Time to be frank about sexual health - #letstalkaboutsex

In the past you always had to go to a clinic but now, using SH:24 you can also access sexual health services online.  If you live in Lambeth or Southwark - in under a minute you can order a test to be sent to your home free of charge - and we want the journey people take to find us to become just as quick and easy.

We’re listed on SXT (http://www.sxt.org.uk) which also helps you find sexual health information within seconds of logging on. But we know social media channels and other online spaces are also helpful sources of information regarding available services and an alternative way to communicate about sexual health.

As a new service our digital footprint (or maybe toeprint?) is still fairly modest, but more importantly it’s growing steadily. We’re now ranked second on Google when you search for SH:24 (top ranking is this blog which has been around a while longer) and are working to ensure that when people search for terms like ‘sexual health Lambeth or Southwark’ they will find us easily.

As you’d expect, SH:24 is established on the main social media channels, such as Twitter (@sh24_nhs) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/sh24nhs). We have followed and are followed by many interesting people who we have learnt a lot from. These include partners such as local NHS services and, encouragingly, users. Last week we had our first user tweeting about their experience of the service:

This confirmed our feeling that in the same way that we’ve worked with users to iteratively build our service, we can cultivate a supportive online user community that socialises itself around SH:24 to shape the service’s future through feedback. We know many of our users in higher risk groups (such as 16-24 year olds) are some of the most digitally literate out there, which heightens the opportunity to develop this community.

As well as thinking about where we can engage with users online, we have carefully considered how we do this. We want to build on our highly visual approach and last week began to capture and share user quotes about the service, giving real insight into the different motivations that bring people to use our service. Our next steps are to develop an animation about the service, create a v-blog and some snippets for Vine.

Finally, having experimented with some Twitter hashtags we have settled on #letstalkaboutsex. Why? Well, for a start no one has used it before (Salt-N-Pepa in the pre-social media age doesn’t count!), but more so because it captures an openness and frankness that users have said is too often missing from sexual health services. We look forward to #letstalkaboutsex becoming a reference point for SH:24, other sexual health conversations online, helping to remove the stigma frequently attached to sexual health issues.