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Chemistry at the National HIV Prevention Conference Social Media Lab

Co-authored by Hadiza Buge, Web Content Manager, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Social Media Lab at National HIV Prevention ConferenceAIDS.gov and the CDC hosted a social media lab with special sessions on using new media at the 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference Exit Disclaimer in Atlanta, Georgia (follow the hashtag #2011NHPC Exit Disclaimer to listen to the conversation). The lab was a place where people could stop by and get personalized technical assistance. For the last two days we’ve had the honor of meeting and learning from AIDS service organizations from across the country. From New York City to San Diego, to right here in Atlanta, we found that people were interested in either getting started using social media or refining their current efforts. We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions, along with our responses:

Where do I start? While it’s easy to get excited by the newest “shiny toy”, it’s important to take a step back and strategize. We shared the POST strategy (people – objectives – strategy – technology) as a framework for your planning efforts.

How do I know which tool is appropriate? It is important to research your  target audience long before you make that decision. Going to sites such as the Pew Internet & American Life Exit Disclaimer and others like it will help inform you how your target audience access information; thus helping your message to be more readily received.

How do I gain more followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook? First of all, it’s not all about the numbers. It’s important to “measure” your efforts based on what you are trying to achieve and who you are trying to reach. That said, there are many things you can do to encourage engagement on your social media spaces. Provide quality, consistent updates that are relevant to your target audiences and will keep them coming back. Check out the recommendations offered by the tools; you may find colleagues or others talking about the same topic and may get some followers that way. As with flowers, if you nurture your efforts, your followers will grow.

We’re busy and have limited staff  and budget– how do we fit new media into the mix? Taking time to plan now can save time later. Develop strategies and policies to guide your efforts. Repurpose content on your social media spaces. And plan ahead. For example, planning your tweets or updates in advance can provide you with content to choose from in the future.

Can you look at my website and give me advise about usability? Your website should reflect your users’ goals and objectives. Some resources that we suggest to learn more about usability are Jakob Nielson’s website Exit Disclaimer and usability.gov. We also conducted usability tests for AIDS.gov and will follow up in a future blog post about our process and lessons learned.

Where can I find more resources about social media? The CDC has developed a social media toolkit and AIDS.gov has several pages about using new media in response to HIV/AIDS. The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) recently published a guide HIV Prevention Goes Social (PDF). Equally important are the tools themselves. For example, sign up for a personal Twitter account and play around. Learn by doing.

What’s the role of mobile? Not every site has to have a mobile version. If you decide to move forward with mobile, focus on what needs to go on the mobile site and then assess if a mobile app is appropriate. Text messaging can also potentially help you reach your audiences and accomplish your goals. Pew Internet’s report Americans and Their Cell Phones Exit Disclaimer is a valuable resource that makes the case about why mobile is important for helping us reach the most vulnerable populations – the same populations we need to reach with our HIV/AIDS messages.

In the end, we know social media can be a powerful tool to communicate HIV prevention messages. We were encouraged by the number of people we met at the conference who are interested in and/or using new media, and the overwhelming response we had to our special sessions. We’ll be following up with posts from the people we met and the lessons we learned.

Have a story to share? A question for us? Let us know – we’re here to help.

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