Chronic Illness Articles

May 6, 2010

How Twitter Can Help Your Health Awareness Event

Twitter is one of the most successful of sharing with anyone in the world the causes that you believe are important.

If you live with a chronic illness or have an interest in a specific health condition, you will find that Twitter can be one of the most exciting ways to let others know about it, even if you have little or no budget.

Here are 16 things to know if you plan to use Twitter for your health awareness campaign:

Setting up your Twitter account to be successful from the beginning:

[1] Decide if you will be using your personal account (with your name for example) or an account that is more geared just toward the illness campaign. People involved in the campaign may not be interested in your personal Twitters. To increase your Twitter followers it is important to have a Twitter account that describes your cause and uses your logo.

[2] Design an informative background for your Twitter account that is colorful and includes all of your important information, such as event dates, hashtags, and contact information. You can upload your image under “settings.” Most Twitter pages have a background image that does not take into consideration that most of it is hidden behind the Twitter messages. The best image is 540 pixels high x 540 pixels wide. Your information to be read should be in the first left 124 pixels.

[3] When planning an event or cause, come up with an effective hashtag and don’t be afraid to tell everyone to use it when referring to your specific event in their tweets. This way anyone can quickly search Twitter and find tweets specific to your cause. Remember, the shorter the better! In case you don’t know, hashtags are the # symbol you see in front of words like #illness. The hashtag for National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, for example, is #iiwk09. This is an annual event, so by adding the year onto the end of the tag, one can find information for any particular year.

[4] If you want people to retweet your tweets, take the time to write and research to find tweets that they will want to comment on or retweet. Experiment, as you may be surprised what people find worthy of action. Tweets can be statistics, quotes, proverbs, or facts. Link to blogs or articles, or even tweet lists For example, tweet one “step” or “how to” tip a day from your list.

[5] When preparing your Tweets keep them as short as possible so that people can retweet them without cutting anything off. You want people to be able to write RT(space)@YOURNAME. How many characters does that equal for you? Plus, leave room for a short link and a hashtag.

[6] When you post a link in your twitter post, be sure to utilize a link shortening service. I have followed another expert’s advice and usually put my link at the front of the tweet, so it’s not cut off when people retweet it and comment on it.

Twitter etiquette you should know:

[7] Start following fellow nonprofits that have Twitter accounts set up. Find others who have the illness of your cause and follow them. But remember to engage in conversation. Don’t just post and then ignore comments.

[8] Be generous by retweeting other posts if the information will be beneficial to your audience. If you are following people you admire who are experts in their area, it won’t be difficult to find interesting posts to retweet.

[9] Jump in to participating in Friday Follows, recommended other Twitter-ers who tweet on your topic. And don’t forget to say thank you when people add you to their Friday Follows or retweet your messages. If you have hundreds of these it may not be possible, but do your best to publicly say thanks by making a post with their Twitter names.

[10] There are many Twitter applications that can give you the ability to set up a direct message to automatically be sent to anyone who follows you. Take advantage of this by offering a link to a helpful article, a free download, or some other perk. Don’t waste people’s time by just saying, “Thanks for the follow.”

How you can improve the worth of your twitter posts and increase the number of followers:

[11] Considering taking your best tweets and turning them into an article for your blog or article directories.

[12] Through Twitter software applications you can post your tweets to your blog automatically, or have your blog notify Twitter automatically whenever you have posted a new blog.

[13] Some people may be interested in helping your cause by retweeting your facts or other tweets, but they miss a few. Make it easy by posting all of your tweets in one place on your blog. Some Twitter applications can automatically post them all to a “category” on your blog. You can use the TweetMeme application on your blog if you want visitors to also view how many others are retweeting your tweets.

[14] Give away prizes to those who follow or retweet, but make sure the prize is not a bribe to increase your number of followers (who may not even be interested in the content) but rather a way to say thanks.

[15] Post your Twitter feed everywhere you can including other social networks: your blog, web site, profiles at Facebook, My Space, Plaxo, etc.

