Part 4: Online Discussion Group: #slpchat

This post is brought to you by the word:

concatenation [kon-kat-n-ey-shuhn] /kɒnˌkæt nˈeɪ ʃən/

1. a series of interconnected events, concepts, etc.
2. the act of linking together or the state of being joined.

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Blog Hop graphicAt the recent ASHA convention, I was proud to volunteer behind the scenes and help organize the the Social Medial Learning Center booth.  At both the booth and the Learning Lab that was offerred, they talked about why it is imperative that SLPs understand and embrace the world of social media that is taking our profession by storm.  Whether you want to interact daily or prefer to sit back and listen, social media has become an invaluable resource for communicating with colleagues and staying on top of recent research and trends (as you well know if you read my blog – I can’t shut up about it).

The booth and panel were both quite popular and visitors expressed an interest in learning more that they could take home with them to digest at their leisure.  We anticipated that this would be the case, so several of us “#SLPeeps,” together with Heidi Kay at PediaStaff, co-authored and produced a simple e-book that we would like to share with you as a blog hop. If you are stumbling into this post midway into the e-book, please see the end of this post for all links in the blog hop.

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WHAT IS #SLPCHAT?

Shareka Bentham, a Barbadian SLT, and I wanted to take the increasing professional network of SLP/Ts on Twitter a step further, and created a discussion group called “slpchat” (speech and language professionals chat). While the #SLPeeps have constant discussion and interaction occurring on Twitter, #slpchat allows for a more structured discussion forum on a specific topic, at a previously advertised date and time (usually Sundays at 2 pm Eastern Time), moderated by @SLPChat – a profile created on twitter solely for that purpose. As moderator, @SLPChat poses questions to stimulate discussion and may suggest sources/resources, but does not provide definitive answers. The discussions surround a wide variety of topics in the field of communicative disorders.

The #slpchat discussions have been occurring regularly since January 2011, all held on weekends for greater convenience. Topics covered have ranged from Cycles for phonology, dysphagia/feeding, oral motor therapy, autism, first words, evidence based practice, literacy, fluency, AAC and many other topics. They have received great attendance and feedback from professionals in the USA, Canada, Barbados, the UK, Ireland, and Australia/New Zealand. Also, full archives of the previous chats are available on the blog (slpchat.wordpress.com)

The chat has become so popular that, in February 2012, #slpchat began to be hosted a second time, running the same chat topic in the same weekend, from an Australian time zone – primarily moderated by Lauren Osborne (@speechieLO) from Sydney, Australia. Also, Bronwyn Hemsley (@bronwynah) at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia helps out a great deal behind the scenes to support Lauren as well as the chat topics and blog posts. This expansion has allowed many more twitter users to participate in the chats, as well as more diverse topics with 4 people writing blog posts and taking the lead.

Anyone in the speech and language field or anyone related to that field (parents, teachers, therapy assistants, etc) are invited to participate. @SLPChat is also open to suggested topics for future discussions.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

If you would like to participate in #slpchat, you must have a (free) Twitter account. Once you have a Twitter account you must follow @SLPChat’s tweets. Be sure to be on Twitter at the designated time (posted on the blog and on Twitter when chats are upcoming) and follow the #slpchat hashtag to participate in the discussion and see what everyone else is sharing.

The only hard and fast rule for participation is that you include the #slpchat hashtag in EVERY tweet during the chat. This way, everyone can follow the chat and not miss anyone’s contribution. You do not need to follow everyone in the chat to participate and interact with them, so long as you tag EVERY tweet you make during the chat.

Also, if you are tweeting ‘privately’ (your tweets are protected) you need to turn your protection setting off during the chat for everyone to see your tweets. Protected tweets don’t show up (even tagged) to your non followers and sometimes don’t show up to your followers either in a hashtag search.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE #SLPCHAT TAG WHEN PARTICIPATING

There are several ways to do this, depending on how you prefer to use Twitter. Here are the most popular options:

  1. Search for #slpchat on Twitter (once you are signed in). You can then refer to this search (by clicking on the search bar and selecting it from the drop down menu) whenever you want.
  2. If you use Hootsuite or the old version of Tweetdeck, you can create a column based on a search. In Hootsuite, for instance, you would click ‘add column,’ (‘search’ and then type #slpchat as the search word). You will then have a dedicated column feeding only tweets with the #slpchat tag.
  3. You can use Tweetgrid to search for #slpchat in a column and even have more than one column (e.g. mentions, direct messages). Here is an overview of how to use Tweetgrid (thanks to @thecleversheep, Rodd Lucier, for posting this for his #educhat discussion group tutorial).
  4. Similar to Tweetgrid, you can use tweetchat.com to follow tweets with a particular hashtag. It will also remember to keep the hashtag in all your replies automatically so you can’t forget.

We strongly recommend Tweetgrid and Tweetchat during the chat itself to make following and replying to others easier.WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE CHAT

slpchat on AACDuring the chat, questions will be posed to get discussion going and keep it moving. People respond to the questions and begin discussing their responses. This is not a neat and tidy process. You can expect to see multiple responses at once but not in perfect order, since people take different amounts of time to respond and Twitter sometimes gets bogged down for a moment now and again.

