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From the 5th Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

"Wise Friend” Lends a Helping Hand: AARP’s Social Response During the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Finalist in Community or Employee Engagement


The AARP Social Response Team forges the ongoing social care strategies, processes, and official responses to AARP consumers as they interact with our digital content across channels. Our strategic pillars guide our goals: to Monitor, Consult, and Engage. 

A key objective for Social Response is educating and advocating the 50+ community. As a social mission organization, we are constantly educating consumers as to what we offer, where we stand on issues, and what AARP is/is not. 

The team works hard to respond to the needs of the 50+ in this rapidly changing world, and constantly shifts focus on topics and trends. As of March 2020, we had to quickly adapt to an almost instantaneous enterprise-wide pivot to all things COVID-19. We reprioritized our work in order to quickly make changes to a community who was particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. Our members’ benefits, healthcare options and lifestyle restrictions were changing daily, not only on the national level, but across every state as well. Bottomline – people were scared, and in days we went from helping people navigate and live life over 50, to helping them navigate this crisis. Issues included:

• Reactions to Tax-Aide closures

• Financial Security/Stimulus Check Inquiries and Concerns

• Health and Social Distancing Concerns

• Experiences/Frustrations with filing for Unemployment, the Economy, and Reopening

• Reactions to Nursing Home Reporting and Advocacy

Strategy and Execution

Social Response, along with our entire Consumer Care team, were pivotal players in AARP’s drive to have one clear authoritative voice on COVID -19 for our brand. The team stepped in to respond to questions, share relevant resources, and correct misinformation. This comprised of collaborating, listening, reporting and following each and every change to make sure our information and resources are exactly right.

Collaboration was key when formulating an outreach strategy. We joined a working group/task force representing various departments to coordinate AARP’s public-facing messages related to COVID-19. Given all the uncertainty, we wanted to make sure we were being consistent in our messaging, strategically aligned, and ideally, position AARP as a wise friend when it comes to protecting people and their families during this difficult time.

An important piece of this was staying on top of what people needed from us and what they were saying about us and the virus. Social Response shared data and insights from our digital channels and illuminated our overall findings by sharing what was on our consumers’ minds and how they viewed AARP.

Another key to our success was the ability to immediately share key content that was updated daily, both internally and externally, which effectively helped us address all kinds of questions from an educational perspective. This included sharing resources from the IRS, CDC and our own editorial resource,, where our consumers could find the latest on COVID-19 resources, information, advice, and news from AARP.

We worked closely with the Social Brand team, who have built an unprecedented partnership with Facebook on COVID-19 which placed AARP among a select group of partners that included WHO, CDC, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and state/city health departments. This partnership has led to the inclusion of AARP content in Facebook’s Coronavirus Information Center, which helped drive significant volume and has helped catapult our social media channels as the top driver of traffic to our main AARP site.

Social Response was also a driving force behind adding visibility and engagement for other AARP priorities related to COVID, such as AARP Community Connections (where volunteers can sign up to call those who feel isolated during lockdowns), Tele-Town Halls, the “Thank You” campaign for health care workers and family caregivers, and ongoing Contact Center interactions.

Most recently, we responded to chatbots on @AARP’s Facebook Messenger, (aptly named “AARP Answers” after the FAQ series on Social Response picked up where the chatbot leaves off and answered questions about coronavirus or other issues when requested by a user. It was designed to meet our audience where they are – and answer their questions with the latest news and resources from AARP, tailored specifically for older adults and the people who care for them. 

All of this took place while we were working on priority projects that were in place before COVID-19 took over, projects that are important to our long-term success. 



Over the past 5+ months the team helped deliver exponential increases in reach, engagement and traffic. Our new strategy and processes allowed us to quickly shift our focus -- 50-70% of our posts on our main brand accounts now focus on COVID-19, with Social response in the trenches responding to comments accordingly. As a result:

• The team handled over 1,4000,000 conversations and counting this year alone, a 58% YoY increase 

• Our “hero” accounts – AARP’s main brand accounts – account for 75% of overall engagement across the enterprise and are driving the bulk of social media growth

• Thanks to our responses and posts from the Brand team, social media catapulted to the top driver of overall traffic to and more specifically to key COVID-19 resource-related editorial content in May

• AARP’s social media footprint on our hero Facebook page has experienced staggering growth. Monthly reach has tripled, increasing by 262% since March (88 million vs. 24 million people).

• We received lots of positive feedback from information on – therefore setting an expectation that this will have the most up-to-date, accurate, and credible information


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