Getting your brand name out there is the first step you need to take to increase business and sales. So, what are some things you can do to spread the word about your company’s services? Community engagement is your answer.
In this article, we’ll explain what community engagement is, why it’s important, and strategies that you can use to increase engagement in your community. If you’re interested in learning about the best community engagement ideas, then read on to learn all the information you need to know.
What is community engagement?
Before we explain how you can implement our strategies to increase engagement in your community, you need to have a solid understanding of what community engagement is and what it looks like.
Put concisely, community engagement is a way of working with members of your community to solve issues affecting their well-being. It’s a way of communicating with customers that lets them know you have their best interests at heart and you’ll do anything in your power to better their lives.
If you’re wondering what we mean by “community,” we’ve got you covered. Below, we have outlined different types of communities that your business should be able to identify in its sphere of influence.
1. Geographic Community
This is the most obvious and what most readily comes to mind when someone thinks of a community. Essentially, the geographic community includes everyone who lives within a certain geographical location of you and/or your business’ range.
2. Online Community
Most businesses have an online following. This is your online community.
Usually, online communities are much larger and have a much stronger influence than geographic communities—which is why online community engagement is vitally important. Furthermore, if you engage with your online community, the members of the community will remember you when they engage in their own communities.
3. Special Interest Community
This community refers to everyone who has a special interest in your services. For example, even if they’re not a part of your online community and are not in geographic proximity of your business, they can still be a part of your special interest community because their values line up with yours.
Many businesses and/or services tend to not place a large amount of stress on reaching out to their special interest communities—which is a grave mistake. These individuals, in fact, make up a large portion of the spreading of your business by word of mouth.
Why is community engagement important?
Now that we have successfully defined what community engagement is, we can talk about why it’s important. In this article, we have listed below three of the most significant reasons why engaging your community is important.
1. You will be more trusted by your community
It doesn’t matter if you’re engaging with your geographic community physically or your online community through memorable virtual events. The point is that the group of individuals you dedicate help and support to will trust your organization more than they initially did. This, in turn, leads directly into the next reason why community engagement is important.
2. They will be more satisfied with your work
Interestingly enough, even if you somehow manage not to do as good of a job as another organization could have on a particular task, the fact that you engaged your community and made them a part of your work shows them that you actually care about them.
In the long run, these people will turn to you for help and support. This is because you made them feel like their desires matter—which they do.
3. You will have more influence
What we mean by “influence” is that your strategies will be more accepted by the majority of the community because you worked with them in the past. They got the opportunity to see real, tangible changes that you made.
Thus, the next time a large project rolls around, the community will be more inclined to accept your services as opposed to those of a different organization.
How can I make my community more engaged?
If you’re still with us, it means that you believe what we are telling you regarding the power of community engagement—which is excellent and probably why you are wondering how you can make your own community engaged.
Luckily for you, we have got you covered. Community engagement is an effective tool that you need to know how to use. However, there are a few top principles that you need to know before you move forward to engage your community.
Top principles of community engagement
Without further ado, let’s examine the top five core principles for effective community engagement. With these, you can learn the aspects that govern community engagement.
1. Adequate Preparation
It may sound tempting to jump right into it. However, you don’t want to step onto the stage unprepared. This is one of the most dangerous things you can do and is detrimental to any potential community engagement success you would have otherwise had.
For this reason, you must prepare your strategies and tools beforehand so that your efforts do not fall flat on their face. So, what does adequate preparation look like?
Essentially, it means that you have taken the time to outline the main issue hurting your community that you will solve. Furthermore, you need to have a plan for how you intend to meet the needs of your community. If you rush into it, you’re bound to mess something up along the way.
2. Inclusion and Diversity
The importance of these terms is greatly underestimated by many public and private organizations. If you want your community to be as engaged as possible, you must try to engage and reach as many people as you can. It is only through this that you will be able to build a strong following that includes all kinds of people.
Just like dominoes, these people will tell others within their communities about your services. What we’re concluding is that the more people you can reach is directly related to how many people you will be able to reach in the future.
Having a diverse group community is not easy though. It is difficult to maintain because everyone has different opinions on how to solve certain problems. On the bright side, however, if you can manage it, the payoff will be worth it.
