Being Social at the U.S Conference on AIDS, #USCA2014

Content From: Yumna Bahgat, New Media Coordinator,, and Pavni Guharoy, Communications Director, AIDS.govPublished: October 07, 20144 min read


unnamed (7)
Hosted by the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC)Exit Disclaimer, the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) is the largest national gathering of HIV advocates, healthcare providers, and people living with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS. As in prior years, USCA presented with an opportunity to provide social media assistance to individual advocates, attendees from community organizations, and leaders in the HIV community—helping them to amplify their voices by strengthening their use of social media tools.
NMAC Youth Scholar Workshop: Engaging the Millennials offered a pre-conference workshop entitled “Utilizing Social Media” during the NMAC Youth Scholar orientation on Wednesday, October 1. It was a rare opportunity to hear from over 20 Youth Scholars who are working as community advocates at local HIV organizations, or who are self-made local advocates working to mobilize communities across the nation through their personal networks.
The Youth Scholars span a wide range of social media capabilities; some are contemplating starting to use social media, while some are advanced bloggers, including Patrick Ingram who represents PozLife and is also an Black Voices blogger. To assess the wide range of social media skills among the Scholars, we opened the 90-minute interactive workshop with a discussion about each Scholar’s current social media capabilities. We talked about their personal experiences with using social media, their processes for determining which tools are best, and their struggles with staying connected with hard-to-reach, at-risk populations facing immense stigma and social isolation. We also explored the resources each of them currently has to spend on social media outreach. We then moved on to the “8 Tips for Using Twitter”— best practices that can be applied universally to any kind of outreach.

The session closed with a discussion on how they can plan their social media strategy by using the POST (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology) assessment, a planning tool that is especially useful for implementing communications and social media strategies with limited resources. All of the Scholars are deeply committed to using their voices for HIV advocacy and were appreciative of this in-person brainstorming session. Social Media Lab: Free, In-person, 20-minute tutorials
unnamed (6)
The Social Media Lab at USCA 2014 was a one-stop shop for conference attendees who recognized the need to engage with their communities via online tools—but who wanted some assistance with getting started on social media, improving their current outreach, or measuring their social media engagement.

Over three days, lab staff offered 20-minute tutorials for conference attendees to learn and share their experiences about using social media to extend their online community outreach and organizational presence. A representative from an organization who had never used social media before asked about how to set up a Twitter account and send out their first tweet. Other attendees asked about how to integrate their existing suite of social media outlets to maximize their follower engagement.

Individuals faced two types of social media challenges. The first was to determine whether social media was the right way to reach their audiences and which tool would be the best fit. The second was how to increase online engagement from communities that are highly stigmatized and may not want to be publicly associated with an HIV-related Facebook page.

Here are some tools representatives from a few organizations learned at the USCA 2014 Social Media Lab:
  • Charisse Ahmed, from the Minority AIDS Program-Alachua County Health Department, came to get some advice on how she could get started using new media, how she could manage social media accounts for HIV advocacy, and how she could use social media to promote services that her organization offers. At the lab she learned about different social media management tools that uses (e.g., SproutSocial), and she discovered that, with proper planning, she can schedule her social media posts.
  • Shanika Cornelius, of the Ryan White HIV Planning Council, wanted to learn how she could get started using new media. We chatted about how she could log into her Twitter account and send her first tweet by using the conference hashtag #USCA2014Exit Disclaimer to bring more visibility to her account.
  • Bessie Lopez, from the Puerto Rico Department of Health, came to the lab to talk about increasing Facebook and Twitter engagement. She learned how she could use the POST (People-Objectives-Strategy-Technology) assessment to develop a social media strategy for her organization’s outreach and how she could plan more effectively, even with limited resources.
  • Dorothy Clinton, from Newark Community Health Centers, Inc., was interested in how her organization could link people to testing through new media. We showed her how she could use the Locator widget to promote local testing sites.
  • Sara Hamilton, from Funders Concerned About AIDS, wanted to sharpen her new media skills at the lab. We gave her advice on setting goals and monitoring her social media activities by using Twitter analytics. We also looked at the importance of strategic planning for new media, including the importance of creating editorial calendars. Social Media Coverage of #USCA2014
If you weren’t at USCA, but want to learn more about social media and how you can use it to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, please visit the New Media pagesFacebookInstagramExit Blog