Social Media Maven Ignites Social Change and Career Fulfillment Through Fierce Shoes & Action

How Luvvie Ajayi turned passion for digital media and shoes into HIV activism

Luvvie Ajayi, digital strategist, founder, The Red Pump Project (Image: ChuckStr Photo)

With the power of social media, everyone has the ability to take action on something they care about. Luvvie Ajayi, an award-winning blogger and digital strategist, is proof that successful brands can take on an identity much larger than themselves.

In 2009, Ajayi and her friend, Karyn Watkins, wanted to do something special around HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and rather than share alarming statistics and facts as a way to get people to talk about how HIV/AIDS affects them, the dynamic duo sent an email asking 85 bloggers to display a “Rock the Red Pump” badge on their Websites to represent the strength and courage of women fighting HIV/AIDS.

The outcome: In just seven days, more than 100 bloggers joined the “Rock the Red Pumpsocial media campaign. The Red Pump Project is now a nonprofit organization with a community of over 10,000 followers. The organization continues to raise awareness by creating conversation online and offline around HIV prevention.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Ajayi to discuss her social media career and how she used the concept of red pumps to start conversations about HIV/AIDS awareness.

BlackEnterprise.com: How did you land a career in social media?

Luvvie Ajayi: The funny thing is, I was supposed to be a psychologist. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois. I loved psychology classes, worked at a counseling center for over two years and was headed to graduate school to further my studies in industrial and organizational psychology.

But during my junior year, I landed a marketing and development internship with a nonprofit organization. After graduation, I landed more marketing and communication roles working with nonprofit organizations. As I progressed further in my career, I was always considered a point person to introduce new digital technologies to the organization. I would set up their Websites and social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter.

Now, everything I do is entangled in social media, from writing for my blog to teaching people how to use social media to further their mission and maximize their lives. Social media is responsible for where I am today.

How did you combine a career in digital media with social change?

I’ve always been passionate about social injustice. And, I am addicted to shoes. We really wanted to make it easy for people to talk about HIV/AIDS.  The “Rock the Red Pump” badge made it easy for people to have a conversation about the disease.

What are your long-term goals?

As far as my career in social media, I am looking forward to writing a book. For the Red Pump Project, we plan to do more testing drives.  And, by 2019, we hope to have a global partnership but it’s really based on funding.

For more information on  The Red Pump Project visit TheRedPumpProject.org.

Kandia Johnson is a freelance communications strategist, brand builder and world traveler who also loves fashion, food and wine. She’s traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Thailand to Africa. When she’s not helping clients create engaging communication campaigns, she’s writing about her globe-stalking adventures for her blog LadybugsInWonderland.com and Travelista.TV.

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