By Lidiya Girma
Week 4 focused on strategies for online community building and engagement. Our speaker Scott Burns, CEO and Co-Founder of GovDelivery, provided some great insights into the ways technology can effectively be used to create greater participation in the public sector.
Improving online communication:
When formulating an online engagement strategy, it is important to ask how and why reaching people will actually matter. You should identify a mission or a set of goals that the engagement strategy seeks to accomplish before proceeding to build an audience. Scott Burns argues that we obsess too much over the tools. Though it is important to have a good grasp of the types of online tools that can be utilized to increase participation, it is even more important to know what it is you are aiming to achieve; the tools become a means to that end. It’s also imperative that the numbers you analyze to determine the success of your online strategy (the amount of people that visit your webpage, the number of clicks on a link, etc…) are translated to plain English. You have to give meaning to the statistics and be able to convert those numbers to help people understand what is going on with their organization or initiative.
An example of an effective online communications strategy:
The Minnesota Department of Revenue (DOR) has managed to build a large audience through its website and is now focusing more heavily on its webpage content. Its goal is to educate people on what is going on in the state, and more importantly, to take action. A few ways the DOR encourages active participation is by asking small businesses how it can serve them better, soliciting feedback, and promoting signups for various information and updates on its website. Its efforts have lead to much broader engagement.
A few things to consider:
1. How effective is your online communications strategy? Consider your total reach of people. How large of an audience are you able to build with the tools you’ve chosen to employ?
2. What is the value of each connection you are making? Think about the outcomes that result from each individual you are able to engage.
3. How efficient are the tools you are using in actually reaching the targeted audience? Consider the costs (time, energy, money, risks, opportunity costs). Do the costs of the strategy outweigh the produced benefits?
Think about whether or not the audience you are trying to reach has access to the types of engagement tools or opportunities you provide, and whether you can tailor your strategy to fit their communication needs.
4. How are you going to access your results? What standards will you use?
For instance, you can use benchmarks to compare your results. Maybe there is a similar organization or initiative that is using the same online communication strategies. How do the results compare?