3. Common Goals and Shared Perspectives
A group mindset is what keeps people together. It’s the core of moving together as a unit—which is the whole purpose of community engagement. Identifying a common need and filling it together is how you are going to keep those in your community engaged.
Of course, this may happen naturally because those that follow your organization are likely to be those of similar thought. However, this does not change the fact that you and your community will likely not see eye-to-eye on every issue. This is where you’ll have to play your cards right to get your community to see the same problems out of your perspective.
When your community (geographic, online, or special interest) has the same mindset as your organization, you can foster healthy relationships with them that will stand the test of time and remain strong when the going gets tough.
4. Trust and Honesty
Hiding things from your community is a sure-fire way to destroy any chance at effective community engagement that you might have had. When you reach out to those in your community with the intent of getting them to be more engaged, you’ll want to be as open and transparent as possible.
This will have the effect of leaving them with good memories of your services and will give them assurance that you have their best interests at heart.
Now, does this mean that you have to tell everyone all of your strategies and tactics? Absolutely not. Essentially, openness and honesty in this context mean that you present multiple options to those in your community—not just the one that you want them to agree with.
5. Community Involvement
How can you have community engagement if you’re not communicating with customers about what they can do to be involved. This is a detrimental fault that can result in a failed attempt at this type of engagement. So, what can your customers do to help?
Let them help in planning business events. Allowing your community to actually do something physical other than pledge their names to a useless online resolution will give them a sense of purpose. It will also increase support for your suggestions—which will result in a greater number of people allowing your organization to do what it thinks best.
Community Engagement Tools You Can Use
If you are serious about getting your community more involved but don’t know where to start, then this section is for you. Believe it or not, there are certain tools that you can use to help increase community engagement. We have listed some of the most important categories of community engagement tools below.
This is one of the easiest community engagement tools out there. It is also very popular.
Polling utilizes the number of votes from a community to find what the majority of that community wants. It is a simple way of finding what solution would please the most people. If you’re looking for an easy tool to begin engaging your community, then polling is what you’ll want to start out with.
Of course, with polling, you will never please everybody. This is because every person has their own ideas of what steps should be taken to accomplish a given task. Nevertheless, polling is excellent for finding what solution is most strongly supported.
2. Video Chat
If you are looking for a way to directly engage your community with the hopes of inspiring them to be engaged themselves, then a video chat should be your go-to tool.
Video chats are often used in content live-streaming because they allow the audience to connect one-on-one with the streamer. They can ask questions, make comments, and even notify you when they have sent donations. Essentially, a video chat is an excellent solution if you need to engage your community/audience live.
However, this tool is—in some ways—a double-edged sword. It only works if you are familiar with the proper way to communicate with a virtual audience. What do we mean by this?
What we mean is that you have to initiate the engagement. Whether it be a live stream or pre-recorded video, you have to initiate the engagement if you want your audience to respond. People have no intention of trying to engage with a “dead” stream or video.
3. Peer Learning Tools
These tools are great for getting quality feedback that you can use to better your methodology. For example, when it comes to improving your organization, Braindate is a great option. Peer learning tools, in conclusion, are another great tool for bolstering community engagement.
These are very similar to polling in the sense that their purpose is to find the opinion of the majority of the survey-takers. While it might seem like an excellent choice for community engagement, just know that both surveys and polling are not the absolute best options if your goal is to actively engage your community.
However, if your sole purpose is to find what the majority of people think and nothing more, then surveys—like polling—are going to give you the best bang for your buck. They are also helpful in gathering feedback regarding your organization’s latest project. Surveys do not have to only get opinions on future projects.
Strategies and Best Practices to Increase Community Engagement
Now that you are nearly an expert in what community engagement is and what it entails, we can now move on to examine what strategies you can take to increase your initial community engagement. We have listed the best ones and analyzed them in detail below.
1. User Segmentation
User segmentation relates back to when we talked about shared perspectives. It is—essentially—the process of splitting groups of people up into different subgroups based on common characteristics that they all share. These can include language, geographic location, interests, and many others.
In fact, there are actually four broad categories for user segmentation. These are the following:
- Demographic segmentation
- Geographic segmentation
- Psychographic segmentation
- Behavioral segmentation
Segmenting users is an effective community engagement strategy because it will allow you to target smaller groups of people based on their shared preference rather than trying to estimate (or, at least, guess) what the entire community wants.
