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March 2008

March 25, 2008


Conference Highlights How to Use New Media Tools

Last week, our Communications Director and New Media Strategist joined over 1,200 people from across the U.S. (and beyond) in New Orleans to talk about using new media to create social change and to share best practices. The occasion was the 2008 Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Exit Disclaimer conference, "Building Community: Connections Around the Globe and Around the Corner."

Although there were not any specific presentations on using new media in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we learned some important lessons about using and assessing new media tools that can help almost any HIV/AIDS program.

The following were some of the major themes of the conference:

Determine your audience's needs, then pick the appropriate technology. It's easy to get excited about the newest technology, but John Kenyon Exit Disclaimer, nonprofit technology specialist, warned us, "Never start with the tools. Start with your needs."

"Never start with the tools. Start with your needs."

Katya Andresen Exit Disclaimer from Network for Good Exit Disclaimer and Mark Rovner from Sea Change Strategies Exit Disclaimer talked about the human needs to consider when choosing the most appropriate new media tools for your work. Research shows that, to capture your audience, you must address people's needs to:

  1. Be seen and heard
  2. Be connected to someone or something
  3. Be part of something greater than themselves
  4. Have hope for the future
  5. Have the security of trust
  6. Be of service
  7. Want happiness for themselves and others

Experimenting is important, but have a plan. Choose your technology wisely! Beth Kanter Exit Disclaimer recommends, "Strategize, then experiment. Learn, then reiterate." Madeline Stanionis from Watershed Exit Disclaimer talked about the importance of "stopping the silos" within an organization and encouraging different groups (Internet folks, marketing people, program folks, grassroots organizers), to plan collaboratively.

There are ways to measure the return on investment (ROI) of new media. Abby Sandlin Exit Disclaimer of Charity Dynamics Exit Disclaimer suggested that organizations start by defining the internal (organization-specific) value of using new media tools, such as blogs and social networks. This gets back to your strategy--and why your organization wants to use new media. Are you trying to raise awareness? Increase transparency? Engage your audiences/clients? Beth presented Forrester Research's Exit Disclaimer framework that allows companies to track and measure the ROI of blogs Exit Disclaimer. Justin Perkins from Care2 showcased an ROI calculator for social networks Exit Disclaimer.

Social media tools take time. We were impressed by how many organizations have dedicated time and resources to making this happen. Carrie Lewis from the Humane Society of the United States Exit Disclaimer and Danielle Brigida from the National Wildlife Federation Exit Disclaimer both focus their time on implementing and evaluating new media at their organizations. At the American Red Cross Exit Disclaimer, Wendy Harman monitors blogs and other online conversations on a daily basis to see what people are saying about the American Red Cross. She also spends much of her day joining these conversations (when appropriate) to let people know the American Red Cross hears their concerns. Wendy documents these conversations and reports back to her colleagues to help inform their work.

New media is about relationships. Beth Kanter Exit Disclaimer emphasized that new media is about relationships and reciprocity. We've experienced this at AIDS.gov. We've reached out to our Facebook Exit Disclaimer and MySpace Exit Disclaimer friends over the last few weeks for this blog. We've connected with new collegues who have helped guide the development of our last blog post. They reminded us that new media tools are, "a new way to do old business." When it comes to the epidemic, it's about reaching people and developing relationships in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

These conference themes were not HIV/AIDS-specific, but they are key factors to think about when assessing if and how your HIV/AIDS program should be using new media tools.

Next week, we will continue to discuss social networks.

March 20, 2008


National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 20 is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) are ranked third in the nation in the rate of AIDS diagnosis compared to all other races and ethnicities.

The National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC)Exit Disclaimer, Colorado State University's Center for Applied Studies in American Ethnicity (CASAE)Exit Disclaimer, and Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (ITCA) Exit Disclaimer organize and implement the Day.

To learn more about this day, please visit the IHS HIV Program website.

To locate a testing site near you, please visit www.hivtest.org.

March 18, 2008


Face Time with Facebook

This week, we're continuing our series about social networking sites Exit Disclaimer. Today we're focusing on Facebook Exit Disclaimer.

To learn more about how we might use Facebook in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we spoke to Shaun Whybark from the Columbus AIDS Task Force Exit Disclaimer, and Dmitriy Kruglyak from TrustedMD Exit Disclaimer.

What is Facebook?
Facebook, like most social networking sites, allows users to create online profiles (including photos, information about themselves, etc.) and then connect to other people with similar interests and experiences. Mark Zuckerberg Exit Disclaimer developed Facebook in 2004, while he was a student at Harvard. He saw Facebook as a way for students to connect with each other. In 2006, he decided to open up registration so that anyone could join. Facebook is now the second-most popular social networking site (after MySpace Exit Disclaimer) in the U.S., with over 28 million monthly visitors, and its popularity is growing. The site's monthly traffic has increased 77% since last year.

