Experimenting in the Social Media Lab at the CDC HIV Prevention Conference

Content From: Josie Halpern-Finnerty, Project Coordinator, AIDS.govPublished: August 31, 20092 min read


Last week we shared updates from the 2009 CDC HIV Prevention Conference. While at the conference, we had the opportunity to co-host a Social Media Lab with our CDC colleagues. The Lab was open throughout the conference, and participants were invited to come, sit down in front of a computer, and talk one-on-one or in small groups about using social media in response to HIV. Over 125 conference participants from community-based organizations, government agencies, national policy organizations, and academic research institutions sought out the Lab.

Some of the participants came to the Lab with a specific goal in mind, while others wanted a general overview of various new media tools and how they work. Among the many conference participants we spoke to were:

  • Staff from the New York City Department of Health about ways to use Twitter for an HIV testing mobilization campaign;
  • A provider from a teen mental health program thinking about using text messaging for substance abuse treatment adherence; and
  • A manager running an after-school HIV prevention program for teen girls interested in finding a way to build an online community among her participants while maintaining privacy.

One participant told us that the Lab helped her feel ready to start integrating various social media tools into the delivery of HIV prevention education. Another participant noted that receiving one-on-one technical assistance at the conference meant he could really think about getting started when he returned home. One participant who is the process of planning a large conference stopped by to ask us for ideas about replicating the Lab. We shared the New Media Strategy Map and have recently added to the blog’s new media resources) with participants as a tool to take home and use in their agency’s planning.

Hadiza Buge and Tanesha Tutt of the CDC were two of the trainers in the Lab. Tanesha told us that the most powerful part for her was “talking to people about social media—people in public health often don’t realize that social media can make their life easier.” Hadiza said, “the Lab was a great opportunity to learn about HIV prevention efforts across the country and help frame messaging using the latest Web 2.0 tools . . . and how we could teach others to enhance their communication efforts.”

For any of you who attended the Social Media Lab, we’d love to hear what you took away from it—have you or do you plan to put these skills to work? If so, how? If not, what would help support implementation of what you learned?