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Using twitter to grow your childbirth-based business.

This is one in a four-part series on using current technologies to market and grow your business. Next quarter: Facebook.

What is Twitter?

No doubt you've heard about blogs and blogging, but there is a new form of blogging called Twitter. Twitter is a form of micro-blogging, meaning that you only get i40 characters to say what's on your mind. They chose the name Twitter because it is the sound that birds make while talking.

Once signed up for Twitter you choose an ID. You then look for people or organizations that you know and decide to "follow" them. This happens by clicking a button, and then everything that they say publicly is fed into your Twitter account. Those you follow may or may not choose to follow you in return.

How to Use Twitter for Your Business

Twitter has many uses. Your use might depend on how you look at your childbirth business and if you do other things in addition to facilitating childbirth education classes. Here are some of the most common ways to use Twitter:

Staying up to date with current trends

Even if you aren't ready to take the leaps outlined below to use Twitter with your classes, Twitter can provide some great live coverage of events you might not be able to attend. Recent examples have included live Tweets from the NIH VBAC Consensus Conference (go read #nihvbac for more), the ICEA conference, and more. You can also get news from and trade ideas with others in the birth profession, as well as just generally expand your horizons by following other professionals or birth organizations. In addition, simply being "out there" and talking about your classes and events can help you get clients as they search Twitter for local pregnancy and baby-related offerings, not to mention the word of mouth/Twitter spread.

Twitter party/chat

This involves people gathering on Twitter at the same time for a conversation. Typically this is done with the use of a hashtag, for example #icea. There can be a specific topic or just a time for everyone to gather and chat. I've had everyone from a childbirth class gather at a specific time and we've done a web class, talking about favorite websites and how to tell the good information from the bad. I do this as a one-hour extension of my class. I also tell everyone to invite their friends. It's free and a great way to advertise the childbirth class while teaching my current students.

Business announcements

Much like you might use email, Twitter can be a way to reach out to your students, both current and former. This would best be suited for a general announcement, like a new location for your classes, a recent blog post, or a favorite new pregnancy-related book.

Class reunion/meeting

While nothing beats an in-person class reunion, one childbirth educator told me how her scheduled class reunion was snowed out. In a flash of brilliance, she had everyone meet on Twitter instead. Each came with digital photos of their babies and emailed the birth stories around. They were able to provide each other with support and advice for ongoing issues, like how to catch a nap and where to get the best deals in town on breastfeeding clothes.

Deals

If you have a business model where you run specials or sell products, Twitter can also be a way to make these types of announcements, or you might even run a Twitter-only special.

Signing Up for Twitter

Twitter is delightfully free. All you need to do is to sign up with a valid email address. Simply go to http://twitter. com and click the "Sign Up Here" button. You will be walked through the process, which will include choosing a Twitter ID or name, finding topics and friends, as well as changing any settings that you would like to change, including adding a picture of yourself. (ICEA offers an online tutorial in signing up for Twitter, including a step-by-step photo guide at http://icea.org/twitter/

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Advanced Twitter

There are certain advanced features that can add to your Twitter experience. This can include automatically feeding your blog posts or email announcements, or even Facebook, into your Twitter account feed. You can use special programs that allow you to filter Twitter through them and break it down into columns that make it easier to read and follow. You can also find some of the more useful products reviewed at the ICEA online tutorial.

Twitter Birth

Twitter birth is something that is becoming more popular. Think of Twitter as a virtual waiting room or in some cases, the virtual doula! Some women are choosing to use their computers and phones to update people on the progress of their labors using the #twitterbirth hashtag.

How it works is that a mother in labor sends a tweet and adds: #twitterbirth at the end so that anyone watching for the tag #twitterbirth, even if they are not following her, can see her messages. You can then respond to her or talk with others "watching" the birth on Twitter.

Recently there was a lot of controversy over a group of conversations that were held at #twitterbirth while watching a mother who was giving birth live online. Some claimed that the tweets were not as supportive as they could have been, while advocates were saying that people were merely pointing out issues with the current maternity care system.