It will usually take a moment for someone to respond to someone else and others will have responded in the meantime. However, if you read the tweets as you go, you can make sense of it without too much trouble. A few times during the chat it may appear that no one is tweeting, but really Twitter is somewhat overwhelmed by the number of responses. Be patient for a minute or two and then the tweets will pop up for you to read.

@SLPChat will continue to put forward discussion questions throughout the chat to keep everyone on topic (more or less) and keep discussion moving.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

You can subscribe to the SLPChat blog (slpchat.wordpress.com) to find out by email about upcoming chats so you don’t miss any, as well as visit the blog to learn more about how to participate in the chats and read various tips. You can also tweet @SLPChat, me (@SLPTanya), or @speechreka and ask questions at any time on Twitter.

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To continue reading the document and follow the blog hop, please go to Part 5:  Other Social Media Platforms

We will post the entire PDF next week, but in the meantime, please hop away and support all the great contributors to this fantastic resource! You can find all posts (in order) from our blog hop here:

A Letter from a Founding Member of the #SLPeeps

Discovering Social Media:  Growth Starts Here

Part 1:  Using Pinterest

Part 2:  Embracing Blogs

Part 3:  #SLPeeps on Twitter

Part 4: Online Discussion Group #slpchat

Part 5: Other Social Media Platforms

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ASHA-less Giveaway

This post is brought to you by the word: lugubrious  [loo-goo-bree-uhs] /lʊˈgubriəs/

adjective

mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner.
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I really wanted to go to the ASHA conference this year, but it wasn’t possible. I’m hoping to go next year, but in the mean time I’ll content myself reading the tweets and watching the goings on of all the #SLPeeps who are there in real life, like I have for the past 2 years. I know many of you are also ASHA-less – unable to attend this year and also sad about it.

To cheer us all up, I’m going to have my first blog giveaway ever. And it’s only for those of us who aren’t at ASHA this year. Don’t worry ASHA attending folks, you’re going to have plenty of giveaways and contests while you’re at ASHA. Actually, anyone can participate, but only those who aren’t at ASHA can win a prize.

How to have a chance to win

If you want to be included in the draw you must include the hastags #SLPeeps and #ASHAless and a reason you love some online community of SLPs – it can be twitter, pinterest, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn – whatever! But you have to have those 2 hashtags in your tweet to qualify to win (and most importantly so I see your tweets and can enter you in the contest).

If you are going to attend ASHA this year, you are welcome to also tweet why you love the #slpeeps and include the #ASHA12 tag – I’ll include your tweets in the chirpstory I make later (you knew there had to be a chirpstory at the end of this!). However, you have your own contest at the Pediastaff Social Media Learning Centre featuring #SLPeeps. Don’t miss the 3 Tweet and Greet times where you can record a video of yourself and be entered to win a prize. See here for how.

Prize drawing for non ASHA attendees will be random, but I’ll put your name in as many times as you tweet reasons – upping your chances to win. The contest will run from today until the end of Saturday, November 17th. The draw will occur on Sunday, November 18th.

What you could win

At this point there are 3 things up for grabs: a digital copy of the movie Rio (such a great movie), #slpeeps swag of your choice (more or less), and a copy of the Profile of Phonological Awareness app.  I’ll keep you posted if anything else is on the table (e.g. gets donated).

The #SLPeeps go to ASHA: Creating a hashtag that sticks

This post is brought to you by the word: muster  [muhs-ter] /ˈmʌstər/

verb (used with object)

1. to assemble (troops, a ship’s crew, etc.), as for battle, display, inspection, orders, or discharge.
2. to gather, summon, rouse (often followed by up ): He mustered all his courage.
verb (used without object)

3. to assemble for inspection, service, etc., as troops or forces.
4. to come together; collect; assemble; gather.

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At the last #slpchat, an OT asked how to make a hashtag that a community might use similarly to the #SLPeeps tag – which has united an entire profession on Twitter. At the same time, @pediastaff has been doing a ton of work to create The PediaStaff Social Media Learning Center Featuring #SLPeeps (#1823 in the Career Fair section of the exhibit hall – more on this below) for the upcoming ASHA 2012 conference.

A physical booth dedicated to online PLNs for SLPs and Audiologists with a hashtag in its’ title? You bet that’s a hashtag that has ‘stuck’. So, here’s how our community created the hashtag and made it stick so well.

This blog post is meant to do several things:

  1. Give a history of the #SLPeeps tag
  2. Explain what factors made it so popular
  3. Give you details on the upcoming #SLPeeps booth at ASHA 2012

Disclaimer: This may or may not work as well for you if you decide to create a hashtag, but the following elements seem to contribute to general popularity of use.

Have a specific group or purpose for the tag

To understand how #SLPeeps was born, you need a bit of history. If history is boring to you, skip the next two paragraphs.

I joined Twitter in March of 2010 at my husband’s insistence that it could be used as a learning tool (contrary Twitter’s claim that I joined in November of 2009 – I was most certainly still in the ‘scoff’ stage‘ of Twitter acceptance at that time). I found around 15 SLPs to follow and was exceptionally lucky to have jumped in just as a tight-knit group of professionals was finding each other and beginning to share knowledge, ideas, learning, etc.

