Connect. Communicate. SHARE.
The Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Regional Exchange (SHARE) was first developed in 2011 to address the need for a free, user-friendly space for online knowledge sharing of locally-relevant HIV and AIDS information. Since its inception, SHARE has connected thousands of people to resources, peers, organizations, online learning, and tools for collaboration. Almost daily, SHARE posts new content to its social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter to further amplify what the platform has to offer. SHARE’s experiences have led to a new wealth of knowledge on what it takes to lead a successful social media strategy. Presented here are a few tips based on what has worked for us:
Determine your audience base
Who are you trying to reach, exactly? Make it a priority to learn about the populations you aim to serve, engage with them, and align your online outreach strategies and service options to meet their needs and preferences. Understanding your audience will ultimately help you reach them and engage with them on social media. Consider factors such as the geographic region, nationality, gender, age, job, and interests of your intended audience. Once you narrow these down, you will be better able to determine the types of online markers or proxy that will help identify them.
Focus on the right platform
Facebook is – by far – the most popular and most utilized social media platform for people living in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of this, the majority of SHARE’s social media strategy is focused on this platform. However, this may not be true for all programs or geographic targets. It is crucial to know your audience, and know them well. If you do not find the right map before embarking on a social media journey, it may not lead you to your intended audience.
Spend some time thinking about your goals
This may seem obvious, but often projects or programs launch social media accounts with no specific objective in place. In 2019, it is trendy to be on social media no matter where you are located. But choosing to have an account on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube just for the sake of having a profile is not helpful, nor time efficient. Do you want your audience to visit your website or subscribe to your newsletter? Do you want your audience to learn something new, take up a new cause, or perhaps change a harmful behavior? Have a concrete goal or multiple goals written down and spend some time refining your message.
Experiment with ads before investing heavily
Differing levels of investment in social media advertising allow you to pilot small test campaigns and analyze results before either scaling them up or making changes. Do not be afraid to experiment with unique messaging styles or tweak audience identifiers. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will equip you with the tools you need to successfully reach those you are seeking.
Social media can be an incredibly useful tool, but it is crucial to think about it strategically in order to extract its greatest benefits. Creating a social media plan can be a daunting task, but it’s long overdue for many development and health sectors. We can start by building our skills and experience in using online platforms, learning from and engaging with our target audiences, and implementing in a flexible manner that allows for quick learning and course correction. Be adaptable and flexible and always be on the look-out for new and innovative ways to improve the health well-being of others.
See the presentation we gave at the 2019 South African AIDS Conference (SA AIDS 2019) on the innovative use of technology through our online platform and social media here.