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Tip Sheets

Twitter for health journalists

By Shuka Kalantari (@skalantari & @KQEDhealth)

What is Twitter?

Any news or message in 140 characters or less. This includes your feed name (@KQEDhealth takes us up 10 characters of the 140).

Why bother?

Establishing social networks increase your visibility - both the content and you as a health reporter. People share your content with their own networks.

It’s a platform for breaking news content. News organizations like The New York Times often tweet their information before sending out breaking news emails. Also, it’s great for following breaking news events, such as the recent Occupy Oakland demonstrations.

Who do I follow?

Follow people and news outlets. For example, NPR’s health Twitter feed @NPRhealth, but writer and editor Scott Hensley also has his own feed, @scotthensley, where he posts other news also. Some people choose to follow a lot, others less. Not just a broadcast medium, an opportunity to build relationships. (List of top health reporters in resource section)

The basics

Hashtags = #word

useful for being searchable, and searching key terms and hot topics. For example, hashtag #hcr is used when referring the Affordable Care Act, i.e. ‘health care reform’

RT = retweet

reposting someones message

MT = modified retweet

a retweet that has been changed to be able to retweet within the 140 character limit, commentary added, etc.

Follow Friday = #FF

A way to give to give recognition to people, news outlets, etc. that you are following on Twitter. For example the tweet: “ #FF #health #news: @Reuters_Health, @NPRhealth, etc.” would indicate to your followers that these are good Twitter feeds to follow for health news.

D vs @twitter

D is a direct message to someone that no one else can see.  @twittername is a message directed at someone that everyone can see

Using Twitter to advance your story


  • find interviewees (general public and professionals) by doing general call-outs or reaching out to individuals
  • Ask questions, it can lead to great stories
  • searching key terms to see what others are saying


  • promoting your content, this where making friends on Twitter comes in

Using for Twitter

Third-party site to help manage Twitter. After creating account, create account and ‘connect’ with Twitter.

Scheduling tweets & RTs

Creating Twitter groups

Managing multiple accounts

Creating feed for Mentions, key words (hashtags), etc.


AHCJ’s Twitter tip sheet

Step-by-step instructions from UC Berkeley’s Knight Digital Media Center “10 ways journalists can use Twitter before, during and after reporting a story Help Center

Video: “How to use Hootsuite and add multiple accounts

More on Follow Friday

How to: Organize a Successful Tweetup

Health Tweeps to follow:

Muckrack list list

International health experts you can follow

For health journalism news, follow @AHCJ and @AHCJ_Pia

Shuka Kalantari is outreach coordinator for KQED Public Radio’s Health Dialogues.