How is Facebook similar to (and different from) other social networking sites?
Most often, people compare Facebook to MySpace. On both sites, users can create profiles, upload photos, share information, and send messages. There are several features that set Facebook apart, however. One is that Facebook limits how people can customize and change the appearance of their profiles. This means that Facebook profiles are more standardized, but may lack the personalization offered by other sites.

Facebook also has many other features (with more being added), such as:

  • News Feeds are updates about your friends' activities on Facebook. Whenever someone posts a photo, makes a new Facebook friend, or uploads a like, all their friends receive that information on their news feed. For example, when AIDS.gov uploads a new podcast to our Facebook page, all our friends are notified with a link to our Facebook profile.
  • Status updates are used so people can let their friends know what they are thinking, doing, or feeling. Like any other activity, it is automatically updated in friends' news feeds. Shaun keeps his Facebook friends engaged by changing his status daily. When we looked at his status, it read, "Wants to remind everyone that you can get tested Tuesday from 3:30-7:30pm Tuesday and 10am-2pm on Wednesday! By appt Monday/Thursday. Get tested! Know your status!"
  • Groups are a key organizing tool for organizations, shared interest groups, grass-roots campaigns, and causes. Groups can be completely private: they do not appear in searches, their news feeds are not shared with non-members, and their pages cannot be seen by anyone not explicitly invited to the group. Messaging on Facebook is quite sophisticated, and groups use it as an organizing tool and as an alternative to mass-mailings. We recently found over 500 AIDS-related groups, many of which are for special events and fundraising walks.
  • Applications are mini-programs that people can use on their Facebook profiles. Since May 2007, when Facebook announced "Facebook Platform," which allows developers to create applications for Facebook, over 18,000 have been built, and 140 new applications are added each day Exit Disclaimer. Several applications are HIV/AIDS-specific, such as an application that allows you to add a red ribbon to your profile, or (Product) RED's Exit Disclaimer "Card for Africa" to raise awareness about AIDS in Africa. It doesn't end there, however. Earlier this year, Facebook announced that, in addition to being able to create an application specifically for Facebook profiles, the applications can now be easily embedded into other websites. Dmitriy told us, "What makes Facebook different is the ability to create your own applications that members can install on their profiles and spread to their friends. MySpace is catching up, though."
  • Causes were developed by Project Agape Exit Disclaimer to allow networks of firiends to promote fundraising campaigns for a particular cause. You can raise awareness while raising money!
  • Pages are different from individual profiles. Businesses or organizations can create Facebook pages, and individuals can express support for the work an organization does by adding themselves as a "fan" of that page. Pages are great for nonprofit organizations--you can send regular updates to your fans, and--just like Facebook individual profile pages--you can add applications and engage users with blogs, videos, reviews, events, messages, and more.

Facebook and HIV/AIDS
When we asked Shaun if he thought AIDS service organization should use Facebook, he told us, "Where are young people going to get your information if you're not on Facebook or MySpace?" He continued, "We needed a way to get events, awareness, and testing hours to that population. What better way to do that than online outreach?!"

At AIDS.gov, our Facebook page Exit Disclaimer helps us connect with HIV/AIDS service providers and their programs. We also use Facebook to highlight HIV/AIDS Awareness Days and our AIDS.gov program, including this blog. Our goal is to expand our community and share information about Federal HIV/AIDS resources. We are just beginning to learn if Facebook and other social network sites can help us meet those goals.

Should you be on Facebook? That depends on your own organization's goals and resources. Setting up a profile, page, or group doesn't require any technical expertise. While there are many benefits--like reaching a broader audience online--as with any social media efforts, it takes time and resources to really engage your audiences. You have to be prepared and able to update your profile often.

A Note of Caution
As we mentioned last week, it is important to remember that social network sites are public. While Facebook has different privacy settings, remember to be mindful about the information you post to your profile. [added 3.18.08: Facebook just introduced privacy updates Exit Disclaimer that will provide users with more control over the information they choose to share].

Getting Started
To learn more about getting started on Facebook, here are some resources:

Next week we'll report back from the Nonprofit and Technology Conference Exit Disclaimer in New Orleans, LA. Then we'll continue our social networking series with a focus on smaller, niche social networking sites.

March 11, 2008


Should MySpace be Your Space?

This week's post is the first of a series that will focus on social networking sites Exit Disclaimer (SNS). We'll begin with MySpace Exit Disclaimer.

What are Social Networking Sites?
SNSs are online communities that give you opportunities to connect with, or provide resources to, clients, colleagues, family and friends who share common interests. When you join an SNS, you usually start by creating a profile that describes you or your organization, and then invite people to join you as "friends" in your network. Most SNSs are free, and they range from general networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, to ones that are tailored for a specific demographic or interest area. With over 66 million monthly users Exit Disclaimer, MySpace is the most popular social networking site in the U.S. Like many SNSs, it allows you to upload videos, photos, create a blog, post events, join groups, and send messages to other MySpace users.

