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Getting Started With New Media

Understanding Your Audiences

To reach your audience(s) using new media, you first need to understand who they are -- their age range, ethnicity, education levels, etc.. Are they health care providers, educators, individuals with HIV, and/or people looking for basic HIV information? Consider including a question or two on your intake form, email list subscription, or other sign-up form to find out more about your audience(s). You can also conduct focus groups and ask questions during usability testing and on feedback forms.

Once you have an understanding of your audience(s), it can be helpful to create personas, or profiles of the types of people likely to use your new media tool or service. Some factors to consider:

  • Different people have varying levels of familiarity and comfort with technology.
  • People may come to your site seeking general information. Or, they may be an individual with HIV seeking a particular resource, or looking for support. They may be a service provider looking for a tool they can adopt, a solution to a particular problem they face, or to connect with other providers.
  • Returning or repeat users may have different needs, look for different information, and seek a different level of interaction or involvement than a first-time visitor.

Learning about your audiences is an ongoing process. Offer ways for users to provide feedback, contribute suggestions and share resources with others. Online feedback forms are an effective way to gather information. Finally, whenever you meet with members of your audiences, ask them if your new media tools serve their needs, and how you can make them better.

Defining Your Audiences' Needs

People access online information in different ways, at different times, and for different reasons. The best way to figure out your audience(s) needs is to ask them. You can ask them a few key questions such as:

  • What are your primary HIV needs? (prevention, testing, treatment, care, other?)
  • Tell us how our services help you? When do you turn to us?
  • What does our organization/agency do well?
  • What could our organization/agency do better or more of?
  • How do you use different new media tools in your daily life?
  • How could we use some of these tools to provide you with the HIV information you need?

The answers to these questions will help you understand how to define your audiences' needs. Then, you can explore how (or if) new media can help you meet those needs.

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to defining your audiences’ needs:

Web Accessibility: People with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities may have trouble accessing, understanding, and using your site and information unless you make your site "accessible". For more information, see HHS’ Section 508: Why Comply.

New vs. returning visitors: First time visitors may have different needs than returning or repeat visitors.

Attention is a precious resource: There is a lot of competition to get people’s attention. You want your messages to be compelling, engaging, immediately useful, and trustworthy.

Use the tools: New media can help to obtain audience feedback – such as comments on a blog. Some tools offer online polls and surveys. You can also learn what your audiences are looking for by studying web analytics.

Change happens: Audiences change. Needs change. Technologies change. Make sure you provide ongoing opportunities to hear from your users.

Developing a New Media Plan

Once you know who your audiences are and what they need, you are ready to develop a new media plan. There are different approaches you might consider.

At AIDS.gov, we have found Forrester Research's POST Method Exit Disclaimer to be a useful framework:

P = People. Who is your target audience? What tools are they using?
O = Objectives. Are you starting an application to listen to your customers, or to talk with them? To support them, or to energize your clients to share HIV prevention messages with others? Or are you trying to collaborate with them?
S = Strategy. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to increase HIV testing rates? Increase HIV awareness?
T = Technology. This might be a podcast, wiki, social networking site, or a blog. Once you've defined your people/audiences, your objectives, and strategy, then you can choose the most appropriate technology.

Our Communication Strategy Internal Working Plan explains how we use POST to inform our communication efforts.

Mapping Out Your New Media Strategy

We've also used We Are Media's "Social Media Strategy Map" Exit Disclaimer to think through core areas and questions such as:

  1. Target Audience: Who do you want to reach?
  2. Objective. What do you want to accomplish?
  3. Integration: How will your social media strategy support and enhance your existing online strategy (if you have one)?
  4. Culture Change: How will you get your organization to embrace your strategy?
  5. Capacity: Who will implement your strategy? Can you allocate a minimum of five hours per week to your strategy?
  6. Tools & Tactics: What tactics and tools best support your objectives and match your targeted audience? What tactics and tools do you have the capacity to implement?
  7. Measurement: What data points or metrics and qualitative data will you use to track your objectives? Do you have the systems and tools set up to track efficiently?
  8. Experiment: What can you implement first as a pilot?

While developing your new media strategy, there are several principles to keep in mind:

Create once, reuse often: technology allows us to reuse existing content in new ways. For example, you can summarize a conference presentation in a blog post, post it on your website, link to it your Facebook page make it available in an RSS feed, and reference it on Twitter. You can make it available as an audio podcast. Then upload the presentation to SlideShare Exit Disclaimer and use it as the basis for a live webinar. And, of course, you can make it available in print form.

Appropriate technology: Let your audience determine the best tools - avoid letting new technology drive your activities.

User-centered design: See things from the point of view of your users. Creating user personas can be helpful. When designing your new services, take this one step further and create scenarios for how your personas might interact with your new services.

Iterative design: Develop your new media tools in small steps. Let users experiment and provide feedback. As social media strategist Beth Kanter Exit Disclaimer recommends, "Strategize, then experiment. Learn, then reiterate. Listen, Learn, Adapt". Make sure you provide opportunities for users to give you feedback and suggestions.

Knowing if Your Strategy is Working

You understand your audiences and their needs, made a plan, and gotten it started. How do you know if it is working?

An important part of the process is defining clear measures of success. How you define“success” is unique to your organization, the particular project, and the specific tool used.

For some, success may be measured by increases in the number of appointments or medications remembered; for others, it may be an increase in community awareness about information such as sexual risk behavior and resources such as HIV testing centers.

If you're using new media for community-building and support - for example, a social network and support forum for individuals living with HIV and their families – success may be measured by how many people participate and contribute to the social network.

It is important to determine what you want to measure, and then measure consistently and continuously - and, as your new media services evolve, measure them again.

One of the best ways to evaluate your success is to ask your audiences. You can ask for comments on your blog, conduct online surveys, or issue invitations for focus groups on your Twitter feed. Use every opportunity of direct contact with members of your community to ask them:

  • Do they use your new media tool?
  • What does it do well?
  • What could it do better?

You can add some or all of these questions to intake forms, newsletters, follow-up questionnaires, in print as well as online.

Tools such as Google Analytics can be useful to track who is using your website/new media tools and how often. Applying the appropriate new media tools and technologies, to address an organizational, service or community need, can be very empowering. In addition to providing feedback to improve the use of new media in response to HIV, this feedback can help keep projects on track.

Where can I learn more?

Last revised: 06/07/2012