After a short time, we began to realize how much professional growth (and bonding) was happening in each of us as a result of these long and intense conversations that were occurring almost daily. A problem arose, however: what if you were actually busy in real life during these great conversations and sharing sessions? You missed out on a great learning opportunity and possibly an opportunity to swap resources.

We agreed that we needed a way to track our group’s conversations more easily so no one would miss anything really great just because they were busy at that moment. This is when I learned how hashtags were being used on Twitter and decided we needed one of these to help track our conversations and make sure we didn’t miss out. But we had to find a term that wouldn’t be confused or used by others. #slp was often a common tag people were using but if you searched it, you also found tweets using it to mean ‘sleep’; not helpful to have 50 other tweets in the middle of the conversation we were trying to track.

Create a completely unique tag

At this same time, @speechbob put out a general #FF to all of his SLP ‘friends’ on twitter. In order to save space, he created a great witticism, saying “to all my SLPeeps”. Everyone loved the term and thought it was brilliant and I realized that no one on Twitter could possibly use the word “SLPeeps” in any other context imaginable. I took a poll, everyone liked it, and voila – a hashtag was born.

Note: While Bob originally was mashing ‘slp’ and ‘peeps’ together, the tag has come to represent all speech and language professionals, whether your title is SLP, SLT, SLPA, or otherwise. Many tend to think of it as “Speech and Language Peeps”.

Get others to use it 

Now we had all agreed on a very unique hashtag and we had planned to start marking all our tweets with it whenever a really great conversation began to emerge. Except, this is difficult to do in a naturally evolving twitter conversation. Suffice it to say that we would forget to do it, especially when we were caught up in a really good discussion.

After a short time, however, we realized it was better to use the #SLPeeps tag to flag especially pertinent tweets for everyone to notice. This is what the tag is used for today, and to great success.

The success is because our small group or original #SLPeeps began using the tag consistently to mark tweets that would be interesting to the rest of our group. This consistency is key. If we were only using it occasionally, I don’t think it would have bound the group as well as it did or taken off to such popularity.

I still remember around early summer of 2010 when our small group began to notice ‘strangers’ (new twitter SLPs we didn’t know) using the tag to mark tweets of interest to other SLPs. This both surprised and excited us. We had never considered that others would begin to use it, but since we were modeling its use so much, of course other SLPs joining Twitter began to use the hashtag.

With those three things, you can usually get a hashtag off the ground. I’ve launched quite a few, including #SLPeeps, and as long as I am or someone else is using them regularly, so do others.

Bonus: Community branding

The #SLPeeps tag has become an identity for our community – we proudly refer to ourselves as “the SLPeeps” and now we have mascots/logos and you can even buy #SLPeeps merchandise online! More on that below.

This ‘branding’ isn’t necessary for a hashtag to become commonly used, but it certainly helps. This is especially true if you are trying to unify an entire community of people online. Frankly, it requires a bit of luck (we certainly stumbled into it with the #SLPeeps tag) and/or a certain type of community. I’m not sure that #AUDPeeps has taken off as well, partially because the online community of audiologists generally has a different ethos from the SLPs online.  Plus let’s face it, SLPs are a loquacious bunch, which also contributed greatly to the success of our hashtag unifying us as a global community. It also helps to have something catchy/witty that people like to say, like SLPeeps (thanks, again, Bob!).

The PediaStaff Social Media Learning Center Featuring #SLPeeps

Nothing says branding like a booth devoted to an online community!

Thanks to Pediastaff.com (particularly Heidi) and several core #SLPeeps volunteers that pediastaff has amassed (they need more, by the way, if you’re interested) there will be a physical social media learning center (booth #1823) at the exhibitors hall at ASHA 2012 in November. With community input and a lot of hard work on Heidi’s part, we also have very cute mascots: Julio for the SLPeeps (pronounce wholio) and Julia for the AUDPeeps (pronounced wholia).

The booth (#1823 – find it here before you go) will be a place for #SLPeeps and #AUDPeeps to find each other and connect in real life, but it will also be a place of learning for those interested in online PLNs. There will be rotating lessons there on using Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs and more. There will be information and sessions targeting beginners as well as the tech savvy. There’s even curriculum available and a learning lab on the Friday for people to come learn about social media and SLPs/AUDs.

The booth will be staffed by PediaStaff and #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps volunteers (have I mentioned they need more volunteers to help? Contact Heidi @pediastaff if you’re interested – c’mon, you know you want to ‘party with the #slpeeps!’ – which reminds me to thank Bill @Lessonpix for adding to @pediastaff’s Julio and creating the ‘I party with the #SLPeeps’ image – located in my sidebar. Read here how Bill is trying to have exhibitors join forces around the #SLPeeps).

Going to ASHA?

If you’re going to ASHA this year, consider volunteering at the SocMed Learning Centre booth for an hour. I’m so disappointed that I couldn’t participate in all of this, but very glad to be at home with my baby. I’ll actually be volunteering from home via Skype, hopefully, so you don’t have to go to help out!

Also, don’t miss the three “tweet and greet” opportunities to record a video message to the #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps who couldn’t come! They’ll be posted to youtube later.

