Nurse to Tweet,
which you can find at thesocialnurse.com
It will get you launched into the Twitterverse in less than 30 minutes!
Have a tip to share on hashtags or a unique way you use them? Be sure to share! And don’t forget to follow @OncNursingNews and @thesocialnurse on Twitter!
Carol Bush, BS, RN, is an oncology nurse navigator with the Midwest Cancer Alliance. She has a passion for helping medical teams learn to embrace innovation and thrive in a patient-focused environment. An ardent advocate of social media in healthcare, she especially enjoys working with care managers, health coaches, and nurse navigators. Connect with Carol Bush via Twitter @cbushrn.