Twitter-HashtagsIn the last two years, live tweeting from medical and education conferences has become mainstream. What better way to stay up-to-date with what is being taught around the globe! Pioneers like Dr. David Marcus (@EMIMDoc) even archive all of the conferences with hashtags, Twitter handles, and topic focus on his EM IM Doc blog. 

Optimizing conference tweeting is a matter of debate. Some like to tweet every pearl they hear. Others like to send out a few game-changing tweets per conference. Still others feel each lecture deserves just the 3 or 4 main points be tweeted out. At Academic Life in EM, we have created the @ALiEMConf account to tweet out the minute by minute pearls. Dr. Nikita Joshi (@njoshi8) discussed a few conference tweeting thoughts in a 2013 a blog entry Maximizing Conferences through Twitter.

Avoiding A Common Tweeting Mistake

The purpose of this post is to bring attention to an important technical aspect of Twitter that many may be unaware of. We love to give credit to the lecturer by including their Twitter handle in our tweets. The problem is that if a tweet starts with the @ symbol, Twitter views it is a conversation between just those two users. 

Translation to conference tweeting: Only those following both users will be able to see the tweet! Twitter actually addresses this, but it is buried in their help center.

Here’s an example from the recent #SMACCgold conference during my good friend, Dr. Haney Mallemat’s (@CriticalCareNow), talk:

Dr. Victoria Brazil (@SocraticEM) gave a very nice compliment of Dr. Mallemat’s slides. Since the tweet was started with the @ symbol (ie, @CriticalCareNow), only users following both Dr. Brazil and Dr. Mallemat are able to see that tweet.

Maximize Your Conference Tweeting

If you want all of your followers to see a tweet like that, here are a few solutions to overcome this technical limitation:

  • Start the tweet with the speaker’s name (not Twitter handle). Dr. Lauren Westafer (@LWestafer) used this approach.
  • Start the tweet with a period and then the lecturer’s Twitter handle. You’ve probably wondered why some folks use a period at the beginning of their tweets. Doing this allows all of your followers to see the tweet. Dr. Leon Gussow (@poisonreview) demonstrates this technique from Dr. Rob Roger’s (@EM_Educator) talk.
  • Start the tweet with the conference hashtag. Dr. Kath Woolfield (@Lanafeld) used this approach.

Hopefully a better understanding of this technical Twitter nuance will improve your next conference tweeting experience. Just remember the next time you start your tweet with the @ symbol, not all of your followers will be able to see it. Whether you tweet once or hundred times is up to you!

Bryan D. Hayes, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT, FASHP

Bryan D. Hayes, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT, FASHP

Leadership Team, ALiEM
Creator and Lead Editor, Capsules and EM Pharm Pearls Series
Attending Pharmacist, EM and Toxicology, MGH
Associate Professor of EM, Division of Medical Toxicology, Harvard Medical School
Bryan D. Hayes, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT, FASHP


EM Pharmacist & Toxicologist @MassGeneralEM | Asst Prof @HarvardMed/@EMRES_MGHBWH | @ALiEMteam leadership | Capsules creator, ALiEMU | President, ABAT | #FOAMed