Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series of reflective posts about social media use in support of messages for the national health observances.
April 10, 2014 marked the second annual National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), a day of action to put young people at the center of the conversation around HIV in our country, highlighting both the impact of HIV & AIDS on young people and their role in responding to the epidemic. Today we reflect on the use of Twitter, Facebook and infographics around NYHAAD.
Meeting Young People Where They Are
In preparation for NYHAAD, Advocates for Youth recognized that efforts had to be driven by young people, and recruited 17 Youth Ambassadors across the country to share their stories, illustrating the impact of HIV on young people and the barriers they face in seeking the information, testing, and treatment they need. The work of the Ambassadors exceeded our expectations, and their action resulted in blog posts, events nationwide, and proclamations of NYHAAD by the mayors of Gainesville, Florida, and Seattle, Washington.
Over the years, Advocates for Youth has learned that you have to meet young people where they are, and social media is an invaluable tool in reaching young people and elevating youth activism. Wesley Eugene Dixon, a NYHAAD Youth Ambassador and student at Yale University explained that “new forms of media empower young people to insert their voices in conversations that they have historically been left out of.”
Social Media Tools for NYHAAD
Advocates for Youth also utilized the official hashtag- #NYHAAD on Facebook and Twitter to ensure coordination between activism nationwide. Using a hashtag tracking tool called TweetReach , Advocates for Youth measured the reach of the hashtag and learned that it reached over 9 million people on April 10th alone, and over 13 million throughout April 2014. The campaign toolkit was another invaluable tool in enabling youth activists to join the movement wherever they were. The toolkit ensured that activists nationwide stood as unified front with shared messages and included sample tweets, infographics and more. “It takes the online village to build success and capacity in our messaging and movements towards youth executing control over their sexual health and to thwart new HIV infections.” explained Edric Figueroa, a NYHAAD Youth Ambassador from Seattle, Washington.
In addition to Facebook and Twitter posts, we designed several infographics to highlight the key messages of NYHAAD and the unique ways youth are impacted by HIV. These infographics reached nearly 36,000 people and were shared over 600 times. “We’re able to listen, learn, and ask questions about the state of youth HIV activism in a way that is unfathomable in a world without pervasive use of social media,” says Dixon, who coordinated a panel of young people for a Huffington Post Live segment, which he felt “demonstrates the ways in which youth work to curate conversations about issues that matter to them.”
Young people use social media to share their beliefs and values, to communicate and argue with and to support one another, to follow current events, and to organize. How are you using social media to reach, engage, and empower young people?