Editor’s Note: At HIV.gov, our team calls include a weekly update on digital trends. These updates allow us to stay current and inform our work. We recently asked HIV.gov’s former digital strategist to suggest ways our HIV partners can stay up to date with social media trends.
Social media moves fast. It can feel like there is a new tool or feature to learn every day. While it can seem overwhelming, there are approaches, tips, and systems you can put in place to help manage the constant deluge of information. Social media platforms offer dynamic spaces with tremendous potential to reach people and to share content in new and exciting ways. Here are ways I stay current with changes in social media trends:
Accept that this is a journey and stay curious. Social media and technology are constantly changing. That’s part of the fun! As they evolve, some things stick (think Facebook and its 1.3 billion daily users) and others don’t (like MySpace). Learn to be comfortable with change and accept that there will always be something new. Adopt the mindset that learning about social media is a journey—not a destination—and enjoy the ride!
Find (and follow) your thought leaders. Because technology moves fast, it’s helpful to find individuals, organizations, and companies that you can learn from. Subscribe to blogs, listen to podcasts, and/or join a listserv or email newsletter. For example, every Sunday—like clockwork—I receive Mike Kruger’s “Items Worth Reading on Social Media”. He highlights current trends with a specific emphasis on government (check it out for yourself). Another good place to find thought leaders is on Twitter chats. Check out the Health Communications and Social Media chat, which started in 2009 and is still going strong. (It’s live on Sundays at 8:00 p.m., Central Time.)
Follow, Listen, Look. I always suggest that people start with a “listening project” where you identify and follow organizations, individuals, and businesses that are working toward similar goals. This type of focused listening may help you identify approaches and strategies you can use (or want to avoid).
Set aside time. Once you’ve followed thought leaders and influencers, and subscribed to blogs, podcasts, and alerts, you have to face facts. You can’t possibly read everything, so let that dream go and set aside time to consume the content you’ve chosen. But remember—it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Even if it’s 15 minutes a day, commit to it, and you’ll quickly notice how much you learn on a daily and weekly basis!
Get schooled. If you’re already doing the above but want to do more, you can consider more formal learning opportunities. There are conferences and webinars (many of which are listed on the HIV.gov learning opportunities page) where you can connect with other people who are more than happy to share what they know. In addition, HIV.gov’s Virtual Office Hours is a great resource where you can sign up to chat with someone from the program's social media team and expand your skills.
Focus on trends. Last, but certainly not least, remember to take it easy on yourself. It’s nearly impossible to stay on top of every new feature and tool. What’s more important is to identify the trends and what they mean for you and your organization. For example, we continue to learn about video from sites like Snapchat and Facebook, which taught us the effectiveness of live videos and demonstrated the popularity of “ephemeral content.” You won’t be able to slow down the rate of information when it comes to social media and technology. What you can do is adopt systems to help you locate, consume, and integrate that information into your work.