I’m thrilled that so many eating disorder activists are joining Twitter. I’ve been following EDs across the Internet since 1996, experiencing the glory days of pro-ana websites, and this is the first time I’ve seen awareness keep up with the illness online. Help keep the momentum going and make a difference!
To understand the power and utility of Twitter, you just need to jump in and participate. It’s really that simple. But I understand microblogging 140 characters at a time is a strange concept, and Twitter isn’t your typical social network, so I’ve collected the basics to help you get you started.
Be a follower. Start by following me @julie_anna, because you have to start somewhere, right? Go through the list of people I follow, find the ones related to eating disorders that you like and add them as well. Twitter appears completely useless until you build a community. You can’t effectively have conversations, learn new things and share information when you only follow a dozen people.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, that will be in another post, but here are some more ED and body image tweeps to get you going: @edbites, @edrecovery, @EDNMaryland, @frozenoranges, @illusionists, @lola_snow, @RevoltRealWomen, @thefwordblog and many more.
When you follow someone, it doesn’t mean they have to follow you back, but adding them does act as an introduction. If you share relevant interests and actively participate, it’s likely they’ll add you as a friend. Get to know these people. Read and respond to their tweets. You’ll be surprised at what happens.
What should you be posting? It depends on what sort of ED activist you are. Some people post recovery tips and musings. Others promote events, programs and professional services. And many pass around links to new stories and breaking research. Just make your Twitter presence personal and interactive. Try to post often enough to be relevant but not so much that you overwhelm your followers. There is no right or wrong way to tweet, so do what feels right and change things up if it isn’t working for you.
Understanding the Twitter vocabulary will help you engage your readers and get the most out of the site, so here’s what all those strange abbreviations and characters mean:
- @ – When you reply to someone, the tweet will start with @ plus their name. But you can insert this anywhere in a post and it will create a direct link to that user. Then they’ll get an alert letting them know you’ve included them in a post.
- DM – Direct Message. These are private messages that don’t show up in your public stream. It’s the best way to share sensitive and personal information since anyone can read your regular tweets.
- RT – Retweet. which means you’ve copied the post or link from another person. It’s common courtesy to reply to the original poster as well, so it looks like RT @julie_anna Being bulimic really sucked.
- # – Hashtags seem to be the most confusing part of Twitter for new users. Like tags on a blog post, they allow people to designate the main subject of their tweet so other people can find it more easily. They also act as convenient shorthand. They are especially popular for events (#sxsw), news (#teaparty) and Twitter trends (#followfriday).
- Funky looking URLs – I’ll go over this in the next installment of the ED Twitter guide, but basically people use URL shorteners like bit.ly and tinyurl so they can insert useful links without wasting characters.
It’s sort of ironic that it takes multiple blog post to explain a site that only lets you post 140 characters at a time, but this should be enough to get you started.