How can we engage the broadest group of participants in an engagement project?
Traditionally, community consultants have engaged the public through face-to-face events such as community workshops, town hall meetings, and surveys. Rather than replacing what works, digital participation through online engagement can be a great complement to traditional methods in helping us connect with a harder to reach audience.
Why you should complement your engagement strategy with an online component
Access and convenience
First off, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 83% of Australian homes have internet access in 2013, so we can generally assume most of our audiences, in most cases, are able to get online. There’s also the ability to reach a greater depth in demographics and connect to that harder to reach audience that might not feel comfortable interacting in person (or may not be able to – think working parents, students, seniors, disabled and shift workers).
Digital engagement platforms encourage conversations that evolve over time rather than only receiving one response in the moment. You can imagine how this can build up into an ongoing dialogue – the transparency this shows publicly can reach far beyond a project’s timeframe to become an honest, public-facing asset that demonstrates real commitment to community.
A safe place to speak up
Some people will always be louder than others, but we want to hear everyone’s feedback. A digital environment can provide a secure place for those that may have a quieter personality to have their say; in a traditional workshop they may be drowned out by louder voices, or not feel so comfortable to speak up.
Analytics, the feedback people don’t tell you
Numbers don’t lie. Dig deep into web traffic, participant location and time frames to improve your engagement report with some hard data. Digital analytics can tell you a lot about what people are interested in, or curious about, by the content they are visiting. You can also collate and analyse information left in comments and hashtags in social media to add to your engagement report.
Cost-effective and environmentally friendly
By comparison, digital community engagement is lesser in cost to implement than traditional methods, and has less cost to the environment, which is a big win.
Digital outreach tools
Selecting the right tool that meets your requirements can be a big job. Here are four digital platforms we’ve reviewed that can help you with reaching a deeper demographic by going online with your engagement. (By the way, we have no affiliation with these companies, we just want to pass on some of our research).
Provides information and gathers feedback for decision-making online.
Inform, collaborate and engage with your stakeholders and community online.
- Our Say
Use the power of online forums to engage people directly on issues which impact them.
- Engaging Plans
Reaches, informs, and involves citizens and stakeholders in public projects online.
We believe digital community engagement is a strong way to get feedback from citizens sharing their individual voice to form interactions that keep them informed and strengthen their relationship to place.
If you’d like some help creating a digital engagement strategy for your project, contact us at Creating Communities.