In March 2020, the United States was plunged into the COVID-19 pandemic. As a society, we were dealing with something we’d never faced before; there was little information and a lot of fear. As the situation unfolded, it became evident that older adults are the most at-risk for social isolation, severe illness and death from the new coronavirus. And as hot spots emerged in geographic regions across the United States, clear disparities came to light in how the virus affects communities of color – with Black and Hispanic/Latino people dying at higher rates. Making a bad situation even worse, there was an influx of unreliable, misleading information being disseminated to these vulnerable communities.
Our objectives were straightforward:
As a trusted resource for the 50+ community and producer of America’s most-read magazine, we were uniquely suited to meet this challenge. Our Facebook page provided those most at risk with credible and timely information, along with ways to connect. Our ability to cover a variety of topics with respect to COVID-19, our powerful multicultural presence, and our local grassroots extensions (with offices across US states and territories) helped fuel a robust content engine, which engaged communities and helped them navigate this crisis from every angle. Ultimately, our Facebook page emerged as the most engaged of any U.S. nonprofit.
Our Facebook page focuses on helping people over 50 navigate life by providing information across health, caregiving, fraud, savings and planning, and work and jobs. When the pandemic struck, we shifted to helping our communities navigate this crisis by covering these topics through the lens of COVID-19. We sought to protect the 50+ audience by providing accurate and reliable information while countering the spread of inaccurate reporting and speculation about the virus that was on social media. We also focused on communities most at risk due to age, ethnicity and location.
We created over 2,200 pieces of content – a collection of articles, videos, and graphics focused on news, education and lifestyle. We created a series that explained how to prevent the spread of the virus, shared tips for caregiving during the pandemic, and hosted AARP Tele-Town Halls with health experts. We generated lifestyle content ranging from how to make your own mask to how to stay safe at the grocery store and even shared a video diary of a colleague’s journey to wellness after contracting COVID-19. For our efforts in helping combat the spread of misinformation, Facebook awarded us a coveted spot within the COVID-19 Information Center alongside the CDC, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and local health departments.
With the Hispanic/Latino community at greater risk of contracting the virus and facing economic impacts, coupled with the lack of reliable information in Spanish, we translated our resources. Similarly, the Black community experienced disproportionate effects of COVID-19, and not just in physical health; African Americans also experienced increased emotional and socio-economic impacts. We published content to inform them about these risks and provided resources to help navigate them.
Additionally, we worked to connect people across all communities as they were battling prolonged periods of social isolation. We implemented online movie nights with the AARP Movies for Grownups series, shared lectures with One Day University, and hosted virtual nationwide dance parties. We also launched and integrated AARP Community Connections, which helped people find a mutual aid group in their local community by using features such as Facebook Groups. To connect the Hispanic/Latino community across the country, we also shared human-interest stories highlighting their various experiences, bringing the impact of the virus to life. On our Black Community page, we shared uplifting content such as faith-based quotes to instill hope during these difficult times. We also launched “A Conversation With …” – a Facebook Live interview series featuring African American influencers, discussing cultural topics and providing insights into how the community was coping with the new realities of life during COVID-19.
As the country moved further into the pandemic and each region developed new needs, we shifted focus to super-serve those states and communities in crisis, geo-targeting their broader COVID-19 content to engage them. Leveraging our powerful grassroots extensions in each of the high-risk states, we also developed content targeted specifically for these areas, tracked state travel restrictions and shared information on how to find coronavirus resources.
We were able to reach the 50+ demographic on Facebook in a way we never had before, with many people thanking us for providing critical information. We educated the 50+ community about living through a pandemic in a time that was ripe for the spread of misinformation on social media:
We also provided connection in a time of extreme social isolation:
Not only did we reach our own objectives, but AARP outperformed other nonprofits during this time, including the ACLU and UNICEF USA. AARP was the most engaged Facebook page of any nonprofit in the U.S. [Source: Shareablee, 1/1/20 – 12/31/20]
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