On joining Twitter and other thoughts on Social Networking

I signed up for a Twitter account at the persistent prodding of a friend back in March, but I didn’t start using it until a few weeks ago. Going back, it looks like my first post was on June 5th.

I’ve also been busy developing a presence using other social networking resources. You can now follow me on Twitter: forbodyandmind, become a fan on Facebook: For Body and Mind Therapeutic Massage, and San Francisco Integrative Health Networking, and join my networking group on Meetup: San Francisco Integrative Health Networking.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised using Twitter these past few weeks. If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve probably seen that coverage of the Iran elections has been heavily dependent on Twitter, Facebook, flickr, and YouTube. To me, that in and of itself is reason enough to get on Twitter. Learning #hashtags and @somebody’s id is relatively simple, and allows connection with a lot of information and people in small bits, very quickly. It might seem like a lot of noise to begin with, but becoming familiar with the nomenclature and finding resources to sort through the information and people you’re looking for is not that difficult. Seesmic Desktop is a particularly useful application. Other popular aps are Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. Here are 15 Highly Recommended Twitter Apps for Web Professionals. I found Tweet This! A Twitter Manifesto, 10 Twitter Tips for Professionals and 10 Tips for Twitter Professionals helpful guides for getting started.

Brevity inspires creativity. I think that is one of the true gifts of Twitter. URL shorteners like Cli.gs, Su.pr, ow.ly, bit.ly, and tinyurl.com make it possible to link to more in depth discussions of what you bring up on Twitter while reducing the characters you’re using overall. Many of the shorteners will also include tracking data so you can get an idea of who is following your links. Some like Cli.gs, bit.ly, and tinyurl.com also allow you to customize your shortened urls. There is poetry and wit to be had in 140 characters (see #hoekstra, and here, here, and here for background).

Having only been using it for a short time, I don’t have a definitive view of Twitter as a networking platform, but both the coverage of events in Iran and my personal experience suggest a powerful platform if properly employed. Facebook and Meetup have a track record that I’m more familiar with, and in my opinion, Facebook’s recent upgrade of professional pages has improved an already strong social networking presence for professionals. With For Body and Mind Therapeutic Massage, my goal is quite simply to support my massage practice and expand my potential client base. My goals with parallel San Francisco Integrative Health Networking groups on Facebook and Meetup are more ambitious.

My ultimate professional goal is to create a school for integrative medicine, outside of a traditional allopathic model, where practitioners in different disciplines learn to practice together. My intention is for the San Francisco Integrative Health Networking groups to be a foundation for developing such a school. Currently, the closest parallel would be Bastyr University in Washington. In San Francisco, UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and CIIS offer different integrative health models. The Haight-Ashbury Clinic and St. James Infirmary are probably two of the best implementations of integrative medicine that I’ve experienced, but their ability to provide services is severely restricted in the current economy.

Certainly allopathic medical schools are doing more to teach about complementary and alternative modalities like acupuncture/Chinese medicine, but from what I’ve observed, these programs still place the M.D. in the role of primary care provider over other disciplines. Since they are training M.D.s, this is perfectly natural. In California, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and chiropractors are considered primary care providers as well. While each discipline certainly has strengths and weaknesses, patients will predominantly see one provider for the majority of their care, especially with our economy in a condition like it is now. It is therefore necessary for practitioners to be masters of their own discipline, but also to be familiar enough with others to recognize when a patient should be referred to someone in a different modality for a specific condition. Even better is if that practitioner has a pool of skilled practitioners to whom they can refer. Thus the concept of creating an integrative health networking group. Starting with individual practitioners and small group clinics, a decentralized health network is able to pool a diverse set of resources and knowledge for each other and for patients. We’ll see how the tools provided by Facebook, Meetup, and Twitter can meet this goal.