Technology Meets Stakeholder Engagement
Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Technology
In every engagement strategy for a project or event, many considerations must be made – who to reach, what messaging you need to convey, when to begin engaging with stakeholders, but perhaps the most important question is: How?
Ensuring you reach as much of your intended audience as possible is crucial to a successful engagement strategy. Organizations need to ask themselves: “How can we successfully engage with the stakeholders?”. This is an important question that should involve a lot of careful consideration when establishing the how of the overall stakeholder engagement strategy.
One way to ensure you attain higher reach is by utilizing technology to connect with stakeholders. Using technology greatly benefits organizations by helping them effectively reach their targets for their engagement strategies and naturally creates a crowd-sourcing platform. The use of websites and Web 2.0 enables organizations to reach a larger audience faster and more cost efficiently than ever before. Community members and stakeholders are given a platform in which to discuss and share ideas, resulting in these users engaging with each other, as well as with the organization. Having this kind of platform for community members and stakeholders allows for a flow of ideas that can greatly benefit organizations in the planning and implementation phases of a project or event.
Some of the more popular platforms to consider when using technology to extend reach for your engagement strategy is the use of a project or event website, social media pages, and mobile apps. Depending on the project, organizations may choose to have a dedicated page or site for the project or event in which they are looking to engage with users about. Dedicated staff should also be used to manage and maintain these pages – checking in with users frequently and updating the information as required. Organizations need to keep in mind that posts created are time stamped and users can see how frequently information is made available by the organization. Any lapse in time for newly-posted content creates a disconnect, driving users to not utilize the technology to engage with the organization.
Using a dedicated website as a platform to connect with stakeholders allows organizations to set up a landing page where information can be attained. Having a website not only allows organizations to control the information that stakeholders can see, but it also allows organizations to gain important information from the community, in the form of analytics. If done right, they also have the capability of capturing a stakeholder’s contact details.
Anyone with access to a computer and internet can engage with a project website, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which makes websites a crucial tool to use for an effective engagement strategy for a big project.
A website works well with traditional stakeholder engagement practices, as it can bridge the gap for potential stakeholders – who aren’t able to attend in-person events – by communicating all the relevant information for a project. Websites create an access point for your stakeholders to gather past and present information, as well as provide a potential platform for crowd-sourcing. Websites are also an important online tool for those people who want to use technology, but may not subscribe to social media, or use apps.
Social Media & Web 2.0
It’s interesting to note that as society grows more dependent on technology, we are isolating ourselves, yet at the same time are finding new ways to connect and engage with others through that same technology.
Enter Social Media!
It has been estimated that by the end of 2018, there will be approximately 22.95 million active social network users, in Canada. That works out to approximately 62.1% of the population, in Canada, who are active users of social media (based on population estimates from the United Nations World Population Prospects for Canada in 2018).
As we yearn to stay connected through these social media sites, we also give and receive information. In fact, these social media sites have been an important source of information for community groups and stakeholders to retrieve information about their community, organizations, media outlets, the world, and so on and so forth.
Online tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and others are providing new and exciting ways for organizations to connect with their stakeholders. These platforms can be extremely useful in relaying important information, sharing stories or pictures and creating an emotional connection, and giving stakeholders a means to express opinions, concerns and give feedback about a project or event.
To keep stakeholders informed about a project, social media is a great starting point as an engagement tool. For starters, it’s available to stakeholders 24/7. There’s no set time for engagement, like traditional practices, so stakeholders are free to engage in their own time – from anywhere. Perhaps the best aspect of utilizing social media to engage with stakeholders is the ability to update content often and respond quickly and efficiently, while simultaneously building and strengthening these relationships.
The use of mobile apps for stakeholder engagement purposes is gaining popularity, thanks to the continued increase in use of mobile devices. Like websites and social media, the use of apps as a stakeholder or community engagement tool allows for 24/7 communication. Stakeholders aren’t held to a specific event day or time to successfully engage with organizations. This allows for a broader reach of stakeholders. Making technology available as a tool for engagement allows for more people to connect over projects that affect them.
This option for engagement is becoming more and more important for organizations to consider due to the high percentage of the population that has access to a smartphone. In 2016, as part of its General Social Survey, Statistics Canada reported that 76% of Canadians owned a smartphone. To break it down further, a staggering 94% of 15–34 year-old’s reported owning one, along with 69% of 55–64 year-old’s. These statistics provide a wealth of opportunities for organizations to use mobile apps to connect with their intended audience.
Bottom Line: If you’re not willing to respond to stakeholders who utilize newer technology as a means of engagement, these tools will not be helpful. Successful use of technology in any stakeholder engagement practice is dependent on really listening to stakeholders and ensuring they feel their voice is both heard and valued. Although utilizing technology for your stakeholder or community engagement strategy can provide challenges and may have drawbacks, overall, the use of technology aids and enhances stakeholder engagement participation. However, if you choose to include these newer technologies to your engagement strategy, you should also be prepared to assist stakeholders who are new to that technology.