Whether you’re going to ASHA or not, there will be several contests running for everyone to participate in so stay tuned for more on that!

Get the swag for yourself

Finally, be sure to order your t-shirt or other #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps swag before you go! The booth will have some things there as demonstrations (and will be passing out buttons) but you can only buy t-shirts and other swag from the online store. There are 2 online stores:

Spreadshirt SLPeeps Store is the best (and cheapest) place to buy the shirts/hoodies. If you get ladies sizes, order up, they fit small. You can also get very nice mugs and an iphone case there. I’m still waiting for my shirt and mug to get to Canada so if you’re international, order right now to hopefully get them before ASHA.

Zazzle SLPeeps Store is the other store with keychains, tote bags, different mugs, water bottles, magnets, ornaments and shrits. The shirts cost a lot more here, though. The benefit to the zazzle store is that everything they have can be personalized! I got a keychain with my twitter handle on the back. For a lot more $ if you’re interested in personalizing your shirt, zazzle is the place to get it. It’s an exorbitant amount in shipping outside of the US though. Thank goodness I live on a border town!

I’d love to hear your history

Please leave a comment and tell me how you came to be in the #slpeeps/#audpeeps community!

Balancing life with social media

This post is brought to you by the word: hiatus  [hahy-EY-tuhs]   /haɪˈeɪtəs/

1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series,action, etc.
2. a missing part; gap or lacuna

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Want to know more about using Social Media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

I’ve been away from my blog for a long while – sorry about that. I hate that I’ve become one of the many people who have left their blog lonely and stale. Actually, I’ve taken quite a long and significant social media break lately because work and family life got rather busy and that was my priority. After family got busy, it got even busier when I had a baby girl in mid July. Now I’m feeling ready to get back into the swing of things (maternity leave helps a great deal) and start posting to my blog more regularly again. To that end, I thought a good topic to discuss might be the balance between social media and real life because, let’s face it, many of us really struggle with this. Here are some suggestions that work for me or for others.

Decide how much time you have to commit and at what level of commitment

Do you have 1 hour a day or 3-5 hours a day? Will you check your socmed platforms once a day or are you hooked up to them seemingly by intravenous? The time you invest can be different for different platforms. You may put more time and energy into one or two platforms (e.g. Twitter and Facebook) at the expense of all others, depending on your priority and how you use your social media. I’ve also heard of people keeping track of how much time (via post it note next to their computer) to help manage and limit the amount of time they spend on social media sites.

How much time you want to invest will also dictate how many different platforms you can handle. Personally, I’ve found I devote the most time to Twitter, then some time to my blog and very little time to Facebook. I devote almost no time whatsoever to LinkedIn and have basically dropped Google +. That’s become my preference in how I use social media and I reserve the right to change that up based on where I’m at in life at any given time.

Find ways to make this time investment the best bang for your buck

Consider scheduling your social media time and posts

I once read an article that mentioned checking your email on a schedule, rather than having it open to pop up and tell you whenever an email has arrived. This is so that you aren’t interrupted as often and can be more productive. I think this is a good trick for social media as well. Schedule times throughout your day to check or update to your various socmed platforms, especially on busy days. I’ve found egg.timer a great tool for this to ensure I keep to one task for a certain period of time and when the timer goes off, I can check email and Twitter for a few minutes, then I reset the timer.

Scheduling future updates/posts (through a social media client like Hootsuite – which can handle Twitter, Facebook and many other social networks simultaneously) can be very handy for this so that your posts come in a steady trickle and it doesn’t appear as though you’ve popped online, updated 5 different things all at once, and logged off again. Facebook now allows you to do this from your Facebook page too.

Prioritize

Which socmed sites are most important to you and why? Now check in on them in the order you just considered and if you run out of time, the ones lower on the list don’t get checked. In order to make Twitter, in particular, faster and easier to manage, I suggest you check and respond to any DMs and Mentions first, before you do anything else. You probably already do this but consider, if you’re having a busy day, that this is ALL you do that day.

I hear many of you saying “but I might miss something?!” with some amount of hysteria in your voice. I once felt this way too but if you can get over that fact, life becomes much easier. I might scroll back a little bit in my various timelines (through lists – see below), but not much anymore. Let’s face it, you’re missing TONS of stuff by sleeping, not following certain people, eating dinner, watching Big Bang Theory, etc. There’s plenty of sharing to go around, missing something isn’t a big deal.

Make lists and check those before you randomly check your entire timeline

If you only follow 100 people this isn’t necessary but once you go past that, it’s a huge time saver. Then you can also prioritize which lists you’ll browse depending on how much time you have. Basically, you’re filtering out the people who tweet content you don’t care as much about and ensuring you see tweets you really don’t want to miss. With lists, you can save yourself from having to browse through hundreds of other tweets to see the your favourite tweeters. How much time you have can dictate which and how many lists you peruse (or if you have time to read through your whole timeline). Here is how you create and manage lists in twitter.

You probably only need to check the #SLPeeps feed about once a day – while it is typically one of the most used hashtag in healthcare, people don’t post so much content that you can’t breeze through it in about 5 minutes two or three times a day to find what you’re interested in knowing and sharing via RT.

