It may seem counterintuitive, but engaging with your community online will make your projects run smoothly rather than slow them down. It will open up more opportunities for your stakeholders to engage, ensuring that you receive timely, insightful, and cost-effective feedback that will make your initiative successful.
We know what you’re thinking. “Why would I open up the floodgates with an online community engagement strategy? I’ve already got the perfect plan ready to go.”
Face-to-face consultations are intimate and in-depth. You can discuss complex ideas in a meeting format and read people’s body language. Plus, not everyone is digitally savvy or has internet access. So it wouldn’t be fair to offer standalone online engagement opportunities anyway.
We understand where you’re coming from and we’ve heard the objections.
- I really only need to speak to the “experts”.
- I don’t want people who don’t know anything about my project to slow me down.
- My team won’t have time to respond to online submissions.
While these statements are true, they don’t represent the whole picture. There are many benefits of engaging online, but it’s not a question of either or.
Rather than using online and offline community engagement methods in isolation, it’s important to combine the best of both approaches. When you find the right balance for your community, you will give people ample opportunity to offer feedback and engage, saving you time in the long run.
If you’re still hesitant that online community engagement will only add to your workload, then read on to discover the time-saving benefits we often observe.
People will resist your project, whether you choose to listen to them or not.
If a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?
Just because the phones aren’t ringing or your inbox isn’t filling up, does not mean that there aren’t people out there who have thoughts, feelings, and ideas about your project.
You just might not have shown them how to engage with you, or you haven’t given them the right avenue to voice concerns. The last thing you want is for those people to go to a regulator, social media, or a journalist before they speak to you.
Online community engagement tools help you to address any pain points early on rather than in the final hour of implementation.
Spend less time myth-busting.
When you share information widely on an online engagement page, you can spend less time having to explain your initiative to interested parties over and over again.
An online engagement page is a space you can direct people towards to get more information.
It’s also an official resource that can help to dispel any myths or misinformation that might be circulating in the community or in social media. You could even use it as a resource for journalists, so they can tell accurate stories about your initiative.
You can also share the input you have received from your community at key phases throughout the project lifecycle online. This is a transparent way to help people understand and accept how decisions have been made.
Once you’ve got the right information on your online engagement page, educating interested parties can become as simple as sharing a link.
Think slow, act fast.
So you’ve got your action plan ready to go. But, are you sure that you’re solving the real problem?
Did you really speak to enough stakeholders?
Did you capture the diversity of thought and expertise within your community?
Are you sure that your perspective isn’t biased?
We do believe that the quality of the interactions you have throughout the community engagement process is important. However, creating more ways for people to engage via online avenues invites new and potentially very helpful voices into the conversation.
Engaging with your community offline and online in the early phases of your project can help you define the problem correctly and come up with a representative solution that benefits all.
As you begin to bring more consultations online, you will also build a knowledge base of participants and community data that you can tap into for future engagement projects.
You don’t have to spend hours analyzing feedback.
Online community engagement platforms have a variety of out-of-the-box reports and tools that can help you analyze your feedback.
For example, if you ask a qualitative question via an online survey, you can use AI-powered analytics tools to capture the key themes, sentiment, and phrases.
It’s helpful to review every comment, but you don’t have to spend hours translating the data into insights. Take advantage of downloadable reports to share your findings with the rest of your team.
We understand that manual data analysis is time-consuming, but with online tools, you don’t have to be a data scientist to empower your team with insights and if you make informed decisions today, you will save time down the track.
You can become more agile.
We don’t live in a perfect world.
A well-devised plan can be thrown off course when the circumstances and the community’s needs change.
Cost-effective online community engagement tools help you to reach more people and gather feedback throughout your planning process.
As a result, you can continuously align with your community and make inexpensive and timely decisions. Your entire initiative could be far more successful, just by making a few community-led tweaks along the way.
Plus, as you continue to engage more online, each consecutive project requires less marketing, outreach, and promotion. This means that your network of participants willing to engage has developed over time, and will continue to increase.
Use what you’ve got, more efficiently.
You can start making decisions that are representative of your community by giving them more opportunities to speak to you. Online community engagement strategies don’t have to absorb all of your time and budget. Used the right way, they can help your team to operate more efficiently and deliver better outcomes with the resources that you have.