[16] Don’t forget to let everyone know your Twitter address! Post it in your email signature, on your blog’s sidebar, your web address footer, and beside “contact us.” This is one of the simplest ways for people to be more invested in your cause than if they just had your email, but not as much of commitment as signing up for your newsletter yet.

Twitter is one of the fastest growing ways to communicate with people today as major news journalists, and even the president are joining in. Even if you are not yet entirely committed to Twittering daily, at the very least set up an account for your cause and start following a few leaders in your field and gradually learn how it could be a benefit to add to your communication tools.

Lisa Copen is the person behind National Invisible Illness Awareness Week and author of the amazing little book that is changing lives, Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend.

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June 2, 2009

5 Steps to Use Twitter as a Pain Log Tool

This article is free to reprint on your blog, ezine, web site, etc. Just leave everything “as is” including the resource box at the bottom. Thank you!

If chronic illness or pain is a part of your life, the odds are that at one point you have been requested by a physician to keep a log about your activities and pain levels, especially what led up to your pain being most intense. He may have suggested that you write down specific activities, your diet and exercise behaviors, and even your patterns of sleep.

If you have attempted to take this on and do it thoroughly, you know that it can be an overwhelming feeling to keep track of all of your activities and still maintain a sense of normal life. He can be extremely helpful, however, to you and your medical team, to have a written record of your activities, diet, etc. to help discover what is it is causing you the greatest pain. Was that extreme flare caused by a minor food allergy, the weather conditions, or that you were up all night with friends?

It is somewhat ironic that while we may find it a burdensome task to record what we are eating, who we are with, how much we slept, and how we are feeling, millions of people are doing this daily on Twitter. They write what they ate for lunch, if they have a migraine, and if they are up at 2 a.m. working. . . and they call it fun!

If you have a chronic illness, Twitter can be an amazing tool to use as a pain diary. This social networking tool has been successfully used to help people maintain logs on their diet, exercise, and even the commitment to stop smoking. Why should we not use it to keep accurate records of our chronic illness and pain levels?

Here are 5 steps to put this into place:

[1] Create an account at Twitter just for your chronic pain logs. If you already have a Twitter account, make a new one, and let it remain private. If you look under “settings” you will see the option to make your account private, meaning that you will have to approve any followers before anyone can see your Twitter account. Since this is private medical information, we recommend not approving anyone. If you are already Twittering this can seem a bit strange because you typically want to increase the number of followers.

[2] You are now ready to start writing your posts. You cannot write more than 140 characters, however, this keeps it a simple task and not too overwhelming. Feel free to use it in any way necessary, for example, submitting more than one post to describe a special circumstance. You can send posts from your cell phone, not just from the computer, so set up this option in your account to make the most of it.

[3] If you don’t know where to start, begin by posting about any major events or behaviors that are not part of your typical day, and how your body responded to them. For example, if you awake feeling horrible, ask yourself has the weather change significantly? Twitter the weather. Are you taking the same amount of medication as you typically do? Were you active or solitary yesterday? Post whatever information may be valuable to you and your medical team at any right in your treatment.

[4] Before you go to a doctor’s appointment, log on to your Twitter account and print out the posts if your doctor would like acopy. Highlight any major changes in your patterns of pain.

[5] If you already use twitter for personal or business reasons, consider using a service that will post to more than one account at a time so that you are regular tweets that share where you are and what you are doing can also post to your twitter chronic pain log without any additional effort.

The market for Twitter applications will continue to grow and there is no doubt that’s those considering medical Web 2.0 tools will come up with some fancy (and complicated) ways to record your pain levels. But for now you can have a thorough log of your chronic illness and pain levels in just minutes at no cost. You can’t beat that!

Lisa Copen is the founder of Invisible Illness Awareness Week held annually in Sept and featuring a free 5-day virtual conference w/ 20 seminars w/ 20 speakers. Follow II Week on Twitter for prizes and info. Blog about invisible illness on your site, be a featured guest blogger, meet others, read articles and lots more. Make a difference!

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