I started writing this post as a Twitter #FF (#FollowFriday: social media tradition where you suggest people for others to follow). As I wrote, I decided I should have a broader goal. So today I am going to share a bit about what I have learned about the Twitter component of my social media adventure. My hope is to 1) persuade you to join the conversation and 2) get insights and tips from those of you already in the deep end.
Sign Up (and Fill Out!)
The first step is to sign up for a Twitter account. You’ll need to decide on your handle (username) and how to fill in your profile. There are different schools of thought on this one that fall into two main camps.
Be open about who you are. I took this approach. While my handle isn’t my name, my profile contains my name, short info on what I do and a link to my bio. One reason people are hesitant about being open is related to their employer. If you work for a large company, you should certainly find out what policies are in place for social media. A good example of a written policy comes from Roche (I believe it was Cynthia Clayton from Alnylam who suggested this example in the social media panel at BioPharm 2011.)
Working in a small private company, I have more flexibility in terms of written policies but the Roche policy is a good framework for companies of all sizes. One of the best parts of the policy was in the introduction: “The best advice is to approach online worlds in the same way we do the physical one – by using sound judgment and common sense, by adhering to the Company’s values, and by following the Roche Code of Conduct and all other policies.”
Lurk in the shadows. As new people follow me, I look at their profile and what they tweet. I don’t know the percentages but quite a few of them don’t have a real name, interests in their profile or tweets. While some of these accounts are spam, others actually follow a variety of biotech folks. If you don’t want to use your name, I would encourage you to simply include some background info in your profile (Scientist working in the biotech industry, developing new cancer drugs).
Avoid even the shadows. There is another way to test ride Twitter. You can add http://twitter.com/#!/@username to an RSS feed. As with followers without even general profile info, I’m not an advocate for this approach.
Before you commit, you can read more about balancing anonymity and credibility on the web. I suggest Mark Suster’s recent post about pseudonymity. Mark references a recent post by Fred Wilson and Fred has written about using real names in the past.
How to Follow
I believe who you follow is dynamic and evolving. When I started, I randomly set a number of people to follow, twenty I think. I added a small handful and grew the number by watching where new ideas and comments originated. I occasionally searched for new people by searching keywords of interest to me. In my experience, the hardest part of searching is good keywords. The folks I follow rarely use the word biotech in their tweets. Right now, I have set my limit at 100 (yes, I know I am at 102!) because I don’t feel like I can manage a larger group at this point. Some folks follow hundreds or thousands so my limits may reflect where I sit on the social media learning curve.
Who to Follow
Now to the good part (and core of the original post) – who to follow! I picked a core group based on my interests. To reduce the barriers for you to add them, I have included not only their handle but also their profiles, which I didn’t realize all included their names.
@MaverickNY – Sally Church – Scientist, Icarus Consultants, Pharma, Biotech, Marketing Strategy, Market Research, Science, Oncology, Hematology, Cancer, Leukemia, Lymphoma (Side note: Sally blogs about cancer, which cancer folks should be following with or without Twitter.)
@Michael_Gilman – Michael Gilman – Scientist and entrepreneur. Founder/CEO of @Stromedix
@LaMattina – John LaMattina – Dr. John LaMattina, senior partner PureTech Ventures, author & former president of Pfizer Global R&D, managed over 13,000 scientists & professionals worldwide. (Side note: John has a blog, which pharma/biotech folks should be reading with or without Twitter.)
Biotech investing – Private Companies
@lifescivc – Bruce Booth – Early stage biotech VC. Recovering scientist. (Side note: Bruce has a blog, which biotech folks should be reading with or without Twitter.)
@bijans – Bijan Salehizadeh – I tweet about stuff I like: Healthcare, MedTech, the Economy, U2, VC, Startups, Gadgets, Howard Stern, Technology, Arcade Fire
@Ldtimmerman – Luke Timmerman – National Biotechnology Editor, Xconomy
@adamfeuerstein – Adam Feuerstein – Sr. Columnist at TheStreet. I cover biotech and drug stocks. I’m a skeptic, RT stuff I disagree with and use naughty words. Deal with it.
@JohnFierce – John Carroll – John Carroll is editor of FierceBiotech, where he primarily covers drug development and has for the past eight years.
How to Interact
After admitting that I have set limits on following, you might wonder how you are supposed to interact with people. Even if someone is not following you, you can talk by tweeting with their handle in the message (written as @handle). One of the categories you see inTwitter is Mentions, which is where tweets with your handle appear. In my experience, people have been good about having conversations that way.
When two people are following one another, you have an additional option – direct messages. There is a separate category for these interactions and I think of them as email within the Twitter framework.
What to Follow
Another use of Twitter is to keep tabs on data and trends from various conferences. Most biotech/life science conferences now have a specific hashtag for their conference (hashtag: # is used to mark keywords or topics). You can do a search and see all the tweets with the hashtag. Reading feeds from large conferences can feel like drinking from a fire hose. Some folks have discussed splitting up some of the bigger hashtags to make following easier. Right now, I am following #psa11 (Windhover’s Pharmaceutical Strategic Alliances conference) and #emcc2011 (European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference (formerly ECCO or ESMO)).
Tools to Use
I use a variety of web and mobile interfaces, depending on what device I’m on and they meet most of my needs. A tool that is helpful for tracking conferences is something like HootSuite, which allows you to create and save a separate category for a hashtag.
Hopefully you got some ideas about how to get started with Twitter or have some suggestions to help me move along the learning curve. If you want to drop by and say hello…
@scientre – Laura Strong – Run a small private, clinical stage biotech company focused on developing innovative cancer drugs based on RNases. Tweets are my own.