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Engagement Best Practices Public Consultation

5 Social Media Strategies for Promoting Public Engagement


Non-profits, community organizations and neighbourhood associations often don’t have a big budget for advertising and outreach. Now that you’ve decided to use PlaceSpeak for launching a public consultation, how do you ensure that your target demographic is reached and becomes engaged?

Here are some realistic and simple social media strategies that can help maximize your reach.

1. Provide authentic content. 

We live in an information-saturated world. When people are overwhelmed by content from all sides, why should they care about your issue? In short, what’s in it for them? 

The key is to be authentic and transparent about the consultation process.

  • Where/to whom is their feedback going?
  • Will their feedback actually have an impact on the project, and how?

Keep them in the loop, even after they’ve given their feedback. You don’t need a big budget for that. County commissioner Mike Yoder from Elkhart County, Indiana films regular videos updating his constituents about latest developments in their community.

From creating original content (blog posts, photos, videos, podcasts, memes…) to curating existing content, keep your updates fresh and relevant. In smaller organizations which aren’t necessarily equipped to be creating original content, sharing existing content is a great way to build positive relationships with other groups doing similar work.

2. Start conversations and build community. 

Democracy and political engagement think tank Samara periodically hosts #SamaraChat on Twitter to spark conversations on Canadian politics, such as youth apathy, political accountability, and more. The format is simple: Samara asks questions relating to the topic, anyone can participate, responses are retweeted, and a lively discussion is started on Twitter.

From Red Bull’s #putacanonit to Coca-Cola’s #shareacoke, many brands have found great success in using hashtags for advertising campaigns. Non-profits and community organizations can similarly harness the power of the hashtag to increase their reach.

Twitter chats are just one way to see your community grow and become more active. Encourage interaction through Instagram contests, Reddit AMAs (Ask Me Anything), Facebook polls, the newly-released Twitter polls, and more (be creative!)

(3) Go where your target demographic is, and sometimes that means (4) innovating and trying new things.

In January 2015, CNN held the first — but perhaps not the last — Snapchat interview with U.S. Senator Rand Paul. While some dismissed it as a gimmick, 45% of Snapchat users are between 18 and 24 — a hard-to-reach demographic when it comes to politics. With this large consumer base in mind, brands ranging from Taco Bell to National Geographic have become active on the picture-messaging platform.

Non-profits and community organizations have to take a similar approach when it comes to social media. Find out where your target demographic resides online and choose appropriate channels for reaching them. From Pinterest to Reddit, there are hundreds of platforms out there which can be tailored for your issue or campaign.

(5) Be honest about the limitations of social media.

On average, organic reach for posts on Facebook has decreased from 16% in 2012 to 6.51% in 2014. Increasingly, non-profits and community organizations are pushed to pay for increased visibility and promoted posts. While this can be a source of great frustration, it’s important to be open and realistic about the limits of social media.

These challenges only reinforce the need for innovation instead of solely relying on tried-and-tested platforms. Don’t be afraid to become an early adopter of new social media platforms and experiment. You can always dial back your efforts if a new platform doesn’t seem to be taking off (I’m looking at you, Google+).

Got any other suggestions for how non-profits and community organizations can maximize their social media strategy? Comment below and we’ll feature your ideas in a future post!


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