Learn to scan tweets quickly

Don’t feel you need to read every tweet carefully in your entire timeline. If you can perfect the art of scanning tweets for keywords, key tweeters, and whether or not they have follow up links, you can become much faster at reading what you care about and skipping what you may not be interested in right now. This just takes practice but I suggest you scan tweets for keywords (not always hashtagged words) to know if you want to read further.

Post once for all platforms

Hootsuite will allow you to connect to most socmed sites which allows you to read posts from various sites in one place. More importantly, though, it allows you to write one post and choose which sites you want the post to appear in, which is a very versatile and time saving feature!

If you use Facebook and Twitter, you can also connect your Twitter and Facebook pages to one another (if you don’t want to use Hootsuite). Your tweets will then show up as a status update on Facebook. You can do this by going to “Settings” on Twitter and “Profile” and then choosing “Post your tweets to Facebook”. I strongly suggest you hook up Twitter to go to FB and not vice versa, or else ensure you write posts that will fit within the Titter 140 character rule. This is because Facebook forwarded tweets often don’t fit in the character limit and can’t be read in their entirety from most people’s place of employment (due to Facebook blocking), not to mention you then force people to click the link to read the rest of the tweet, which is very annoying.

Timing is everything and real life people should come first

Try to choose times when you can be tweeting and casually looking through your timeline while doing something else (making supper, while eating lunch at work, quickly in between activities with family/friends). Also, know when and where it’s not OK to be checking your socmed sites (e.g. during dinner with family/friends, during fam/friend activities, while driving, during meetings at work, etc). Consider making rules for yourself or your family and sticking to them (e.g. no checking socmed when in a conversation with others, eating dinner, etc.).  Also, consider taking a complete socmed break while on vacation (or limiting its use significantly) so you’re fully present in the moment with your vacation partners and you’re getting rest/relaxation/fun. I hear some of you saying, again, “but I might miss something?!”  Yup, you definitely will,  but far better to miss something online than to miss precious moments with friends and family.

What other tips do you have to help others keep their sanity in a socmed world? Please leave me a comment – I’d love to hear from you, since perfecting this balance is a constant work in progress and what works for some people doesn’t work for others. And I’m always looking for more tips and tricks!

Using hashtags effectively to get noticed, not ignored!

This post is brought to you by the word:  append  [uh-PEND]  /əˈpɛnd/

1. to add as a supplement, accessory, or appendix;  subjoin: to append a note to a letter.
2. to attach or suspend as a pendant.
3. to sign a document with; affix: to append one’s signature to a will.

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Want to know more about using Social Media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

Hashtags are very handy and a wonderful tool for Twitter (and even Google +) when used correctly. When used outside of the common and major functions that have organically emerged for hashtags, it can sometimes upset other users or, more importantly, cause your tweets to get skipped and go unread.

I want to outline the common functions for hashtags and how to use them so that you can feel confident that you are writing effective tweets that get read by others! If you don’t yet know what hashtags are, please go here first. If you want a list of commonly (and not so commonly) used speech and language hashtags go here.

Hashtags have four general functions, with hidden rules behind most of them. They are used for: chat/conference participation, marking topic area or intended audience, adding emotion/intent or thought processes to a tweet, and comedic effect. Each function requires a slightly different way of using hashtagged words in terms of the number of words included and the place in the tweet where they appear. So, let’s dig into how to use these and look like a pro (or, possibly more importantly – NOT look like a newb).

Chat/Conference Participation

This is probably the best understood function of a hashtag. If you are participating in a twitter chat or attending a conference you mark each tweet with the predesignated hashtag that everyone has agreed upon. Examples of chat hashtags are #slpchat, #ATTchat, #SpEdChat, #OTalk, etc. Examples of conference hashtags are #ASHA12 #CASLPA12 #ATIA, etc. The idea is that you use these hashtags while participating in the actual chat/conference or to provide information about upcoming chats/conferences. The hashtag usually goes at the end of the tweet but can go elsewhere if that makes sense in the flow/sentence structure of the specific tweet.

Potential Misuses

Using these hashtags for any other purpose (e.g. to advertise your product, gain attention of those who might participate for some reason, ask a question for that audience) is considered somewhat rude, especially if you do it all the time. It is more tolerated to use conference hashtags for other (albeit related topic) purposes. Some teacher-based chat tags seem to be OK with this use – for example, #edchat has become the #slpeeps tag for teachers – but I’m not certain they are OK with the (mis)use of the tag or if it’s so pervasive they just gave up worrying about it.

Why is it rude to use the tag when you aren’t tweeting about/within the chat?

It distracts those who want to participate because of off topic tweets that show up in the chat timeline. Also, it’s kind of like poaching a potential audience and then your tweets get viewed as spam, which we can all agree is a very bad thing! Also, you may not be getting your intended audience! Tweets marked with hashtags only show up for about a week in a tag search. #slpchat, for instance, only happens once every several weeks and I feel confident that SLPs don’t check that tag regularly except at chat time.

