Saturday, March 10 is National HIV/AIDS Women and Girls Awareness Day. We asked Ingrid Floyd, Executive Director of Iris House , to share how they are using new media to reach women and girls. Iris House was established in 1993 by the Women and AIDS Working Group and provides comprehensive services and advocacy for women, families, and communities infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, while providing prevention and education services for their clients and at-risk communities.
Iris House began implementing social media several years ago. However, we didn’t have a true strategy on how we would and should use it to support out mission. In 2011 we undertook an effort to develop a strategy that connected our social media platforms with our website and email channels. This was important as we knew we needed additional methods to reach women and girls infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. We saw social media as an opportunity to educate more people on HIV, bring greater awareness on the issue and connect more people to available resources. Our new strategy included consistent use of Facebook, Twitter and our website to share content. Our staff developed the strategy, defined how these tools would be used, and which channels were important for which constituents. We then began a pilot phase to determine what would work and what would not.
So, what did we learn?
- We quickly learned that although staff were very passionate about integrating social media into their work they did not always have the time to do it consistently. Therefore, there had to be further discussions on how to integrate programmatic efforts into overall agency use of social media.
- We also found that although a lot of young people were presumed to be on Facebook, they were not following our work, so we needed to revisit how to engage young girls through social media.
- We found success in engaging friends in content that we shared since many of our followers are not staff at AIDS service organizations or in the field of HIV.
- People were interested in reading new findings in HIV and loved to see pictures and videos of recent events at Iris House. Pictures and videos really get people’s attention!
- Social media is forever evolving and how it’s used changes frequently. Agencies have to dedicate time and resources to implement effective social media strategies and not just jump on. I have seen a lot of organizations with Facebook pages or Twitter accounts that go unused.
- Before creating these accounts and advertising them to your constituents, be sure to have a plan for who can post and the frequency you expect posts.
- Develop some formal and/or informal protocols on what can or should be posted. For example, one lesson we learned was that all staff who post should be aware of our views on religious holidays and how we recognize those holidays. These small things become important based on your followers and intended audience and need to be discussed while developing the strategy.
Social media is a great tool for getting your message out, but be prepared to make a commitment, whether of time or resources. Even though the tools are free it still “costs” your agency. After our pilot phase we assessed the level of effort with our outcomes…and we think it’s worth it.
Have you developed a social media strategy? What are your lessons learned?