Planning to engage your community online requires a disciplined thought process just like any other form of strategic planning. The more time and considered planning you give to the process, the more likely you are to run an effective and meaningful online engagement.
Here are our top 10 ways to plan your online engagement:
- Map your entire project. What does it intend to change and what are the impacts?
- Identify your stakeholders. Who will be affected by this consultation? Who will be interested in engaging with it?
- What is the objective for each stakeholder group throughout the various project phases? Is it to inform, consult, involve, collaborate or empower?
- Measure your success. How will you know you’ve done a good job? Will you use qualitative or quantitative tools? Will you measure the number of comments, visitors, unique ideas or all of the above?
- Detail specific goals for each measure. While it’s easy to get over-excited about the prospect of huge numbers of people flocking to your site, it is important to be realistic from the outset. The site’s visitor numbers will actually reflect a mix of the target market’s size, the marketing efforts, and the project’s natural “appeal”.
- Promote your consultation. How will people hear about it? Conduct market research to find out where your target audience gets their information. Is it through your website or social media? Do you have other successful communications channels such as digital newsletters? Your response rate will be higher if you can direct market to them via established channels.
- Prepare rich content for your site. It’s not good enough to prepare a 300-page report and expect your community to wade through it. Think about videos, slideshows, image galleries and breaking your documents into bite-sized chunks or using infographics to convey your messages.
- Think carefully about the questions you want to ask. Make them as concrete and specific as possible so that you get relevant answers to your questioning.
- Decide how you will interact with your community. Forum facilitation can be time consuming; determine your resourcing levels beforehand rather than on the run.
- Keep in touch. At the outset, tell your community how their thoughts will be used and when and how you will be getting back to them on the consultation’s outcomes.