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Twitter Best Practices at #AAHM14

At the 2013 American Association of the History of Medicine Meeting (#AAHM13) in Atlanta, GA, Nancy Tomes (@NanTomes) and I (@heidiknoblauch) convened a lunch session titled, “Public History in a Digital Age: Possibilities and Implications for Medical Historians.” This lunch session, along with conversations throughout the weekend, made it clear that members of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) had mixed feelings on the use of Twitter at the annual conference.

The AAHM has been behind other societies in discussing the role of social media at annual conferences so, at #AAHM13, a task force was created to come up with a set of Twitter “best practices” for the upcoming AAHM Meeting in Chicago (@AAHM2014). The committee included: Jean WhelanBridget Collins (@brdgtc), Stephen Casper (@TheNeuroTimes), Heidi Knoblauch (@heidiknoblauch) Kelly O’Donnell (@kellyodonn), and Jacob S Williams (@steerewilliams).

First, we set out to provide some information about what Twitter is and why someone would want to use it at the 2014 AAHM Meeting. Next, we developed a list of “best practices” for Tweeting at the conference. Finally, we provided some clear ways to single if you would like to be Tweeted or would not like to be Tweeted. You can download a PDF version here.


What is Twitter? Twitter is a social networking tool composed of “Tweets” that allow users to connect to other people with similar interests. Each Tweet is a miniature (140 character) blog post that can include mentions, which are used to reference other people, and hash tags, which are used to mark keywords or topics. At conferences, Twitter can be a useful tool for connecting with colleagues, hearing about interesting panels, and following conversations happening during and after the conference.

What are the components of a Tweet? Each Tweet is 140 characters and can include, among other things, “mentions” and “hashtags” in the composition. Hashtags(#) are a categorizing device that allow others who are following that hashtag to see your Tweet. For example, by including “#AAHM14” in your Tweet at the American Association for the History of Medicine you are entering a conversation with people who are also using or following that hashtag. Mentions (@) reference a person to either give them credit or to directly engage them in a conversation.


What is live-tweeting? Live-tweeting is a real time rundown of panels, audience questions, and the keynote lectures at events like AAHM. Live-tweeting is helpful because it is akin to public note taking and creates a record of the event that everyone can refer to during and after the conference.

What are some useful hashtags?

AAHM Chicago Meeting:

History of Science:

History of Medicine:

History of Nursing:



1) Use the #AAHM14 hashtag: By including this hashtag in your Tweet you will allow others at the conference to easily find your addition to the conversation. 

2) Follow presenters, organizers, and fellow Tweeters: Before the conference, head to the AAHM Blog (aahmblog.org) and see who is attending the conference and has posted their Twitter handles. Follow them! You can also check who is following the official conference feed by checking the followers of “@AAHM2014.”

3) Tweet before the conference: Tell others which panels you are excited to attend or ask people to attend your panel. Set up a carpool from the airport or make dinner plans. Get to know others who are attending the conference! 

4) Tweet during the conference: You can live-tweet or tweet during breaks, ask questions, or give answers. The most important thing is to keep the conversation going and create a vibrant exchange that people who are attending the conference in person or are following it at home can follow.

5) Add useful knowledge: When attending a panel, listen carefully and report back about papers by live-tweeting. You can also choose to participate by giving updates on the talks you are attending or share links to work that adds to the panel discussions.

6) Keep the conversation going: Continue to follow the people you met in person or on Twitter after the conference. You can use the #AAHM2014 to connect with people who attended, or were following, the conference. By doing this, we can foster a social media community and meet again at #AAHM2015.

7) Remember that people are presenting unpublished work: When Tweeting, make every effort to respect other presenters and conference goers. Much of the work presented at #AAHM2014 is still a work in progress. It is always best to listen carefully and report accurately, and it is also important to use discretion.

8) Cite your sources: If you hear about an argument, new source, or archives make sure to give credit where credit is due. Tweeting about someone else’s ideas without citing them is a big taboo.




To encourage people to Tweet your talk make sure to include a slide that has your Twitter handle, @AAHM2013, #aahm13, and any hashtags you want the audience to use when Tweeting your talk.

If you do not want your talk to be Tweeted, you can announce that at the beginning of your talk and include the “do not Tweet” image available below.

You can use the Twitter images below to alert people you want to be Tweeted.


twitter logo

















Do Not Tweet Me