Do:

  • use the tag whenever actively participating in or promoting a chat or conference
  • use the tag when providing information/links DIRECTLY RELATED to that chat or conference topic (e.g. link about pragmatics with chat tag for upcoming or recent chat on pragmatics is fine)
  • use a conference tag for related issues or social events you want to bring to the attention of conference attendees

Do not:

  • use a chat tag for advertising or topics/tweets unrelated to the actual chat topic (use #slpeeps tag for that purpose to much greater effect and respect)


Marking Topic/Audience

Many people use hashtags for this purpose very effectively. You may want to start with or add the hashtagged word at the end of the tweet to mark it for an intended profession (e.g. #slpeeps, #audpeeps, #OT). The idea is that people in that profession or interest circle will follow the hashtag regularly and see your tweet. I follow #slpeeps and read all tweets marked with this tag once or twice a day, for example.

If you are marking an overriding topic of interest you may want to use a well followed hashtag (e.g. #AAC, #dyslexia, #autism, #SpEd, etc.). The reason to do this is the same – you are marking the tweet for an intended audience with the overriding topic of your tweet. People will often follow these sorts of tags because it is their interest area and they want to see tweets about that topic.

You may also want to mark a tweet with a hashtag so that readers can click the tag to see other relevant tweets on the topic. Did know you could click on hashtags to see all tweets with that tag? Now you do. (By the way, you can also search ANY word, not just words with a hashtag).

Only use common or ‘valid’ hashtags for this purpose

You pretty much always want to tag a tweet with a hashtag people would actually search or are actively using. How do you know if it’s a common enough hashtag that people are searching/using? Search it yourself and see what comes up. If no one or only one person (probably you) has used the tag, it’s not worth including in future tweets, unless you are actively trying to make it a new hashtag – in which case I suggest you tell people so. Also, if you search a tag and get many irrelevant tweets that are not on the same topic or audience you had intended, it’s pointless to include it (e.g. the hashtag #slp means ‘sleep’ to 99.9% of tweeters).

For example, here’s a search for #slpeeps. Clearly it is well used (one of the highest in all health care related fields!) and a general purpose hashtag intended to mark tweets as relevant or directed to SLPs. If you want SLPs to see your tweets, please mark it with #slpeeps, but don’t mark it with #slpchat, #SLPsnQs, #ASHA12 (unless it’s actually DURING or about the conference), and so on.

How Many Hashtags are Acceptable in a single tweet?

Good question. This hasn’t been narrowed down precisely, but when every second word is hashtagged it becomes cumbersome and difficult to read. This is especially true if the tags are ‘meaningless’ in that no one would ever search that hashtag (remember your search test to see if it’s a ‘valid’ hashtag).

Generally, people prefer a string of tags at the end of a tweet – maybe up to 5 or so. It’s OK to put the occasional tag in the middle of a tweet if you are only using 1-3 tags in the ENTIRE tweet. Here’s a funny but serious conversation we once had about it. Below are examples of effectively used and poorly used hashtags:

Reader Friendly:

Not Reader Friendly:

I took that example from a non-SLP on purpose so no one feels I’m potentially targeting them in this blog post (and messed up the handle so as not to offend in general) but that is a REAL tweet. Aside from the fact that the fragmented sentence is hard to read (and that the tweeter used an egg as their avatar, thus indicating they aren’t worth paying attention to in the first place), let’s look at the choice of hashtags for a moment.

I’d say the majority of those are completely unnecessary and only serve to clutter the tweet. In fact, given the topic, I’d only keep #Murdoch (valid & on topic search results) and #privacy (valid & on topic search results). #phone, #surfing, #naked, and #data come up with too many irrelevant tweets when you search them so they aren’t helpful in targeting your audience. #tapping comes up with some VERY irrelevant and off-topic (off-colour) tweets, so that’s a poor choice. #4change, while somewhat on topic, is too broad and not as relevant to this specific tweet’s content to be worth including.

When I see a hashtag heavy tweet, I almost always skip over it because it’s so annoying cumbersome to read. I’ve even unfollowed people because their tweets are regularly hashtag heavy. I know I’m not alone in this so be aware and get your tweets noticed!

 Do:

  • use the common general purpose hashtags within your tweets to mark it for intended audiences
  • search the tags you’re using to see if they will be effective or just clutter
  • use the #slpeeps and #audpeeps tags for any general purpose, questions, or advertisement tweets directed at SLPs and AUDs.
  • Include only a few topical hashtags per tweet so your tweets are more readable
  • Put hashtags at the end of a tweet if you have more than 1-3 tags (but max ~5 hashtags in ANY tweet).

Do not:

  • Hashtag many words in a tweet
  • Use hashtags that are not meaningful or do not lead to many other tweets (by multiple people other than you) on the same topic.
  • Use hashtags to highlight key words just because you think people will noticed them more – people are actually more likely to ignore them (and you).

Adding Emotion/Intent

Text can be difficult to interpret correctly so we’ve designed ways to make it easier to communicate an emotion or thought behind a tweet. Emoticons are helpful, but tweeters have organically come up with some more creative solutions. Often people will add a ‘fake’ hashtag (meaning you didn’t intend anyone to search it or click on it to see similar tweets) to the end of a tweet to give it a certain emotional or topical colour. This is often used in reply to someone else.

For example:

When Tara uses #justifying – she is giving you insight into her intent or thoughts. When Carl uses #saynotohoarding, he’s doing something similar, but differently. Others use words like #sarcasm or #jk (meaning ‘just kidding’) and so on in their tweets for the same effect.

