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Augustina Howe, blog dot AIDS dot gov: How the Administration on Aging Embraced Social Media through Facebook

How the Administration on Aging Embraced Social Media through Facebook
by Augustina Howe, M.A., Web Content Manager, Administration on Aging, Office of Outreach and Consumer Information, November 8, 2011

In 2009, Facebook’s popularity was escalating and we started to believe that we were missing an important communications opportunity if we didn’t develop an Administration on Aging (AoA) Facebook page.  Before we started planning AoA’s Facebook page Exit Disclaimer, we needed to ask and answer some questions. Who would be our audience and how would they respond? What information did we want to present?  How would we keep it fresh and current?  Who in our organization would be responsible for updating the page? We wondered, how many people would fan (or now, “like”) AoA’s Facebook page?  And how could we promote the page after it was launched?  We knew that the first step was to develop a plan.

Our target audiences include older adults and their caregivers, aging professionals, and anyone with an interest in healthy aging and the rights of older people.  Aging professionals vary in age from people in their twenties to people who are fifty and older. According to Exit Disclaimer , in 2010 the largest age group on Facebook was 18-34 year olds. This is also true for 2011. However, when we did further research on Facebook demographics, we learned that baby boomers and adults over 55 were the fastest growing users of Facebook. A report by iStrategy Labs Exit Disclaimer , an interactive marketing company, stated that the fastest growing age group in 2009 was people aged 55 plus. Another report entitled “Boomers and Technology: An Extended Conversation” Exit Disclaimer noted that baby boomers were the fastest growing age segment on social networking sites.

Once we determined that we could reach our target audiences on Facebook, we developed a Facebook launch plan. We found resources on The HHS Center for New Media very helpful. Their one-page guide,  “Social Media Considerations: Where to Start Before Jumping In” (PDF) gave us a listing of important issues to consider for our Facebook plan such as deciding what we wanted to accomplish and how we wanted to integrate social media into our current communications plan. We also looked at the Facebook pages of other federal agencies (including the member agencies of the Federal HIV/AIDS Web Council) and community partners to find out how they were engaging with the public on Facebook.

Now we post daily on Facebook and have gained a following of more than 1,000 users. AoA’s Facebook page Exit Disclaimer is an online community where people can learn about aging issues, ask questions, discuss issues, and share resources and perspectives. Comments on our Facebook wall reflect how aging issues are becoming increasingly important to Americans.  For example, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Exit Disclaimer shared a blog post on our wall about how individuals can help their parents plan for the future. Another comment by a healthcare agency reflected on how the decision-making process related to available government benefits can be overwhelming for older Americans and gave tips on how to make the process less stressful. In June we posted information on the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS. During September we posted messages on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day and encouraged people to spread the word using social media on how important it is that older adults get tested for HIV. Overall, we’re very pleased with the community dialogue that has emerged through our Facebook page. We invite you to like us and join the conversation!


  1. Social Media for Nonprofits
  2. Social Media at the 2010 HIV Prevention Leadership Summit
  3. Chemistry at the National HIV Prevention Conference Social Media Lab
  4. Social Media at the 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference
  5. Recapping Social Media for the National HIV Prevention Conference




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