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Learning Social Media Basics to improve #ACA outreach

hashtagThe Partner Relations Group (PRG), in the Office of Communications at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), helps to communicate messages with national partners on a variety of CMS initiatives, including the Health Insurance Marketplace.

At the end of open enrollment for 2015, 11.7 million Exit Disclaimer people had signed up for health care coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Social media played a key role in introducing millions of people to the Health Insurance Marketplace and available health insurance options. CMS has leveraged Twitter hashtags #GetCovered Exit Disclaimer and #YoungInvincibles Exit Disclaimer to reach a wide audience with targeted messages about enrollment, coverage benefits, deadlines and personal stories.

The Role of Social Media

Social media has become a common method of communication among our diverse partners as they share information with their networks. Our group often acts as an intermediary by gathering social media content from experts and forwarding relevant content to our partners, who share the messages through their social media channels.

It is important to be able to “speak” the social media language with partners who are well-versed in it, while also being able to explain terminology like “hashtagsExit Disclaimer for partners who may not have as strong a social media presence, but who want to learn more.

Getting Started

We asked AIDS.gov to give us an introduction to social media. The training helped us gain a basic understanding of the most popular social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We learned how we can improve our existing social media efforts by understanding terms, like “re-tweeting Exit Disclaimer,” as well as tools to create URL shortcuts. We also learned about how different audiences interact with each social media platform, to understand which platforms would most appeal to our target audience. For example, we learned that the audience currently on Facebook has a much wider age range, while Instagram currently caters to a younger audience.

One of the participants shared some feedback with us: “Earlier this year, I participated in a Social Media 101 workshop conducted by AIDS.gov. Communication channels are changing dramatically (since I was in college nearly 40 years ago!), and it is imperative for anyone with an education and outreach role to know about the different platforms for unique social messaging. Apart from that, the workshop was a blast and presented multiple new communication channels/methods to bring our mission to the public.”

Lessons Learned

Here are some takeaways from our Social Media 101 training with AIDS.gov:

  • Learn a few simple essentials about some of the main social media platforms.  Doing so helps you to stay in the loop about how information is being communicated, can help you recognize when social media is the best way to share your content, and which platforms are most relevant.
  • Don’t be ashamed to ask questions—we all start somewhere. Several of us asked questions that seemed “basic” but then realized that others also benefitted from the response!
  • You don’t have to be the one “tweeting” or “gramming”—but understanding Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms helped us to complete the broader communications picture we work towards.

The training gave us better understanding of various social media channels and provided answers to our questions.

Are you new to social media? AIDS.gov provides free, social media technical assistance service during weekly Virtual Office Hours. Remember, we all have to start somewhere!