Because of it’s social and informal nature, Twitter can be particularly problematic for therapists.
Similar to a Facebook business page, in the Twitter world “following” people is a one-way transaction. It is not necessary for you to approve someone in order for him or her to follow you. This can be considered a benefit because you cannot control who follows you, therefore there is no decision to be made with regard to clients. Twitter is considered a more open social networking platform than either Facebook or LinkedIn.
However, you probably shouldn’t enable “auto follow” for this very same reason. If you have it enabled, then you may end up following people who you would not follow normally. This can result in some very embarrassing situations. I don’t mind sharing one of mine…
About three years ago I was demonstrating how therapists could use Twitter at the local chapter of a professional counseling organization. Much to my horror, when I pulled up my Twitter feed, there, in expanded letters, was a joke about penis length. Because I had “auto-follow” turned on, I had inadvertently followed someone I shouldn’t have. Now, I’m a sex therapist so it didn’t bother me too much, but I think it had an undesirable effect on my rather staid audience.
Another issue is that twitter, unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, does not demand that you use your “real” identity. Therefore, Twitter’s relative anonymity provides an opportunity for therapists to utilize Twitter for personal reasons. If you are using your actual identity, you simply cannot post personal information. Ever. Every single thing you post is public information. You would need to set up an alternate Twitter account under some other name if you wanted to post personal stuff. And, even then, there is always the risk that a client could tie your pseudo name account to you.
However, Twitter is a wonderful way to connect with your audience on a wide level. By consistently posting on topics relevant to your expertise, including sound bites of research data, links to articles or blogs you have written, or by re-tweeting your favorite people, you can engage with the public in a fun and convenient way. The best thing about Twitter? It forces you to be concise. All tweets have a 140-character limit.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,