Editor’s Note: We invited AIDS Service Center NYC to share how using new media extends the reach of their HIV work. Two staff members shared their unique experiences working with one of the communities most impacted by HIV: young men who have sex with men (YMSM).
Ramona’s Story (Director of Prevention Services)
As a social media novice, I was apprehensive about the use of new media to engage and recruit young men who have sex with men (YMSM) at AIDS Service Center NYC (ASCNYC). Traditional outreach strategies have been very successful for ASCNYC and the thought of “connecting” online with the community seemed counterintuitive and challenging to monitor. ASCNYC’s Assistant Director of Prevention Services, Guy Williams, spearheaded a social media outreach strategy to recruit YMSM between the ages of 19-29 for the CDC evidence-based intervention MPowerment , and it made me interested in learning more. After consulting with Guy, I had a better understanding of the the benefits of using new media for engagement of our target population. One that resonated with me the most was the opportunity to reach individuals who would not otherwise identify themselves as YMSM in a traditional outreach setting. We decided that our next step was to hold a new media strategy session that included representatives from ASCNYC’s communications team and various prevention programs.
Guy’s Story (Assistant Director of Prevention)
Initially, I maintained two Facebook pages for the Mpowerment project: a public and private group page. However, monitoring both pages required a significant amount of time and resources. After the new media strategy session, we decided to retire the public Facebook page and to prioritize targeted outreach through the private group page . Members of the private page include current and past members, YMSM who may be interested in participating, and additional community stakeholders. We have found that the Facebook group provides an efficient way for ASCNYC staff and Mpowerment members to disseminate information and communicate one-on-one. Due to the success on Facebook, there has been an increase in ASCNYC staff utilization of social media tools for other programming and services. For example, the Care Management Department was able to re-engage a YMSM in care who was unresponsive to phone calls, letters, and home visits. Within 15 minutes of the Mpowerment staff sending him a message on Facebook through the private group, he scheduled a follow-up visit to the ASCNYC.
Given how rapidly new media tools change, ASCNYC is implementing monthly social media meetings in an effort to reevaluate our activities. During the meetings, ASCNYC staff, members, and Youth Advisory Board (YAB) members present on the latest social media apps and websites that are most effective in reaching our audiences. Since March 2013, 158 men were referred to ASCNYC for HIV testing on geo-location apps by trained members on a site directed towards Black gay men.
New media has given ASCNYC a savvy and relevant way to connect and engage our clients and we look forward to continually adapting our online activities to meet the ever-changing communication trends of the communities we serve.