Social media has moved to the epicenter of social change. Personally, I have used multiple platforms to spread awareness, perform outreach, and engage others in challenging conversation. I wanted to know more about how other millennials are using social media, so I interviewed Ronnie McCrea during the 2016 NAESM (National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities) conference last month. Ronnie is the Social Media Coordinator for NAESM, and he also served as a USCA Social Media Fellow for 2015. Currently, NAESM has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and is looking into ways to implement SnapChat.
Kahlib: Ronnie, how has your approach to the NAESM conference and to the organization been influenced by your USCA Social Media Fellowship?
Ronnie: I have been able to see how people use social media in different ways. Typically I only used social media for personal growth and networking, but the USCA Social Media Fellowship taught me to consider my audience when representing my organization. In addition, I learned how social media can be used to directly impact multiple demographics simultaneously if the messaging is done well.
Kahlib: How have you used new/social media to extend the reach/visibility of NAESM and the conference?
Ronnie: Prior to the conference, FaceBook launched the “live feed” feature, which allows individuals or organizations to stream video directly to followers (much like Periscope, Meerkat, or UStream). We decided to take advantage of that video-streaming feature to share our condom-packing party, which generated a lot of impressions. It was a fun activity that resulted in us recruiting more onsite volunteers to pack safer sex kits. The live stream also allowed individuals who could not attend the conference to be a part of the process.
Kahlib: What new media skills have you learned from the NAESM conference and/or USCA?
Ronnie: There are three main takeaways that I gained from both conferences. The first thing was management. Through visiting the social media lab during USCA 2015, I learned the importance of posting engaging materials during peak hours. Prior to this, I did a lot of random postings, sometimes pretty late at night. Now I understand that those particular postings generated few impressions because I wasn’t posting them when my followers were most likely to be on social media. I also learned how to effectively use hashtags. Being sure to use the right number of hashtags to increase engagement with a post (while not overwhelming your followers) is important.
Lastly, I learned how to develop and use effective graphics and how to maximize the use of each graphic. We now include our social channels on all our materials, including our safer sex kits.
Kahlib: Can you provide insight into NAESM’s social media strategy development, including conference communication?
Ronnie: We wanted to engage individuals who were not able to attend the conference, as well as create relationships with those who were. We had to get the conversation started first, so we engaged others prior to the conference by using the hashtag #NAESM2016 on our social media platforms (FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram). We also created a conference app that featured information about conference sponsors and provided a detailed agenda to attendees.
In the future, we hope to provide conference pre- and post- assessments through the app, so attendees can provide feedback. This is important because we use assessments to gauge engagement, experience, demographics, and future conference locations.
Kahlib: How did everyone respond to the selfie sticks that were included in the conference bags?
Ronnie: The selfie sticks actually created a lot of intergenerational conversation because the older individuals were asking the younger ones how to use it! Also, many people were posting their pictures with the selfie stick using the hashtag #NAESM2016.
We appreciated Ronnie’s insights about using social media. If you want to learn more about how to use social media effectively for your work, AIDS.gov’s Virtual Office Hours program provides free social media technical assistance for the HIV community. Sign up for an appointment today!