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 were 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 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 audiences.
Our objectives were straightforward:
1) Educate the 50+ community about living through the pandemic to help combat myths and misinformation
2) Provide an outlet for connection in a time of social isolation
As a trusted resource for the 50+ community and producer of America’s most read magazine, AARP was uniquely suited to meet this challenge. AARP’s Facebook page provided those most at risk with credible and timely information, along with ways to connect. AARP’s ability to cover a variety of topics with respect to COVID-19, their powerful multicultural presence, and their 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, AARP’s Facebook page has emerged as the most engaged of any U.S. nonprofit.
AARP’s 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, AARP shifted to helping its communities navigate this crisis by covering these topics through the lens of COVID-19. They sought to protect the 50+ community by providing accurate and reliable information while countering the spread of inaccurate reporting and speculation about the virus that was on social media. AARP also focused on communities most at risk due to age, ethnicity and location.
For AARP’s efforts in helping to combat the spread of misinformation, Facebook awarded AARP a coveted spot within the COVID-19 Information Center alongside UNICEF, the CDC, Doctors Without Borders, and local health departments. AARP created over 1,200 pieces of content – a collection of articles, videos, and graphics focused on news, education and lifestyle. They created a series that explained how to prevent the spread of the virus, shared tips for caregiving during the pandemic, and hosted Tele-Town Halls with health experts. They 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.
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, AARP translated their 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. AARP published content designed to inform them about these risks and provided resources to help navigate them.
Additionally, AARP worked to connect people across all communities as they were battling prolonged periods of social isolation. They implemented online movie nights with the “Movies for Grownups” series, shared lectures with One Day University, and hosted virtual nationwide dance parties. They also launched and integrated AARP Community Connections, which helps people find a mutual aid group in their local community by using features such as Facebook Groups. To connect the Latino community across the country, AARP also shared human-interest stories highlighting various Latino experiences, bringing the impact of the virus to life. On the AARP Black Communities page, they shared uplifting content such as faith-based quotes to instill hope during a time where the news cycle was heavy. AARP also launched “A Conversation With …” – a Facebook Live interview series featuring African American influencers, discussing cultural topics and providing insights into how the community is coping with the new realities of life during COVID-19.
As the country moved further into the pandemic and each region developed its own needs, AARP shifted focus to super-serve those states and communities in crisis, geo-targeting their broader COVID-19 content to engage them. Leveraging their powerful grassroots extensions in each of the high-risk states, they also developed content targeted specifically for these areas, which tracked state travel restrictions, or shared information on how to find coronavirus resources.
AARP was able to reach the 50+ demographic on Facebook in a way they never had before, with many people thanking AARP for providing critical information. They educated the 50+ community about living through a pandemic in a time that was ripe for the spread of misinformation on social media:
They also provided connection in a time of extreme social isolation:
Not only did AARP reach their own objectives, but they outperformed other nonprofits during this time, including the ACLU and UNICEF USA, as the most engaged Facebook page of any nonprofit in the U.S. [Source: Shareablee, 1/1/20 – 7/28/20]