Twitter is an information network that enables users to send and read messages made up of 280 characters or less, called tweets. Twitter users subscribe to receive tweets by selecting other Twitter users (people or organizations) to follow. Followers then receive messages in their Twitter feed that have been publicly posted by all of those they follow. The short, easy to read, public messages make Twitter a powerful, real time way of communicating. Twitter can be used formally by a research center, university, or organization or individual researchers can utilize Twitter personally taking positions and promoting their work.

General Rules

  • Create a profile name (Twitter handle) that is less than 15 characters and describes the subject matter of the account or the name of the organization.
  • Write a biography 160 characters or less to describe the profile; if it is a personal Twitter account where you will share your work and not the position of your organization/institution, it is recommended to note “Tweets are my own.”
  • An organization's profile image should be its logo, and once set, it should not be changed.
  • Keep followers engaged and post frequently, at least every other day.
  • Provide links to the Twitter profile on other communication materials.
  • Follow other appropriate health or rural organizations to be a part of the conversation.
  • Set guidelines for what can be tweeted, by whom, and how often.
  • Define a policy for engaging and responding with Twitter followers.
  • Set standards for what can be retweeted from partner organizations.

Recommendations for Format

  • Although 280 characters are allowed, 120 characters or less are recommended, including shortened URLs so more text can be added by those who retweet it.
  • Mention appropriate partners when applicable, such as @HRSAgov or @RHRGateway.
  • Add a hashtag to contribute to a larger conversation on the topic (#ruralhealth).


  • Be reader friendly and action oriented, free of jargon and acronyms.
  • Ask questions.
  • Show your personality.

Graphic Design and Layout

  • Include images, such as a photo or graphic, to illustrate and catch attention.
  • Do not use images that are not your own without proper citation.
  • Use only high quality images.
  • Do not use clipart or stock photos.
  • If sharing figures or graphs, make sure all elements are visible.

For more information on Twitter or to better understand Twitter syntax (what is a “follower,” how do you “retweet,” what is a “hashtag”), visit