Project Listen: The gift you give yourself

“Social media is praised by experts for its promise to open up dialogue….social media is celebrated for giving a voice to the consumer and eyes and ears to companies for which to see and listen. The reality is that customers always had a voice. Social media amplifies and organizes that voice and packages it as a tremendous gift.”

– Brian Solis, a social media expert

This is one of my favorite quotes about social media. I love how Solis says that social media is a gift. In public health, we work with clients, patients, consumers, and providers from diverse backgrounds. Social media is a gift in that it allows us to listen to their voices. We just need use that gift.

As part of my work on, I provide training and technical assistance to AIDS service organizations across the country. Before jumping straight to potential social media tools, I often start by asking organizations to think about what it is they are hoping to accomplish with social media. For example, is it encouraging individuals to take an HIV test or adhere to their HIV medications? Or trying to reduce stigma around HIV? I also ask them, who are you trying to reach? It’s only after we’ve determined what we want to accomplish and who we want to reach that we can determine who we should be listening to.

That’s how Project Listen came about.

The concept behind Project Listen is to start by simply listening to the online conversation about your specific cause or area of interest. In the case of HIV, we’re interested in what people are saying online about things such as HIV testing, services, stigma, and medication adherence. We suggest that if someone isn’t already on Twitter (or another social media platform of their choice), they open an account and find a few people or organizations to start following. Then we recommend that people make a “listening plan.” Maybe the most someone can do is to log on for a few minutes a day. Listening can help you develop an understanding of what people are saying online.

Reading to start listening? Download our “Project Listen” worksheet and give yourself the gift of insight into your audiences.

This blog is published as part of a series on JSI’s work using social media to improve health behavior, reach specific populations, and even as a tool to promote corporate unity. Our staff tap into their public health expertise, and deep-set communications knowledge, to share the stories of the methods that work in social media.

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