I have been thinking for some time now what digital engagement could actually look like, so i thought about creating an approach to firstly help me understand what i actually go on about most of the time in real practical terms, plus allow others to see how it could work and what things people would need to think about the way in terms of skills and equipment etc.
Now before i start, this is not rocket science, this isn’t revolutionary, it is one of many approaches and i have created some visuals around it to help explain this further to my colleagues.
I am starting from a point which assumes that a given organisation is already planning an “offline event” of some kind, as this tends to be my first entry point with colleagues. This approach merely adds value and potentially increases the chances of involvement, participation and most importantly feedback and opinions (well i believe it would anyway).
The following diagram illustrates (simply as it is) the steps involved and i will explain it as well just to add some additional context.
(If you click on the image it should go full size)
Now the reason i needed to create this very simple diagram is to help me explain the steps or stages and the process involved in adding value to existing events or even community events.
1: The Offline Event
This could be anything, the key challenge is to create an environment which allows people to talk and have conversations. The biggest change though is to proactively encourage social reporters to video, take photos, live blog etc about the vent itself and then publish those online either via sites like YouTube, Vimeo, twitter, Facebook, Flickr, WordPress etc. If you are unsure what a social reporter is or does then take a look at David Wilcox’s Blog who does excellent stuff in this area.
Another key aspect to this bit is promoting discussions through the use of hash tags (e.g. #theevent), promoting the reuse of the content that had been created and encouraging people to talk, discuss and devise opinions around it in their own online networks. This may require some council staff to join new groups as individuals to listen and or feedback relevant information (based on a social contract with the group).
2: Online Communities
This isn’t about the council or a particular organisation creating new online spaces for conversations to happen, this is about allowing people to have the discussion wherever they feel comfortable. Their own online Ning networks, or Facebook groups or local NetMums forum. It really doesn’t matter providing they can access and reuse the content from the event. Now the challenge is listening and collecting this conversations that happen across the web. There are many ways in which this can happen and i’m not going to cover the details in this post, but using RSS, google alerts, Facebook search etc can support this task.
3: Social Media Sites
Providing content via the social media tools and sites that exist will allow others to reuse it, discuss it, provide feedback on it and encourage their friends to do the same.
This approach is about adding value to existing offline activities and or events. I would recommend that once your organisation develops good practice and learning around online engagement and you build a relationship with communities online you can start to reduce offline activity or perhaps get to a point where you can stop doing it for some engagement altogether.