Going Viral to Stop the Spread of a Virus

Last night, I received an email from our Chief Medical Office, Dr. J. Nwando Olayiwola concerning the National HIV Testing Day Chat Series on Twitter.  It is a weeklong set of chats with interesting speakers and an interesting set of topics.  Various people from CHC will participate in some of the chats, and I’m disappointed that I missed a couple of the early chats.  I realize that not everyone reading this blog is used to TweetChats, so I’m going to use this to talk a little bit about how Twitter and TweetChats work as part of a broader idea of how to go viral to help stop the spread of viruses 

The speaker for this afternoon is going to be Dr. Seiji Hayashi, Chief Medical Officer for the Bureau of Primary Health Care at the Health Resources and Services Administration.  He will be tweeting using the Twitter handle @HRSAgov  If you’re new to Twitter, simply following the tweets from @HRSAgov  will allow you to see what Dr. Hayashi is saying. 

However, you won’t be able to see what other people are saying in response.  To see this, you need to follow the ‘hashtag’ appointed for the TwitterView.  For each of the TwitterViews in the series, the hashtag being used is #nhtdchat.  A hashtag is an abbreviation, starting with a pound sign or hash mark that can be used to group tweets together.  In this case, you can see all the tweets with the #nhtdchat at

http://twitter.com/#!/search/nhtdchat

http://tweetchat.com/room/nhtdchat

I mention the second web address, because with that one, it refreshes nicely.  Also, if you are logged into Twitter and Tweetchat, you can easily add your own comments or questions and the hashtag automatically gets added.

It also provides the ability to easily ‘ReTweet’ a message.  With TweetChat, you can click on an arrow to reply or to ReTweet a message.  When you reply to a Tweet, you normally put the Twitter handle of the person you are replying to at the start of the message.  If you are ReTweeting a message, you typically put “RT” followed by the Twitter handle, and then the original message.

Why is retweeting so important?  It is part of how messages get spread virally.  Let’s look at some of the possible participants in the TwitterView this afternoon to get a sense of this.  There are only 180 people following @HRSAgov.  If the only people that see the tweets are these 180 people, it won’t have a lot of impact.  Currently @CHCConnecticut has 189 followers.  If we retweet the message, it will reach a slightly larger audience.  My personal account, @ahynes1 currently has 3393 followers, so a retweet by my will reach even more.  If someone from @AIDSGov retweets the message, it will reach 96,921 additional followers.

There are plenty of other things that I could go into with this.  For example, my Twitter account automatically gets cross posted to Facebook.  We used a hashtag #weitzman for tweeting about the Weitzman symposium.  Various people from community health centers around the globe gather on Thursday afternoons to talk about CHCs and social media using the #chcchat hashtag.  There are also many other TweetChats about health care that take place regularly, such as Health Care Social Media (#hcsm), every Sunday evening at 8 PM.

One final point: While you need a Twitter account to participate, you don’t have to tweet regularly or follow a bunch of people to have a twitter account.  Some people have Twitter accounts, never tweet, and simply follow a small set of news or health related Twitter accounts.  For that matter, if you want to just listen in, and not join the discussion, you can follow TwitterViews and TweetChats without even having a Twitter account.

I hope this provides some helpful background and that the TwitterView this afternoon will be interesting.

About Aldon Hynes

Social Media Manager
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