Many HIV/AIDS organizations are already using social networking sites as a tool (or assessing if they should). Our AIDS.gov team uses MySpace and Facebook to help us connect to our users, and soon we will be adding Daily Strength Exit Disclaimer.

To learn how HIV/AIDS organizations are using SNS, we contacted several organizations that are successfully using MySpace to reach their clients. We spoke with Mark Clark and Joey Torres from New Mexico AIDS Services (NMAS) Exit Disclaimer, John Saderlund from Northern Nevada Hopes (NNH), Exit Disclaimer and Vivian Berryhill from the National Coalition of Pastors' Spouses (NCPS) Exit Disclaimer.

Several themes emerged from our conversations:

MySpace is a way to reach young (and not-so-young) audiences. After finding many old friends with his personal MySpace account, John decided to start one for the NNH community. "Our MySpace page is one more way we reach people with HIV testing information. Since MySpace users tend to be younger, it enables us to reach specific and key target audiences," John said.

Joey from NMAS also uses MySpace to reach their younger demographic. "For young people, MySpace is today's e-mail; it's relevant and popular." He estimates that their MySpace page reaches over 200 people a month. Joey also told us, "For this generation, social networking is so common…it's something that we would do anyway."

"For young people, MySpace is today's e-mail."

While MySpace is an effective way to reach young people, 36 percent of MySpace users are between the ages of 35 and 54, so it can be an effective tool to reach older audiences as well.

MySpace is fast and can be cost-effective. Mark from NMAS told us, "MySpace saves time. It's a free service and we avoid having to incur additional IT costs." Because SNS is where their target population spends its free time, the local health department gave NMAS permission to incorporate social networking into its regular outreach activities.

At NMAS, outreach coordinators use MySpace to create a social support network that is vibrant and active 24/7, allowing them to interface continuously with their clients and to promote HIV testing and care services. The coordinators realized that, by the simple and cost-effective posting of photos from their events, and by responding to online requests, NMAS keeps clients in an ongoing dialogue.

NMAS also uses MySpace to regularly connect with 20 to 30 young people who, in addition to communicating online, also get together for regular educational and social events. These events provide social support and opportunities to disseminate information about key issues. This has increased outreach program effectiveness and reduced labor hours.

Should Your Organization be on MySpace?
While there are many benefits to MySpace, it isn't for everyone. Even though the service is free, it takes time and resources to keep it current and to monitor friend requests. John remarked, "I don't always have the time to update our MySpace page as much as I should. However, for NNH, our clients still find MySpace helpful."

As with all new media tools, it is important to have a strategy. NCPS just launched their MySpace page in January 2008, after several young people requested they create a MySpace page to share important HIV/AIDS information. Vivian explained, "We want young people to understand fully that our MySpace page is not just about collecting friends and sharing photos, but to really share HIV/AIDS information." The NCPS effort is still in its trial phase. They have developed standards and will evaluate the program's success after 90 days.

For NNH, MySpace is more than a tool for reaching their current clients; it is also an opportunity for professional networking. (That's how AIDS.gov found NNH!) They have also found that MySpace users use the site for referrals when a friend or client is moving to the northern Nevada region. When asked if HIV/AIDS service organizations should be on MySpace, John replied, "Definitely! It's one more tool to reach people with important HIV information."

If you decide that MySpace could work for your organization, TechSoup has an article titled How to Use MySpace to Raise Awareness Exit Disclaimer that provides suggestions to increase your chances of using the SNS successfully.

A Word of Caution
While social networking sites like MySpace can be an effective way to communicate with your audiences, keep in mind that the information posted on MySpace is public. Think twice before posting personal data. For more information for socializing safely online, refer to the Federal Trade Commission's safety tips for tweens and teens and MySpace's safety tips Exit Disclaimer.

It is very important, noted Vivian, that their MySpace page "reflects the integrity and moral level of any pastor's spouse." People need to seek approval from their pastor to become a friend of NCPS. As an alternative, people can contribute to the blog to share their stories. They currently have 79 friends, and according to Vivian, "we could have more, but we're very picky."

Are you on MySpace? If so, we'd love to hear how it has helped you and/or your organization!

Stay tuned next week when we discuss Facebook Exit Disclaimer.

March 10, 2008


National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today, March 10, is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

What you can do:

  • get tested for HIV - find a testing center near you by visiting www.hivtest.org or by texting your zip code to KNOWIT (566948)
  • practice safe methods to prevent HIV
  • decide not to engage in high-risk behaviors
  • talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues
  • provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS
  • get involved with - or host - an event for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in your community

At AIDS.gov, our podcast this month is with Dr. Wanda Jones, Director of the Office on Women's Health.

Are you using new media to reach women and girls? If so, we'd love to hear about it! We may even feature your story in an upcoming blog post!

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