2. Onboarding Members
Most people want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. This is where member onboarding comes into play. In its bare-bone state, onboarding members refers to the process you and/or your organization has to induct new members to help them make the most out of your services.
Why is onboarding members an important aspect of community engagement strategies? The answer is simple: it makes their lives way easier. Furthermore, they will get to enjoy all of the perks of being a member of your organization or website—whatever those may be.
3. Being Responsive
Of these strategies to increase community engagement, this one is perhaps the easiest to implement. What being responsive entails is that you actually engage with your audience.
For example, if you decided to use the virtual chat as a community engagement tool, you would not want to ask your audience questions, then leave them without responses. This can be one of the mistakes that is most detrimental to virtual networking. Avoiding a one-sided discussion is a strategy that you can use to simultaneously engage your audience and get them to offer the response you would like to hear.
4. Providing Refreshments and Childcare
One of the main reasons why members of your community would not attend an important event is because they are either preoccupied with their families, or they are hungry.
Providing both refreshments and childcare will allow you to hit two birds with one stone. In other words, people would have neither of these “excuses” to fall back on as to why they cannot attend your community engagement event. Furthermore, it’s a well-known truth that human beings are more receptive to information when they have had food.
An additional strategy that adds to this that you could possibly implement along with this one is to plan your events in the late morning. According to multiple health studies, eating breakfast (or food in the morning) greatly improves people’s mood.
5. Putting Effort Into Planning the Event
Whether you’re planning events that are virtual or in person, one thing you definitely want to keep in mind is that you should never, under any circumstances, hastily plan a community engagement event. This can result in the members of your community not feeling as though you put much thought into their cause—which is a recipe for failure.
By planning your community engagement events with care, you will be able to avoid negative feedback from your attendance. So, what does this look like?
If in-person, some practical tips would be the following: choose a location that is close to your targeted audience, easily accessible by car, and has ample parking nearby. If the event is online, make sure that the software/program you are using has good audio and sound quality, your camera has been wiped and is free of dust, and that you have a microphone that you can attach to your computer.
Putting a significant amount of emphasis and work into planning the event and that it runs smoothly is one step you can take to have meaningful community engagement.
Community Engagement Ideas
Our discussion about best practices to increase community engagement is a great segue into this next one. The following are actual ideas that you can take and use to bolster community support for your organization’s plans.
There is a reason why our current society is obsessed with video games. It’s because video games make the players feel like they’ve accomplished something. Moving to the “next level” is an extremely addictive feeling that you can mimic in community engagement.
With this information accessible to you, why would you not want to take an unconventional approach to solve your community engagement problems? Turning something from a community issue into a game is a great way to attract those who are problem-solvers and relish the opportunity to use their mental skills.
2. Highlighting a Community Member
This idea of community engagement operates off of the ideas of jealousy and passion for success. Jealousy—as we know—is not good in most scenarios. However, in this context, it can also work to drive someone to greatness because they want the recognition that somebody else earned.
Highlighting a community member means that you recognize their story of success and how they stand out from the rest of the community. Additionally, when this is done, you want to make sure that you recognize this individual in the presence of his or her colleagues. This will fire them up and give them a desire to become successful in this regard as well.
3. Giving New Members a Warm Welcome
Most people won’t object to the statement that everyone wants to be accepted as part of a community. What this looks like in terms of increasing the engagement of your community is that you make sure that your newest members are greeted in a way that makes them feel accepted.
Giving your new arrivals a warm welcome is a subtle way that you can communicate to them that your intentions and work are worth their trust.
4. Establish Community Traditions
This is something that will make your organization extra unique amongst a plethora of others. Coming up with something that you and your community do regularly will give your members and your community a sense of pride about being a part of your organization.
Some popular examples of community traditions include the following:
- Promotion days: give certain members weekly shout-outs for their work
- Potlucks: plan days where members of your community can come out and enjoy food together
- Competitions: have daily, weekly, or even monthly competitions (e.g. writing, mathematics, trivia) where you provide prizes to winning members
5. Get Feedback From Your Community
Knowing what your organization did right/wrong will help you improve your engagement methods in the future. Not only will this serve to inform you of what the community thinks about your organization’s work, but it will also serve as yet another indicator to your community that you take what they think very seriously.
