Twitter has become one of the most successful ways to share your passion for a health cause or condition on the internet today.
If you have a health condition or illness, Twitter can be an amazing tool to help spread the word about your cause.
Here are 16 things to know if you plan to use Twitter for your health awareness campaign:
Preparing to have an effective Twitter account from the start:
 First, decide if you want to use your Twitter account to share more personal information (and for example, set up your user name with your actual name) or if you’d prefer to have your Twitter account be more generalized for your specific health awareness campaign. Many times people who are involved in the campaign may not be as interested in tweets about what you did last night, but instead, how the can increase awareness about the health cause. To ensure a growing number of followers, and hence, increase your influence, it’s a good idea to design your Twitter account that accurately describes your causes and be sue to use your logo as your photo image icon.
 Make the effort to design a colorful graphic for the background of your Twitter account page and make sure your contact information, logo, hashtags and everything you write can be seen. Most people do not make the graphic the right size. the background image for twitter should be about 540 x 540 pixels and the part you want to have shown on the left should be 124 pixels wide.
 When you are planning an event or a cause, set up a hashtag from the beginning to use in all of your posts and add this to your description on your Twitter background page, encouraging others to use it. This will help anyone searching Twitter for all tweets specific to your cause, to find it quickly. Remember, keep it short! In case you aren’t sure of what a hashtag is, it’s the word after the # symbol you see in front of words like #arthritis. For example, the hashtag for National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, for example, is #iiwk09. Since this is an annual event, we added the year so that it any year’s information can be found easily in the future.
 Come up with interesting Tweets that people will find compelling and want to pass on as a retweet (RT). These can include facts, statistics, links to articles or blogs, or lists (with one tweet a day.) A list may be for example, “How to” or “__ Steps To.”
 Keep your tweets as short as possible despite the difficulty it can be to express yourself. Why? You want people to be able to retweet your posts without cutting them off. One should be able to type RT(space)@YOURNAME. Count those characters and find out what that equals for you. Also, be sure to leave room for a link and a hashtag.
 When you post a link in your twitter post, be sure to utilize a link shortening service. I have followed another expert’s advice and usually put my link at the front of the tweet, so it’s not cut off when people retweet it and comment on it.
Twitter etiquette you should know:
 Follow other nonprofit organizations that have accounts at Twitter. Follow people or organizations that support the same illness you care about. Read the tweets and comments. Don’t just post and expect people to think you are interesting. Converse!
 Don’t hold back in retweeting other people′s tweets if you believe the information will be of interest to your audience. that will be of interest to your audience. If you are following interesting and influential people it won’t be hard to discover nuggets of quality information to retweet.
 Get involved in Friday Follows, by posting people you admire and respect as recommended experts on your topic. When people add you as a Friday Follow recommendation or retweet your messages, remember to say thanks! Depending on the number of people who are retweeting your posts, say thanks as much as possible and tweet their twitter names in your post.
 Through various Twitter applications you can set up a direct message to be sent to anyone who starts to follow you. Don’t use this to just say, “thanks for following me″ but instead offer a link to an article the reader would find interesting, or a free download, or a perk.
How you can improve the worth of your twitter posts and increase the number of followers:
 Considering taking your best tweets and turning them into an article for your blog or article directories.
 There are free Twitter applications that can make sure that your tweets are posted to your blog automatically, You can also have your twitter account post a tweet whenever you write a blog post. This can encourage people who may follow your twitter to get to know you better by reading your blog.
 Some people may be interested in helping your cause by retweeting your facts or other tweets, but they miss a few. Make it easy by posting all of your tweets in one place on your blog. Some Twitter applications can automatically post them all to a “category” on your blog. You can use the TweetMeme application on your blog if you want visitors to also view how many others are retweeting your tweets.
 Reward your loyal followers who retweet by offering prizes. Just ensure that the prize is not a blatant bribe to increase your followers who may have no interest in the topic. Use the giveaway as a “thank you gift.”
 Make it a new habit to add your Twitter feed everywhere including other social networks: your blog, web site, Facebook profile, My Space, Plaxo, etc.
 Add your Twitter address everywhere now that you also post your email address or web address. It’s one of the easiest ways for people to get to know you without having to get something as formal as a newsletter.
Twitter is one of the fastest growing ways to communicate with people today as major news journalists, and even the president are joining in. Even if you are not yet entirely committed to Twittering daily, at the very least set up an account for your cause and start following a few leaders in your field and gradually learn how it could be a benefit to add to your communication tools.
Lisa Copen is the founder of National Invisible Illness Awareness Week and author of the amazing little book that is changing one life at a time, Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend.