Engage Your Community Through Social Networking

Resource Government
July 19, 2013 — 4,552 views  
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Only through extensive and effective community engagement can any mass change be implemented. Community engagement is a pragmatic approach to bring about a much needed social change. Like all great approaches, it needs a well thought of and strategically planned course of action.

Approach to Community Engagement Plan

According to social scientist, Hildy Gottlieb, all community engagement exercises can be undertaken around the framework of a basic 8-step approach, which includes:

  • Establishing the objectives of your community engagement plan
  • Outlining who all must be engaged
  • Strategizing a plan for the engagement of individuals you are already familiar with
  • Strategizing a plan for the engagement of individuals not known to you
  • Prioritizing all your actions
  • Planning the execution of the engagement
  • Monitoring the progress you’re making
  • Working on maintaining the relationships made

Emerging technologies and easy access to the internet have empowered social media and made it one of the most powerful and effective means of engaging an audience. No doubt, nothing beats the traditional offline method. But times are changing, and keeping up with technology has its own set of benefits.

It provides an easy way to connect with those members of the community who could not be present for your offline events and sessions due to some reason. There are a number of tools online like Twitter and Facebook to engage your community members in a conversation through posts, tweets, polls, feedbacks, debates, and criticisms, among many other methods. The process of community engagement using social media can be divided into four principle phases that are discussed below.

Consultation Phase

This is the phase where the community talks and you listen. Find out who is on Facebook, who is on Twitter, who all have blogs and see what relevant things they are talking about. There are many online communities, forums, and websites like Survey Gizmo, Democracy Lab, and Yahoo Answers where community members often raise their concerns or doubts and wait for a reply.

Involvement Phase

This is the phase where active involvement on your part starts. By now, you already know the concerns of your community. It is now time to join in the conversation by answering questions, making comments, and taking part in discussions. Be proactive, responsive, polite, and reasonable.

Collaboration Phase

This phase brings together the city managers, as well as country and municipal officials with the community for effective problem solving. Various sites like Delicious, Wikiplanning, Mixedink, and CivicEvolution can be made use of to get together as a whole community and collaborate with one another. This would also be the phase where you encourage supporters to promote the cause using social media.

Monitoring Phase

Here you monitor the progress of your engagement efforts as well as keep an eye on what is being discussed about your community and its issues. You can enlist the use of various tools like RSS feeds, Google Alerts, and saved keyword searches to be notified every time content related to your community engagement program is mentioned on the internet.

Depending on the needs and challenges of your community, you can devise an online community engagement program by following the phases mentioned above. Just remember that all these phases are perennial. You never really stop at one phase because you have moved on to the next one. You always listen, participate, collaborate, and monitor.

Resource Government