Look Who’s Talking About Health – On Twitter

Jan 27

If you’re brainstorming ideas for new ways to utilize spokespeople or key experts for your social marketing campaign,  look no further than Twitter and consider hosting a Twitter chat.

Twitter chats are arranged conversations that happen on Twitter through the use of a hashtag, a word that links tweets together using the # sign, that joins everyone in a virtual conversation. They are usually publicized in advance, occur at a specific time and may even include a moderator.

Healthcare experts are starting to embrace the use of these chats as a way to join the conversation about key health issues. Here are the two recent health-related live chats on Twitter I found interesting:

Topic: Concussion in Sports
Twitter Chat Host:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Injury Center
Hashtag Used:
Former professional athletes and health experts

Today, the CDC hosted a chat that focused on concussion in sports. The virtual panel included professional athletes and experts, such as Sean Morey, a former NFL player; Chris Nowinski, former pro-wrestler and college football player; Dr. Stan Herring, team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners ; and Dr. Richard Hunt, director of the CDC’s Division of Injury  Response. The CDC was able to utilize social media as a way to become apart of the online discussion about head injuries in sports. The combination of medical professionals and professional athletes helped balance the conversation between medical expertise and practical knowledge.

Topic: Questions about Vaccines
Twitter Chat Host: USA Today’s Liz Szabo
Hashtag Used: #vaccinechat
Panel: Dr. Sue Hubbard, a Dallas-based pediatrician

USA Today held a live chat on Jan. 10th with Pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard, aka @TheKidsDoctor, to answer questions and discuss myths and controversies surrounding vaccines. This  is a great example of how to use a Twitter chat as a platform to discuss relevant issues in the news. In this case, the recent media coverage surrounding vaccines and autism (check out Alex Hughes post earlier this month on the topic: What can public health communicators learn from the autism/vaccine debate) provided the perfect opportunity for USA Today to allow participants to voice their thoughts and/or concerns about vaccines and engage with a doctor around the topic.

While hosting a Twitter chat does require some planning, it is a simple and free way to discuss health-related issues using spokespeople or experts in a transparent way.

Here is a list of a few weekly/bi-weekly healthcare twitter chats to check out:

#eldercarechat – A bi-weekly chat held on Wednesday’s at 1 p.m. EST, about issues of importance to elder care professionals and caregivers.

#hcsm – A weekly chat held on Sunday’s from 9-10 p.m. EST, to discuss healthcare communications and social media. The chat is moderated by Dana Lewis (@danamlewis).

#Socpharm – A weekly chat held on Wednesday’s from 8-9 p.m. EST, about social media and marketing in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry. Each chat is moderated by Eileen O’Brien. Eileen invites people from pharma companies to guest moderate once a month.  The chat also includes guest moderators from industry publications, agencies and other related companies.

Have you ever utilized a live Twitter chat for either a campaign or personally? If so, I’d love to know about your experience.

Note: Updated to correct the moderator for the #Socpharm Tweet Chat.


This entry was posted on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 at 9:32 pm and is filed under Social Marketing, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Look Who’s Talking About Health – On Twitter”

  1. Hi Maria,

    Thanks so much for highlighting the #SocPharm tweetchat in this post.

    I typically moderate the chat and invite people from pharma companies to guest moderate once a month. We also have guest moderators from industry publications, agencies and other related companies. Sometimes we have patients, doctors or nurses participating in the chat, so we get a great mix of perspectives. All are welcome to join!

    Here is a link to the transcripts: http://sirensong.sireninteractive.com/category/tweetchat

    Eileen O’Brien

  2. Maria James says:

    Hi Eileen,

    Thanks so much for reading my blog. I’ll be sure to update the blog with the information you’ve provided. Happy Chatting!