Remember that twitter is about building relationships, not just broadcasting your ideas or advertisements. So putting a single hashtag like these are helpful in bringing out your personality and making you feel like a real person behind the tweets. It also helps to give others insight into your intent or motives, which is key. I like this ability so much that I often wish I could include a hashtag for this purpose in emails. One or two well chosen words tagged at the end of a sentence can speak volumes about your frame of mind or emotional state! Where else can you (appropriately) add a random word or two to such effect? It’s genius.

Do:

  • Add a word or short groups of words in one hashtag at the ends of tweets to help elucidate your motives, state of mind, emotion, or intent.

Do not:

  • hashtag random words that do not contribute to this process (or others mentioned above).

Comedic Effect

Along the lines of adding a ‘fake’ hashtag to clarify ideas/motives/emotions/intent, which works very well, it naturally follows to use this same technique to add a brief (or sometimes not so brief) joke or wry observation to your tweet in much the same way. There are different ways of pulling this off and some ways are more effective or witty than others.

One way to make a joke in your tweet with a ‘fake’ hashtag is to add one or two words in a combined hashtag – exactly like you would with the emotion/intent purpose.

Sometimes people use whole sentences to make a hashtag joke. I strongly suggest you closely limit the really long sentence hashtags, however. Like anything, too much a good thing is too much and becomes annoying.

Tip: If you use more than 2 words in a hashtag, consider using capitalization to help your readers so that #TheHashtagLooksLikeThisAndIsMoreEasilyReadable. Also, remember that you cannot have spaces or ANY characters in a hashtag – only letters and numbers.

Do:

  • Use fake hashtags for comedic effect or to make a joke or wry commentary (when it fits the situation to do so)
  • Use only one or two joke hashtags max – almost always at the end of the tweet
  • Use this more often when talking to another tweeter than in general tweets to all your followers.

Do not:

  • Do this in every tweet – overuse any ANY/ALL hashtags can also become problematic and you will lose readers.

What do you think about these uses and potential misuses? Did I miss any uses for hashtags that you like? Please share in the comments.

To tweet or not to tweet: The professional’s question(s)

Today’s post is brought to you by the word:

circumspect [sur-kuhm-spekt] /ˈsɜrkəmˌspɛkt/

adjective

1. watchful and discreet; cautious; prudent: circumspect behavior.
2. well-considered: circumspect ambition.

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Want to know more about using social media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

 

Whether you are using social media for professional, personal, or a combined purpose, each professional needs to think carefully about what persona they are ‘putting out there’ onto the web and who might (will) see this persona. This becomes especially sticky when you are engaging online for personal and professional combined, but I have found that it may also be sticky for those of us only using social media professionally. It can also be problematic for those who are only using social media for personal, but who happen to be professionals. So, basically, if you are a professional and you’re also using social media (especially Twitter) for ANY purpose, you should be making informed decisions about what content you put out there and how you present yourself.

So which are you?

Most of you are pretty sure if you are using social media primarily for professional purposes. However, if you are unsure, here’s a quick litmus test: if you are engaging other professionals (SLPs, AUDs, teachers, etc.) in any capacity to share ideas and information or to ask questions about the profession, you are using social media for professional purposes.

The following are some grey areas that surround the use of social media as a professional. I want to present them for your consideration so that you can be sure you consider your actions/words/persona carefully and make the best decision about social media use for you that you know you can feel good about. This will be a personal decision and everyone’s idea of what’s OK will be different. First of all, take a moment to Google yourself …  Are you happy with what you found? If not, what can you do to ensure that everything is content you can be proud of (or at least not ashamed of)?

Making the best decisions for you

Here are three questions a professional should always be asking themselves whenever they post something to the internet as a whole (regardless of the platform: Twitter, Blog, Facebook, discussion forum, or otherwise).

1) How does this content reflect on me as a person and as a professional? Could it jeopardize others’ opinions of me?

This boils down to the age old problem of people saying things in the ‘anonymity of the internet’ that they would NEVER say to someone’s face. The problem is the internet is not so anonymous anymore, especially if you are using it in any sort of professional capacity. Even if you recognize that you aren’t completely anonymous, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of saying things in a conversation that you wouldn’t normally say in ‘mixed professional company’ as it were. Conversations within social media are not private, or even limited to the pseudo ‘party’ you may feel you are a participant of ‘in the moment’. They are open to everyone. This is the glory of social media – the open sharing.

This open sharing can also be the downfall to your reputation if you say things that could offend, upset, or otherwise paint you a negative or unprofessional light. I don’t mean being colloquial with “you rock” or participating in off topic conversation sometimes – being authentic and developing real relationships is vital to social media success. Please don’t come to Twitter, Facebook, or your blog with a false and/or overly distant professional persona that isn’t the authentic you. However, should we make off colour jokes amongst ourselves? Should we say angry or accusatory things to or about others?  Where is the line between quietly debating controversial issues and saying inflammatory things about those issues?

2) Who will read this and what will/could they interpret?

