She walked in tentatively, and made her way to one of our tables. “Ok, you know about social media? Here’s my question: What on earth is Twitter for?”
It was the reason we had come.
Training is an important part of JSI’s services for clients. We do customized onsite training, webinars, and we created free online resources.
Another type of training that we have pioneered for AIDS.gov is a hands-on opportunity we call the “social media lounge,” a name that indicates this is a relaxed, non-threatening learning environment. And it is! Here we provide one-on-one support for people who want to know more about social media and as well as how to get started.
Similar to Project Listen, we recognize that when it comes to social media, many people are simply unfamiliar. It can seem overwhelming at first, and if they haven’t used it in their personal life, they often are not quite sure where to start. The lounge is a model for how we provide technical assistance; as with other new experiences, sometimes people just need safe place to ask questions.
Our first “New Media Lab” was in 2009 at the CDC HIV Prevention conference. This lab – the name was later changed to lounge to encourage a more relaxed feel – was staffed by AIDS.gov and CDC staff. Tables were set up with laptops where we demonstrated podcasts, Facebook, and Twitter (which was fairly new at the time). The lab was open throughout the conference for assistance with everything from signing up for a Twitter account to developing a social media strategy. The idea was to demystify and make the technology accessible. At that first conference, we had more than 100 people in three days. Since then we have hosted labs or lounges at several other conferences and meetings, including the US Conference on AIDS and the Annual Conference for the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.
When we are working in the lounges, we are most often setting people up on Twitter and launching them into Project Listen mode. Typically, depending on the visitor’s experience, we walk them through the technology, sign them up for accounts, explain how to plan a strategy and show them tools for evaluation. They walk away ready to start exploring, learning, and putting social media to use in their organizations. Others, however, are ready to take a deeper dive. In that case, we walk them through how to develop a strategy, put systems in place, and monitor and evaluate their efforts.
We are pleased with how these lounges have been received, and look forward to continuing them in the future. Next up will be coordinating a lounge at this year’s APHA conference in Boston. Hope to see you there!
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.