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Engagement on Social Media: Using Your Voice Effectively

Engaging with other accounts on social media can be daunting, but it is necessary for your message to be read by diverse audiences. The use of hashtags, mentioning other Twitter accounts in tweets, and replying to others' tweets all increase the likelihood of engagement with likes, replies, and retweets, growing your digital influence and making your messages more accessible to more people.  

Consider following these groups or individuals who share accurate information about vaccines

AAP and
Facebook – @AmerAcadPeds, @healthychildren
Twitter – @AmerAcadPeds, @healthychildren, @AAPninossanos
Instagram –@healthychildrenaap, @AAP_Pediatrics

Facebook – @CDC
Twitter – @CDCgov, @DrNancyM_CDC
Instagram – @CDCgov

Facebook – @HHS
Twitter – @HHSGov
Instagram – @HHSGov

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Facebook – @nfidvaccines
Twitter – @NFIDvaccines

Hashtags to follow/use:

Consider joining the network of Tweetiatricians! Be added to the Twitter List and receive monthly social media emails by emailing your name, Twitter handle, and AAP ID to

Below are some rules of the road for how to effectively engage on Twitter:

Pause before you post.  It's tempting to want to respond immediately when breaking news occurs or when you feel angered by something you see or read. Since you are a pediatrician, you are an inherently a trusted voice for children's health and advocacy online. Others will turn to you for authenticity but also credibility, so it is important to protect your personal brand in order to maintain maximum influence.

  • Before you report on a developing story, check the facts. What is the child health angle? What is known? Has AAP or another verified account responded already?
  • When it comes to responding to an upsetting or inaccurate article or image, tone and timing matter. Chances are if you are observing a medically inaccurate photo or article, the urgency in your calling it out is not as important as how you do so.

Consider the following tips to maximize the impact of your post should you choose to challenge the accuracy or authenticity of an image or article:

Purpose – Why are you posting about this topic? Who is the primary audience and what are you asking for from the social media post? Would a passerby understand the post with no knowledge of the topic?

Voice What is the overall footprint of your account; who follows you, what kind of content do you focus on sharing, what hashtags or topical conversations do you contribute to regularly? Remember AAP's mantra: Be First, Be Right, Be Credible. Pediatricians are viewed as trusted, reliable resources for families. You can tweet with urgency and authority without practicing online bullying. Clearly define the issue and how the consequences harm children with facts. That validity and authenticity is a part of your voice as a child health expert.

Tone You can speak boldly, call out inaccuracies, and challenge assumptions without undermining your voice or purpose, but it requires intention. Because of the inherent expertise tied to being a pediatrician, you have the benefit of being able to resonate with influential accounts without escalating the rhetoric of your posts. Use that to your advantage as you consider how to engage online.  

Who do you engage After you have evaluated the situation and decided it's appropriate to engage, consider the audiences you want to reach. Including a Twitter handle in a post increases the likelihood of engagement, but it's best to be targeted with which handles to include. Are you including the handle of an entity to want to praise or shame? Are you including a news media or advocacy organization's handle as a FYI about the news? Before following or engaging with an account on Twitter, examine their profile. You can never assume a Twitter handle is an organization's acronym. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Twitter handle is not @CDC. It is @CDCgov.

CASE STUDY: Congresswoman and AAP Member Kim Schrier, MD, FAAP, was a plenary speaker during the 2019 AAP National Conference. Rep Schrier shared a video on Twitter with the conference hashtag #AAP19. Because she used the hashtag the main AAP Twitter handles and Tweetiatricians were able to engage.

What about hashtags? - On social media, a hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it. Using a hashtag on a social post is as simple as adding the # sign before a single word or phrase, without spaces or punctuation. Tweets with hashtags are two times more likely to receive engagement than those without. Before using a hashtag, it's best to research the hashtag's use and the audience using the hashtag by searching the hashtag in Twitter. Make sure the purpose of the hashtag follows the purpose of your social media posts. Hashtags are searchable publicly, so they are also a way to plug into broader conversations and have your message resonate with users who may not be following you but may be following a hashtag.

Since the whole point of a hashtag is to insert yourself in an ongoing conversation, if you create a hashtag on your own without intention, you will be tweeting into a vacuum. If you do need to make up a hashtag to initiate a new movement, topic or campaign, make sure to promote the use of it by emailing coalitions about the hashtag and its purpose, and ideally recruit verified accounts to use it and introduce it to their followers. 

What if you get a response? - If you used social media to correct inaccurate or false information and got a response saying there will be actions to correct the error, thank the organization's Twitter handle for their actions and again explain the impact on child health or safety. You can also offer your assistance as a resource in the future. Your response will update your followers about the situation.

If you receive a response that is pushing back against your social media post pointing out inaccurate or false information, continue to post about the dangers to child health, while maintaining a tone expertise and professionalism. Continuing to post with hashtags and tagging other Twitter handles about the topic will increase the likelihood of your message reaching new audiences. If necessary, consider additional tactics to draw attention to the issue, such as an op-ed or blog that can be shared on social media as well.