AIDS.gov’s Virtual Office Hours are free, personalized training sessions that help you use social media for your HIV programs and activities. These sessions also give us a chance to see some of the amazing social media outreach that our colleagues in the field are doing. This post is the first of a series highlighting their work.
To begin, we wanted to tell you about AVOL (AIDS Volunteers, Inc.) from Lexington, KY. As we talked with AVOL staff about strategic planning and cross-promoting content, Angel Clark, one of AVOL’s HIV-prevention specialists, mentioned a Pinterest board that she created and maintains. She told us that the board has been an effective outreach tool for the organization, and this piqued our curiosity! We spent some time talking with Angel about how she uses social media to support AVOL’s work; here is what she shared with us:
What inspired you to make an appointment for a session with Virtual Office Hours?
Before we heard about Virtual Office Hours, we had used a small amount of advertising money to place HIV testing ads on Facebook and a popular hookup site—but we hadn’t set up a system to see if our ad campaign was working. The analytics we got didn’t really tell us if more people took an HIV test because they saw our ads.
This led AVOL’s Prevention Team to mention to our program director, Tami Damron, that we wanted to be more effective with our online outreach to people at risk for STDs and HIV. Tami responded by sharing an email from AIDS.gov about learning digital strategies to improve HIV outreach. We wanted to join a Virtual Office Hours session so that we could get a better plan in place BEFORE spending money and time on online outreach. We had questions about what other organizations were doing and how we could measure our success. Our conversation with AIDS.gov is helping us build on our earlier advertising efforts.
Can you say a bit about what your work involves?
I’ve worked as a Prevention Specialist at AVOL for 6 years now, providing education, HIV counseling and testing services, and linkage to care. My other activities include working with women currently or recently incarcerated, teaching photography, and teaching beginner’s tech classes. My interests range from public art projects and helping to provide low-to-no income communities the opportunity to engage in the arts through written and visual expression, to educating people of all income levels about human rights issues and overall sexual health.
In what ways do you use new media in your work?
For me, the goal is to educate and empower as many people as possible in an efficient way. I use well-known sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share events, promotions, national Awareness Days, and statistical information and to connect people to other services. Pinterest, my favorite, is a great way to quickly gather and sort information by subject to make the information easier to find and re-share.
I use our Pinterest page as a visual resource guide for the community, other CBOs, clients, students, and interns. It’s a digital catalog of links, photos, and videos, making it easy for community members and colleagues to easily find a wide range of information in a single place and share it. I’ve curated information on general sexuality education, outreach strategies, research, prevention activities, and personal stories — I recently added the men from Positive Spin — that help breathe life into the statistics we all read.
I also help to educate our participants and clients on ways they can integrate technology in their daily lives for little to no cost, using services like Gmail and the free Google Phone option.
What keeps you personally inspired to keep doing this work?
Being able to merge my passion for artistic forms of communication with educating and empowering others keeps me inspired. It allows me to create stories and share information in ways that authentically connect with the people I serve through AVOL and other small community projects.
What advice would you give to others trying to figure out where new media might help with their work in HIV treatment and prevention?
Start with the most popular forms of new media. But don’t stop there! Research your primary target audience to learn about their preferred methods of communication, and then use those tools to reach out.
I know that the communities we serve respond to strong visuals, which is part of what drives our Pinterest use. Also, be creative with the budget you have, no matter how small it might be. Free is great, but paid services are worth investigating if they can make the work easier when you are short on staff and time. Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or similar tools may cost to use, but they let you schedule social media posts in advance, which I have found to be really useful.
Inspired and want to learn more about using social media to reach your audience? Set up some time for a free, one-on-one social media training session with us! Have an example of new media use you want to share? Leave a comment below!