We tend to get caught up in the moment within social media platforms and that’s not always a bad thing. But for the most part those moments are etched in stone (discs) for a long time (‘forever’ seems somewhat hyperbolic to say just now). Anyone/everyone has access to read what you’ve said far outside of the moment. Could what you’ve said be misconstrued detrimentally? What if you say something about someone and they read it? Or someone connected to them reads it? What if a parent (even one you’re not involved with) reads it? Could what you say reflect poorly on you or the profession from their point of view? Could real life colleagues/families misinterpret the more low key and friendly relationships that social media engenders in the online community? Could your employees misinterpret anything you’ve said or any friendships you have online?

If the people and families you serve, your real life colleagues, a current or future employer/employee, or your online colleagues would be upset, offended, or think less of you or your profession as a result, I’d refrain from saying it much less typing it into the internet. Say things you would ALWAYS say to someone’s face and in a public meeting, because that is what you are doing in social media as well! Everyone’s idea of what’s appropriate or OK will be somewhat different. At least be sure you are OK with everything you’ve said from the perspective of others and any fallout that may occur.

3) Will this build up others within and outside my PLN or tear people down?

People are flocking to social media platforms to share and be inspired. There is no room for negativity or trashing of others in a professional online community. I’ve found that consistent negativity, even about inane things in your life, tends to drive people away in the online community. Also, attacking others or being aggressive toward others is not tolerated. Please refer back to the first question above.

Social media is not a good platform for professionals to vent or rant either; especially on a regular basis. Venting only pulls others down or gets people exasperated with you and it’s not why others are online to share with each other. Seeking support from your PLN is not the same thing as venting, however. The difference is in your approach to the problem you are facing at the moment.

People come to social media platforms to share ideas and energy, to gain a positive outlook, and seek help and support to change things for the better. Let’s build up the staff and families we work with as well as each other!

We’re human

So, I’m sure I’ve messed up some of what I’ve just talked about once or 20 times. I’m human and so are you. I also expect you to mess up occasionally.  Not in earth shattering, reputation destroying ways, but in little ways that make me disappointed in myself occasionally. In that case I make a concerted effort to fix my mistakes, delete a few tweets, and monitor myself more carefully. Engaging in regular self reflection is how we grow as professionals. It’s asking yourself the questions that is the most important thing!

Protecting your tweets

This is yet another personal decision.  It certainly helps to smooth over instances when you may act less than professionally online. However, anything you say on the internet, be it in private or in public, can be copied and pasted by someone else very easily.  Also, protecting your tweets limits you a great deal in fostering and participating in professional dialogue online.

What do you think?

What other sorts of questions should professionals be asking themselves in online interactions? What else would you recommend professionals consider in social media?

Mind your SLPs and Qs

Today’s post is brought to you by the word:

canvass [kan-vuhs] /ˈkænvəs/
verb (used with object)
1. to solicit votes, subscriptions, opinions, or the like.
2. to examine carefully; investigate by inquiry; discuss; debate.

verb (used without object)
3. to solicit votes, opinions, or the like.

noun
4. a soliciting of votes, orders, or the like.
5. a campaign for election to government office.
6. close inspection; scrutiny.
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Want to know more about using social media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

I ran a little experiment earlier in the summer, just to see what would happen. I posed a general question in the attempt to instigate some daily discussions surrounding SLP affairs. It worked well enough, given that I didn’t give anyone any instructions per se, that I plan to run it more regularly starting now. I’m calling it #SLPsnQs (thank you @zealousidler for the inspiration).

Why am I starting now? Well, tomorrow is the first day of school in my province. I figure a lot of people see Labour Day as the last true hurrah of summer, regardless of working in schools or not, so it seemed as good a time to start as any.

How does it work?

I will post a question to Twitter (nearly) every day with the hashtag #SLPsnQs. Anyone and everyone is welcome to respond. You don’t have to reply to me, but you do need to include #SLPsnQs in your tweet (so that it will show up in the search feed). I will capture a week’s worth of questions and responses in a chirpstory like this. Some weeks may have themes, some will be completely random or inspired by someone else. My hope is to incite discussion and reflection amongst SLPs on a more regular and also more casual basis than #slpchat.

If you have a question you would like me to pose as a part of #SLPsnQs, please DM me on Twitter! I would love to have more minds working for inspiration. However, I ask that only I post the #SLPsnQs questions, since it gets cluttered and confusing if there is more than one question or topic of discussion in a given day. Don’t forget that we still have the #SLpeeps hashtag if you are looking to pose a specific question to the SLP community!

So, watch Twitter tomorrow for the first official #SLPsnQs question of the day and please participate!

PS: Sorry I’ve been so absent. I certainly took a long hiatus from the blog. I am back now and have several posts in various stages of completeness so expect more soon!

 

Update May 2012: Here are links to several (not all) of the previous #SLPsnQs – a week at a time. Note that there is not always one question per day.

Mentors and their advice

Who do you want to see on twitter?

Youtube and therapy

Why #SLPeeps tweet and tips for new Tweeters

Workload and decisions

Data collection and management

Technology in Practice

How did you become an SLP?

Fave tx resource, trailblazing as an SLP, and mentors

Learning: this year and past years

Is figurative language important to teach? (also lang and cognitive skills)

Most versatile goals and therapy resources with a smattering of other stuff