It seems as though every two to three years, we are regurgitating the same pabulum about the need for government to be more participatory. However, local governments have a long way to go before they can genuinely claim to be a data-driven organization that shares information in order to facilitate better decision making. While many of our local government counterparts have embraced digital strategies and are seeing positive results, their adoption is not universal.
Too often, members of the public will see a digital strategy and think “this government doesn’t care about me” or “they aren’t listening to me.” But that’s simply not true. Even when there are no digital tools available, council members and staff should work hard to listen directly with residents so they can understand their needs and concerns. And while many councils have already begun implementing digital strategies on paper, it’s easy for them to take action without looking at their data or analyzing the potential ROI from doing so.
In this blog post, we outline how you can leverage your digital strategy so that it becomes a force for good in your community rather than an albatross around your neck.
Audience-centric digital strategies are effective at improving engagement and transparency
The first thing that a local government must do in order to increase community participation is to understand their audience. This means knowing who they are, what they want, and what they need. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, and social media analytics. Once you have a good understanding of your audience, you can begin to craft an audience-centric digital strategy that will help to engage and inform them.
One of the most effective ways to increase community participation is through the use of digital tools. For example, you can create a blog that provides information about your city or town, including news, events, and important announcements. You can also use social media to connect with residents and provide them with updates on what’s happening in their community. Additionally, you can use email marketing to keep residents informed about important issues and events.
The key to success with audience-centric digital strategies is to make sure that your messaging is clear, concise, and relevant. You should also ensure that your digital tools are easy to use and accessible to all residents, regardless of their level of technical expertise.
Decide what part of your community you’re trying to reach and make an effort to reach them
Once you have a good understanding of your audience, the next step is to decide which part of your community you want to reach.
This might include specific neighborhoods, age groups, or interest groups. Once you have identified your target audience, you can begin to develop a digital strategy that is tailored to their needs and interests.
For example, if you want to reach young families in your community, you might consider creating a social media campaign that focuses on family-friendly events and activities. If you want to engage seniors, you might consider creating a website that provides information about local resources for seniors, such as senior centers and transportation services.
It’s also important to remember that not all residents will have the same level of interest in your digital strategy. Some may be very engaged, while others may be less interested. It’s important to make an effort to reach all residents, but to also recognize that some may not be as receptive to your messaging.
Be transparent about your data and analyze the potential success of your digital strategy
One of the key challenges of implementing a digital strategy is the need to be transparent about your data.
This means being open and honest about how you collect, store, and use resident data. It also means being transparent about the goals of your digital strategy, and how you plan to measure its success.
To ensure that your digital strategy is successful, it’s important to analyze its potential ROI. This means looking at the costs associated with implementing your strategy, as well as the potential benefits. For example, if you are implementing a social media campaign, you might consider the costs of hiring a social media manager, creating content, and running ads. You would then compare these costs to the potential benefits, such as increased engagement, higher website traffic, and better feedback from residents.
Analyzing the potential ROI of your digital strategy will help you to make informed decisions about where to invest your time and resources. It will also help you to demonstrate the value of your digital strategy to council members and other stakeholders.
Try targeted email marketing
One of the most effective ways to increase community participation is through targeted email marketing. This involves sending emails to residents who have opted-in to receive updates from your local government.
Targeted emails can be used to inform residents about important issues, events, and initiatives. They can also be used to solicit feedback and encourage residents to get involved in their community.
To be effective, targeted email marketing must be relevant and timely. Emails should be well-written and engaging, with a clear call-to-action. They should also be personalized, addressing residents by name and using language that is appropriate for their age and interests.
Cultivate an active social media presence
Social media can be a powerful tool for local governments looking to increase community participation. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be used to share news and updates, promote events, and solicit feedback from residents.
To be effective on social media, local governments must be active and engaged. This means regularly posting updates and responding to comments and messages from residents. It also means being transparent and honest about the goals of your social media strategy, and how you plan to use resident data.
Finally, it’s important to measure the success of your social media strategy. This can be done by tracking engagement metrics like likes, shares, and comments, as well as website traffic and conversions.
Local governments have a responsibility to be transparent, accountable, and accessible to all residents. Digital strategies can help to facilitate this by increasing engagement, improving transparency, and providing residents with the information they need to make informed decisions about their community. By leveraging targeted email marketing and cultivating an active social media presence, local governments can increase community participation and build stronger, more resilient communities.