Here is where I confess. I actually did use Twitter during my last labor. I did not use the #twitterbirth tag, but my friends and followers were able to see what was going on without being there. I even was able to connect with my doulas during early labor. They knew what was going on and knew that they didn't need to call me. Here are some of my actual tweets from my nearly 45 hour labor:

Tweets from Baby Ocho's Labor & Birth

August 29-31, 2008

* New mantra: Every day I'm pregnant increases the likelihood that I'll have the baby tomorrow. 07:04 AM August 29, 2008

* K has me a bit freaked about missing early labor since last was fast. How many contractions do I have to have to call it labor? 03:22 PM August 29, 2008

* Steady contractions ... Not ready to call it labor. Everyone is home. 07:42 PM August 29, 2008

* Baby looks good, midwife happy, going to send her home for some sleep, we'll plug away for a bit here. Doulas on high alert per text. LOL 11:08 PM August 29, 2008

* Slept a bit, now back up alone, in the dark contracting. Not sure what my next move is... (Other than the bath tub.) 05:16 AM August 30, 2008

* Getting out for a walk... 10:39 AM August 30, 2008

* Back from walk. Trying to nap. 03:23 PM August 30, 2008

* Friends brought dinner and lovely distraction. It's a two rice sock evening. Another bath, ball and relaxation... 10:04 PM August 30, 2008

* Ctx picked WAY up in intensity. But I'm able to sleep 20, 40, 60 minutes. Squeamish? Don't follow link: http://tinyur1.com/6hq2zp 02:17 AM August 31, 2008

* Midwife has been called. Kevin wants me to call others, give me a ctx or two to make that decision, I hate bothering people! 03:i8 AM August 31, 2008

* Baby looks good, we're chatting, contracting and preparing the room with midwife. 04:52 AM August 31, 2008

* My water broke--it's clear! Baby is good. We've called everyone. 06:34 AM August 31, 2008

* 10 lbs 2 ounce baby girl! 09:22 AM August 31, 2008

Twitter is one of the many technologies available for you to use as a childbirth educator or doula. Be sure to include your Twitter ID in your email signature file, your website and when talking to others who may also be on Twitter. It can help you stay connected to the latest in childbirth happenings, as well as spread the word about your classes. It can also be a way to make friends and to influence birth.

Resources for Twitter

Twitter Bootcamp:

http://marketing.about.com/c/ec/24.htm

Twitter 101 for Business--A Special Guide: http://business.twitter.com/twitter101/

Bibliography

7 Ways Marketers Can Use Twitter. Ann Handley. http://www.mpdailyfix. com/7-ways-marketers-can-use-twitter/ Last accessed 3/13/10.

Twitter Birth. Life in the Slow Lane. http://bobbeckstead.com/ blog/2009/08/11/twitter-birth/ Last accessed 3/13/10.

Twitter for Business--A Special Guide. http://business.twitter.com/twitter101/ Last accessed 3/13/10.

TwitterFeed--Explore the Ease and Benefits. Laura Lake. http://marketing. about.com/od/internetmarketing/a/twitterfeed.htm Last accessed 3/13/10.

10 Twitter Feeds You Should Follow

ICEAOnline

ICANtweets

CIMS_MFCI

TheBirthSurvey

PushforMidwives

ACNMmidwives

Mamasonbedrest

BestforBabes

MyBestBirth

ACOGNews

Twitter Terminology

Tweet: A message in 140 characters sent through Twitter.

Hashtag: The # symbol, used to allow people to gather and find certain like-minded messages, often used for Twitter parties, conditions (#pregnancy) or conferences (#NIHVBAC). You can make them up at will.

Direct Message (DM): This is Twitter's version of a private message, still only 140 characters.

Fail Whale: This is Twitter's version of a broken page sign. It simply means that there are so many people on Twitter that it's taking time to catch up. Simply hit the refresh or reload button on your computer.

By Robin Elise Weiss, BA, CLC, CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, ICCE-CPE

Robin Elise Weiss, BA, CLC, CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, ICCE CPE is a childbirth educator, doula and trainer in Louisville, KY. She lives there with her husband and 8 children. You can find her on the web at http://robineliseweiss.com and on Twitter as RobinPregnancy.
COPYRIGHT 2010 International Childbirth Education Association
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Growing Your Business
Author:Weiss, Robin Elise
Publication:International Journal of Childbirth Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2010
Words:1627
Previous Article:The birth nurse's tips for childbirth educators to share with students.
Next Article:Third stage labor: last but not least!
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