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Millions of people use Twitter each day and it can be a useful tool in spreading the word about a health cause you care about. Here are some specific steps to take to be most effective in your outreach and awareness efforts.
Twitter is one of the most successful of sharing with anyone in the world the causes that you believe are important.
If you have a chronic illness or a particular interest in a health condition, Twitter can be one of the most exciting ways to spread the word on little or no budget.
Here are 16 steps toward planning your health awareness campaign using Twitter.
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.
 Tell people what hashtags to use in their Tweets so that your cause can quickly be found in the Twitter searches. The shorter the better. Hashtags are the words that you see that have the # symbol in front of them. For example, the hashtag for National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is #iiwk09. Since it is an annual event, one can find the information for a particular year's events.
 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."
 When preparing your Tweets keep them as short as possible so that people can retweet them without cutting anything off. You want people to be able to write RT(space).YOURNAME. How many characters does that equal for you? Plus, leave room for a short 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 to know:
 It's helpful to follow other nonprofit organizations that also have Twitter accounts. Follow people or organizations that have the same illness as your cause. Don't forget to read and comment on their tweets, however. Don't just make your own posts and avoid conversation.
 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.
 There are many Twitter applications that can give you the ability to set up a direct message to automatically be sent to anyone who follows you. Take advantage of this by offering a link to a helpful article, a free download, or some other perk. Don't waste people's time by just saying, "Thanks for the follow."
Increasing the value of your twitters and your number of followers
 Considering taking your best tweets and turning them into an article for your blog or article directories.
 Post your tweets automatically to your blog, or post new blog alerts to your Twitter account. Just search for 'Twitter applications' to find various services that do this.
 Post all your tweets to a blog post so that if people miss them on Twitter they can quickly access them all and choose what they'd like to retweet. Use the TweetMeme application on your blog so people can see how many others are retweeting the content.
 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."
 Post your Twitter feed everywhere you can including other social networks: your blog, web site, profiles at Facebook, My Space, Plaxo, etc.
 Remember to post your twitter address anywhere you would typically put your web site or email. It is quickly becoming some of the first information people will add from a contact's business card to their computer.
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 Chronic Illness Awareness Week and author of the amazing little book that is changing one life at a time, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.beyondcasseroles.com">Beyond Casseroles</a>: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend.