Have you joined the ISBER Social Network? Twitter!

October 8th, 2015 in Editor Corner
by Rick Michels, ISBER News Editor


Make ISBER part of your social network and stay connected on the latest developments in biobanking. It’s easy to do – as easy as moving your mouse a little down and to the right, between the online ads from our Platinum and Gold partners. You will find something that looks like this:


Each icon represents a social medium in which ISBER participates. Click each to see what it offers. And then, if you haven’t created an account for that network yet, look for the option to do just that, and include ISBER as a member you want to follow on that network.  Each network has its own rules, it’s own strengths and weaknesses.  Here we begin a series on how to use each of these social network options. Today, we will give you a little introduction on Twitter.

twittericon Twitter: one giant, never ending, virtual cocktail party

A cocktail party, that is, you can come in and leave whenever you want.

Twitter is perhaps the most instantaneous way to get info on and comment about breaking developments.  It’s best for brevity – only 140 characters are allowed in a “tweet” – but you can link to longer pieces on your tweets. As you “Follow” people (and organizations) on Twitter, their tweets show up on your Twitter Feed. It’s easy to follow, or add people to your network: simply click the Follow link. Because of all this, Twitter is a great way to keep up with and connect with people during events, like the ISBER Annual Meeting.

It seems like most tweeting is done via smartphones or tablets. I like having my Twitter feed handy while watching a football game, or some other TV event at home (e.g., the Oscars, a TV season premiere) and want to get others’ reactions to a development, or when I want to find the latest news on a breaking story. Many news reporters send out tweets while working on a longer story on an event for the more traditional media for which they work. Then they will later link that story for you in another tweet.

Let’s learn how to use Twitter.

We’ll start with the ISBER Twitter page, an excellent example of the awesomeness of the Twitter format:


A little popup window will invite you to start (or log in to) a Twitter account. You should find it on the top right of the page, by the Search bar. Go ahead and start your account here:

twitter login

To set up your account to Follow ISBER, you can locate the ISBER Twitter page by simply entering “isber” in the search bar. Or, as mentioned above, click the twitter link on the bottom right on this blog page. Then, click the blue Follow button at the top right of the  ISBER Twitter page (It says “Following” in the example above, because I already follow ISBER). Anytime you want to go to your own feed, click the home icon (the little blue house) on the top left corner (not shown here).

As you can see, the ISBER staff keeps the page filled with interesting tweets of stories for biobankers.  In the top tweet above, ISBER used a portion of their 140 allotted characters to say “Whaling Specimens, 1930s.” Then, the “ow.ly/SFvbU” is the link Twitter created when they shared this article (published in The Scientist). Click the link to read the article.

Perhaps you want to share this article with people who follow you, or you want to share a comment on it. That is easily done using the icons below each tweet. We will now discuss what each of the icons are for:

tweet icons

arrow icon:

Click it to reply to the tweeter. You will see a little window box with the “@” symbol after the name of the tweeter, e.g., “@isber”. This is the Twitter “handle” of the person you are responding to. Enter your reply after the handle, and click the  Tweet button.  Again, you have 140 characters to offer in your reply (minus the characters the handle takes up), and Twitter will let you know how many characters are left. For example:

twitter reply

When I press “Tweet”, ISBER will get my response. To the left of the Tweet button is the number “2” – that is how many characters I had remaining of the 140 allotted me to this tweet.

Replying to your own reply: OOPS! I spelled Angelique’ Corthals’s name wrong in my tweet!  Be aware that there’s no edit option in Twitter once a reply is out.  I can delete an original tweet I create for my followers, but not a reply. But that’s OK. I can correct the record by replying to my own tweet.  Also, this will allow me to add a bit more to the conversation and extend that 140 character limit that forced me to shorten Angelique’s name. I can reply by again pressing the arrow button:


two arrows  icon (and the ubiquitous #hashtag):

Click the two arrows icon to share (or “retweet”) this tweet with others who follow you.  You can also add your own 140 character comment to the retweet, perhaps to tell your followers why you are retweeting this tweet. In my example, I (@freezerworks) wanted to share ISBER’s tweet with everyone who follows Freezerworks on Twitter. I clicked on the retweet double arrow icon and entered this:

twitterretweetand hash

As you can see above, I left myself 37 unused characters in my allotment. When I press Tweet, ISBER’s tweet shows up in my Freezerworks feed, appearing in the feed of all who follow my feed, and (this is the real cool part) I am promoting ISBER to the community at large, in particular, those who love whales, by putting a “#” in front of the word whales.

What is the hashtag for?

Again, if you imagine Twitter as a giant virtual cocktail party, think of it as a giant room filled with lots of interesting (and some not so) people you mingle with, but mostly people you probably don’t know. But, maybe you want to get to know some who share interests with you.  Let’s say I want to have a little breakout session, to carry on a discussion with others at this large party who are interested in whales. By putting the “#”before “whales” I am inviting everyone who clicks “#whales” to enter a separate room for further whale discussions. Here is what that “#whale” room looks like:



From here, I can continue the discussion on my tweet, having invited others who like whales to join in (again, by clicking the “#whales” hyperlinked hashtag on my above tweet). I can also scroll down to find other folks talking about whales, who also put “#whales” into a tweet. As you meet and discuss with other whale lovers and biobank enthusiasts, don’t forget to follow them as well, and don’t be surprised if they decide to follow you.

If you are watching a sporting or other TV event and want to see what others watching it are saying about it, try guessing at a hashtag, e.g., #arsenal, #packers, #debate, #missionimpossible. It’s a great way to find interesting people who have opinions you may enjoy, and perhaps share your own with. Twitter will give you hashtag suggestions as you enter your search – anticipating, like Google, what you are looking for.

Star icon:

If you don’t want to follow, or retweet, or hashtag, but merely let the tweeter and his readers know that you liked his tweet, press the star icon. A star is similar to a “Like” in Facebook.

Dot-dot-dot icon:

This may not show up on your phone app, but this has other options available, including blocking or muting people you may have followed at one time but now regret doing so. If you click this while in your own tweet, the option to delete that tweet will be included on your menu:

tweet-other options

There is much more to Twitter, but I think we’ve covered the basics to get started. Use the comments below to ask questions, or offer other suggestions I may have neglected in this post. I am sure some of you using Twitter have suggestions I didn’t mention. To be honest, I am still a pretty rudimentary user of Twitter.  Originally, I was going to simply put some Twitter Twitter training video links from YouTube in a short blog post. But I couldn’t find one I liked for answering well those questions I  still had, so decided to write my own little instruction guide here.

Remember that when you follow someone on Twitter, it doesn’t necessarily mean you and he are friends (that’s more of a Facebook thing). You are only agreeing to follow him, in 140 character blocks, and if you change your mind, you can unfollow or block him at any time. And he can, of course, do the same with you if he follows you :-).

Next week: Facebook

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