National HIV Testing Day Twitter Town Hall Recap


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Susan Robinson, MS

Susan Robinson, MS, NCHHSTP

This year's National HIV Testing Day is now behind us, but what a whirlwind of events and activities! This year, we saw an unprecedented use of social media to get out the NHTD message, Take the Test. Take Control. One in particular was highlighted in the May 25th Blog: The NHTD Twitter Town Hall. It was a great success, thanks to key partners such as the National Association of People with AIDS Exit Disclaimer (NAPWA),, and the technical acumen of folks at CDC's National Prevention Information Network Exit Disclaimer (NPIN), who hosted the event. Being at "tweet central" for the town hall at the NPIN Atlanta office was enlightening!

@CDCNPIN Welcome to the 1st Twitter Town Hall to foster dialogue among those planning events/activities for Jun 27 #NHTD

Without further ado, here's what we learned:

1. Great partners are key to a successful Twitter Town Hall, because it is their network of followers that extend the reach of the event.

NPIN Welcome Tweet

Jessica Schindelar, CDC eHealth; Dr. Jonathan Mermin, DHAP; and Jennie Johnston, DHAP

Here's some data on Twitter Activity during the Town Hall:

  • There were approximately 1,005 tweets from 145 separate accounts using the #NHTD hashtag Exit Disclaimer
  • A number of influential followers — those with many followers on their networks —took part. Here's a few of the most influential (numbers as of 6/29/10):
  • We observed that people kept using the hash tag and continued tweeting as we neared the actual National HIV Testing Day. The potential reach of the Town Hall is estimated at approximately 243,479, which is the total number of followers for the 145 Town Hall participants.

2. When you promote a shared concern using social media, you reach an incredibly diverse set of groups and individuals who care. We're still sorting out all the different types of tweeters who participated, but for example, during our town hall, here's some of the prevention partners who were on the line:

  • Individuals active in HIV/AIDS, public health, social media: 49
  • Community-based organizations (CBOs): 35
  • Consumers: 25*
  • National groups/businesses: 16
  • Federal agencies & health departments: 15
  • Media: 5

*NOTE: "Consumers" is the category for participants who did not identify themselves as belonging to one of the partner categories.

3. Lots of different kinds of conversations occur in a Twitter Town Hall. Here's some of the themes we observed:

  • People talked about NHTD plans and promotions
@stacysmallwood last year we did a 'text-a-friend-to-test' day at church. set up laptops, food, invited ppl to text/facebook/tweet their friends #NHTD
  • Others shared facts and figures
@RocVictAlliance #NHTD In 2007, heterosexual contact accounted for 83% of diagnoses among women. Help end AIDS. Click:
  • Partners were able to connect, support, and build relationships. This is a tweet that was retweeted 10 times, resulting in a stream of good ideas and connections:
@1loveproject We need youth who are unafraid to talk about testing with their peers. Create a social norm around testing for young people #NHTD
@HelpEndHIV @1loveproject Would really like to get a YouTube star to vlog about HIV testing to reach young audiences. Has anyone tried this? #NHTD
@1loveproject Our pos youth want to create a msg 4 their peers. Can use voices not faces. Connect w/us if u want to collaborate #NHTD
@MetroTeenAIDS exactly our philosophy at MTA, @1loveproject! check ous out at & #NHTD

4. And finally, when your Twitter Town Hall is over, it isn't over … We observed that people kept using the hash tag, #NHTD, and continued tweeting as we neared the actual National HIV Testing Day (June 27)!

In closing, I have to say that doing a Twitter Town Hall is a blast! And as a community activity, it has all the elements that have long been touted as tenets of good social marketing: it is FUN, it is EASY, and for now, a POPULAR thing to do!

Thanks again to the team who produced the event and all who made it a success. It is our privilege to do this work.