This will have a two-fold effect:
- You will have a more tight-knit community
- Your organization will have more political influence than others
With these benefits, why would you not try previously-mentioned tools such as polling and surveys to get the opinions of your community?
6. Have a Collaborative Project
This relates back to the idea of having a shared perspective yet again. Starting a group project—whatever it may be—will unite like members of your community around something that they can all agree on. This will result in your community becoming more like a brotherhood/sisterhood rather than a group of random people.
Collaborative projects also have the effect of getting more done as a whole. They take more stress and things to do off of your organization’s plate and puts them in the hands of responsible citizens. Furthermore, if your organization’s staff is preoccupied with matters of great importance, you could even take specific tasks that they would otherwise be working on and give them to certain groups within your community to finish.
7. Share Information With the Community
If you want to hear the best idea for earning the trust of your community, then this is it. Sharing information/data that you have with your community—whether it be online or in-person—will let your community know that you have no secret agenda behind your organization’s kind acts.
Your organization will also have an easier time getting essential work done. What we mean by this is that the process will be much smoother because there will be fewer people willing to stand in your way.
Interestingly enough, this is something that many organizations take for granted. Many of them share information with the community because they solely want public attention. However, the incentive should be that your community will be more ready to accept your organization’s recommendations.
8. Acknowledge Failures
Nothing is more annoying than an organization or a political group that refuses to acknowledge when it has made a mistake, blundered, or miscalculated something. Furthermore, the last thing that you want is for your community to lump both you and your organization in with these notorious groups.
Instead, to counter this, make sure that when you mess up, you let your community know rather than trying to hide it. After all, while you may like to think that your sponsors or collaborators are your closest friends, your closest friends are really those in your community.
Without their approval, getting work done would be next to impossible.
For this reason, you want to take how much you communicate with your community, audience, and sphere of influence very seriously.
9. Throw Victory Parties
Make sure to celebrate with your community when you get something significant done! This is the best part. While other organizations will be struggling to find a solution to one problem immediately after solving another, yours will be partying and strengthening the bond between you and your community.
Of course, these mainly apply to organizations that do things in-person. When it comes to online organizations, events, or meetings, throwing victory parties will look much different. For example, it might simply be a quick get-together to congratulate everybody. Nevertheless, this will still have the same effect as in-person parties.
10. Be Tenacious
This is the only way that you will be able to consistently knock tasks out of the park. Persistence is one quality that you cannot forget about when it comes to increasing community engagement. If you want something done, you will have to work hard and press on—regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Tenacity is a highly-valued trait in the business world. For example, look at Elon Musk. Through hard work and grit, he made it to the top, and so can you if you work hard enough and remain determined to get things done.
Community Engagement Examples to Inspire You
Now that you know everything there is to know about community engagement, we can now show you five examples of community engagement ideas that have been incredibly successful. These are listed and discussed below.
1. Twitch Streamers
While twitch streamers typically stream video games, they have mastered the ability to engage with their community. If you listen closely, you can tell that they know how to talk to the community members and be excellent at their game of choice at the same time.
No, we are not referring to when they are actively acting. Rather, you should focus on how they interact with fans during film premiers. They spend time taking pictures, getting the word out, and spending time with them.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that you see a billboard for an attorney every five miles? No, it’s not. Lawyers are experts in engaging their communities and getting their communities to engage with the outside world.
4. Political Speakers
One of the trademark qualities of political speakers is their desire to speak on college campuses. Furthermore, they almost always take questions from students. This is done, in part, to show the students that their opinions matter.
5. Government Officials
This is by far the most popular. Presidential candidates and senators alike go on touring campaigns throughout the country because they want their community—and the national community as well—to see that they are cared about.
Well, there you have it. We have discussed everything that you need to know regarding community engagement, strategies and tools you can use, community engagement ideas, and some examples of successful forms of community engagement.
If you want to know the best way to get started with organized community engagement, contact our sales team here at Braindate today and get ready to experience excellent customer service and community engagement professionals. You won’t be disappointed!
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