AHRQ Twitter Policy

Social Media Policies and Tools

Social Media Policies and Tools for Twitter

About Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging site that allows users to share information through 140-character messages. Twitter users follow other users who post useful or interesting information, and users retweet other users' tweets, thereby sharing those tweets with followers.

Because Twitter broadcasts to a group of people who have self-identified as interested in what a specific Twitter user has to say, a tweet is more targeted than a press release, interview, or media pitch. Twitter can also be used to gauge interest in a topic, gain feedback on a product, announce a campaign, and measure the impact of dissemination methods.

How AHRQ Uses Twitter

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) uses Twitter to broadcast the Agency's mission to an ever-growing audience. The Office of Communications (OC) maintains the Agency's two Twitter accounts, @AHRQNews and @AHRQConf, and has established this policy to ensure that Agency tweets are coordinated, present a balanced view of Agency activities, and further the Agency's mission. AHRQ uses Twitter to achieve three goals:

  1. To speak with one voice on behalf of the Agency when distributing content.
  2. To increase the number of followers to spread AHRQ's messages to a diverse audience.
  3. To raise the Agency's profile by highlighting work that is central to AHRQ's mission.

Twitter Content

OC works collaboratively with each Office and Center to identify appropriate Twitter content and to develop tweets. Each tweet is intended to strategically disseminate the most up-to-date and relevant AHRQ information. Guidance on developing suggested tweets appears at the end of this policy.


The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet and allows users to track their social influence because hashtags show how many people are talking about a topic. Hashtags also make it easy for AHRQ to brand content and for people to search for AHRQ content. OC welcomes suggestions for hashtags and recommends staff use these best practices:

  • Use no more than three hashtags per tweet.
  • Avoid starting a tweet with a hashtag.
  • Introduce a new hashtag when you want to start a conversation.
  • To join a conversation, find a hashtag currently being used. Find hashtags by performing a keyword search. Use popular hashtags that best fit your topic.

Interactivity Guidelines

Social media is more interactive than traditional information dissemination vehicles because it establishes a mechanism for action between the sender and receiver. Interaction occurs in three ways on Twitter:

  1. Following other users.
  2. Retweeting.
  3. Responding to comments and inquiries.

The following guidelines apply to AHRQ's interaction on the @AHRQNews and @AHRQConf Twitter accounts:

  1. Following other Twitter users: AHRQ will follow other Federal, State, and local health care-related agencies as well as partners, stakeholders, and influencers.
  2. Retweeting: AHRQ will retweet information from Federal and State agencies and organizations that have a partnership with AHRQ provided that the tweet aligns with AHRQ's mission. Requests to retweet will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Responding to inquiries: AHRQ will respond to comments and inquiries in two ways:
    • The Twitter profile page (https://twitter.com/#!/AHRQNews) will include language directing users to the AHRQ Contact Us page (http://www.ahrq.gov/info/customer.htm) if they have questions or comments. Inquiries received through the Contact Us page will follow the AHRQ process.
    • OC will assess individual inquiries on Twitter and work directly with the AHRQ staff member who submitted the tweet to write a response.
  4. Neither AHRQ staff nor contractors will respond to media inquiries through Twitter. Media inquiries will be sent to Alison Hunt at alison.hunt@ahrq.hhs.gov.
  5. In cases where these guidelines do not address a specific issue concerning an interaction, OC will work with AHRQ program staff to address the issue or question before responding. Send questions to socialmedia@ahrq.hhs.gov.

Approval and Set Up

Text for suggested tweets should be sent to twitter@ahrq.hhs.gov. OC will review all suggested tweets. Suggested tweets should include a Web link to the AHRQ product being promoted. Individuals who have suggested tweets should coordinate the tweets with the OC Strategic Planner to ensure tweets conform to Twitter, HHS, and AHRQ guidelines. Go to the HHS Twitter Guidelines for additional details about Twitter: HHS Twitter Guidelines. Also, see Additional Guidelines and Interactivity Guidelines for details.

To create a new Twitter account, please fill out the AHRQ Social Media Checklist (PDF File, 25 KB; Plugin Software Help) and follow the instructions for submission. Submit completed form to socialmedia@ahrq.hhs.gov. See Additional Guidelines and Interactivity Guidelines for details.

Additional Guidelines

OC welcomes suggestions for tweets from Offices and Centers and asks staff to follow these guidelines:

  • Tweets should highlight an AHRQ product, including guides, databases, toolkits, Web conferences, events, exhibits, presentations, research findings, funding announcements, final reports, etc.
  • Tweets are limited to 140 characters, including spaces, hashtags, and URLs. AHRQ uses a URL shortener that helps keep tweets to the 140-character limit.
  • Sample tweets:
    • Boosting #Healthlit to Move Beyond The Cycle Of Costly "Crisis Care" #healthlit: bit.ly/A0477E.
    • New #AHRQ review finds benefits of #bonemarrow transplants for Wolman's Disease in pediatric populations go.usa.gov/nVT #CER #PCOR.
    • Get AHRQ's new brief on improving #quality of the #PCMH evidence and evaluation. Read more: ow.ly/8e8Ef (PDF File, Plugin Software Help).
    • Share the latest evidence on C-diff treatment, prevention: Free faculty slide set from #AHRQ http://go.usa.gov/NkJ.

Return to AHRQ's Social Media Guidelines

Page last reviewed May 2016
Page originally created August 2012
Internet Citation: AHRQ Twitter Policy. Content last reviewed May 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/policy/social-media/twitter/index.html