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Black Voices: Tips for Reaching the Black MSM Community Online

Anthony Roberts, Jr.

Anthony Roberts, Jr.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project Exit Disclaimer, 73% of African American internet users report using a social networking site of some kind Exit Disclaimer. If you are trying to reach the Black MSM community online, these tools can be key to your HIV prevention and awareness efforts. There are a vast number of social networks available and with all of the clutter, it’s possible for an organization’s message to be lost in the crowd. Here are some tips to getting your message read:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Knowing where you want to go, how you want to get there, and whom you want to meet along the way are key engagement factors. By first thinking of the goals and expected outcomes of your social strategy, you can focus more on how to make it a reality. For example, if your goal is to encourage Black MSM to get tested for HIV, a call to action might be to provide your testing hours and/or to encourage your following to find a nearby testing site.
  2. KISS (Keep it Short and Simple). Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters. While Facebook has an astounding limit of 50,000 characters, it’s highly doubtful someone would read a post of such length. Keep in mind the KISS principle when drafting social content. A suggestion would be to jot down everything you want to say and continuously revise it each time using fewer words and characters. Mix your posts and updates with text, links, and photos. Doing so gives a holistic perspective of your social presence and provides a variety in content.
  3. Not every network is essential for every campaign. A new network does not always warrant a presence. Social networks come and go. Consider using the ones most widely used by your target audience. With that in mind, ask yourself the following questions: What led you to decide to use the respective network? In what ways does your presence add value to your organization, campaign, or overall marketing strategy? Do some listening to find out what networks Black MSM are using. Or simply ask your clients what is the best way to reach them online.
  4. Not always about the numbers. Likes, fans, and followers cannot solely measure a social media campaign’s success. It’s important to consider the level of engagement with your message and brand. Are more Black MSMs coming to your organization for services or responding to your advocacy messages?
  5. Invite input from your target market. If you represent the Black MSM community, it’s not a bad idea to invite them to the table. Their input about your campaign can aid in its effectiveness and possibly turn them into social evangelists. Creating a social media team of volunteers gives you the ability to amplify your message and assist you in your efforts. The Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative YBGLI Exit Disclaimer was made for and by young Black MSM. As a result, the Initiative is often called to provide input on campaigns and efforts for the Black MSM community. As the Communications Chair for YBGLI, I am continuously asking  my peers via social media for input about issues that matter to us most.
  6. Social media is a window without a screen. Having a presence on social media says to users you are open and receptive to candid conversations about your brand. Be open to comments and suggestions from your followers and have a plan to respond appropriately. Consider creating a social media crisis action plan to deal with difficult situations and posting of community guidelines. Having clear rules set for social users to adhere to lets them know what types of comments and discussions are acceptable or not.

Having your messages successfully reach your target audience, such as the Black MSM community, is an effective way to raise awareness and foster new connections. These tips can help your online engagement and should be considered when developing a social media presence.

How do you engage with the Black MSM community online? Do you have any tips for reaching your target audience?

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