“What’s your story?” Using social media to reach communities of color

Content From: Michelle Samplin-Salgado, Digital Media Director, AIDS.gov, and Pavni Guharoy, Communications Director, AIDS.govPublished: August 26, 20143 min read


conference cdc graphic
Health communicators from around the U.S. met last week to share and learn about evolving outreach strategies to connect with at-risk communities, to amplify the experiences of individuals coping with health issues, and to learn how to adapt health information to different social media channels. Storytelling was a central strategy discussed at the conference. This took place at the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media.

While HIV.gov has embraced the value of simple yet powerful storytelling across all of our social media channels, we were eager to learn from those at the conference about their social media experiences reaching communities of color. Not surprisingly, we heard from 12 conference participants that they are either using or learning about social media platforms to engage communities of color. Some tools seemed to yield greater engagement through personal narrative. Here are the stories we heard.
Social Media Strategies:
“My story is about using social media to change behaviors of young African American women to decrease their risk for HIV and STDs. Specifically, i’m developing a condom distribution intervention that incorporates 'point of sale messaging' where they are distributed on college campuses to encourage young women to carry, keep, and use condoms.” - Diane Francis, Ph.D., University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication

“The story about my work is that i’m figuring out how to use different social media channels to get communities of color better access to HIV products and services. I also want to learn how the private sector (for example, the music industry) uses social media to sell to their consumers and use those concepts to market the ideas of health and healthy living for HIV negatives and HIV positives.” - William Nazareth, Jr., Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, New York
“Our story is about using StorifyExit Disclaimer to share public health news. We just did one titled ‘5 threats to your health that are bigger than EbolaExit Disclaimer and it received more than 5,600 views and was widely re-tweeted.” -Michele Late, American Public Health Association.
“The story i’m telling lately is about a project i’m working on with HIV-positive men in San Diego. We identified leaders in the community, and are meeting with them regularly to provide them with HIV information and resources. Then, we are enabling them to ask questions and start conversations on Facebook using the hashtag #whynoExit Disclaimer. It’s had an amazing response from the community, with some posts getting upwards of 400 comments.” - Daniel Uhler, San Diego Department of Public Health, HIV/STD Division
Twitter chats allow our audiences to share their stories, especially when the chats are timed with a significant health observance. It lets people talk about their personal experiences about coping with an illness or helping a loved one cope. Our recent Twitter chats for Men’s Health Month (June) and Minority Mental Health Month (July) were successful by engaging with a range of partners, including media like Men's Health Magazine and celebrity advocates like Jason Collins. We were able to reach new audiences and provide a platform for people to talk about issues like stigma. We received an outpouring of wonderful personal stories about their challenges about coping and living. Twitter is a great platform for us to communicate directly, share resources and stay connected.” - Richard Washington and Jacki Flowers, HHS Office of Minority Health Resource Center

“My story is that we are using Twitter chats to improve patient - physician direct engagement. On the chat, patients are asking their doctors more broad, long-term health related questions like how to compare which multi-vitamin is best for them. They tend to ask long-term health-related questions that they would not have time for during a short in-person consultation that is usually focussed around a specific health problem.” - Carrie Clyne, Physicians Committee for Responsible MedicineAre you connecting with your social networks to hear stories about others who may be like you? How are you reaching communities of color around health topics? We all have a story. What’s yours?