How should I grow my online presence?

The PublicSquare Blog

We all know how important online engagement has become due to social distancing needs but are we using the right channels to engage with our community? And are we truly listening to the things that our community is trying to tell us?

When an organization needed to built support in the past, it would use hold in-person events and send physical mail to ensure that they were keeping a line of communication open with their communities.

But as we’re transitioning into a largely digital economy, many organizations are investing those same dollars into online channels to ensure that they’re meeting their audiences where they are. However as we all know, online conversations with our communities are currently mediated by massive social media companies — twitter, facebook, instagram, and youtube.

Social media is a siren song

We feel like we’re engaging with our communities that same way we used to before the shift to the digital economy. In reality, the dialogue has greatly deteriorated. Social media channels are designed (albeit not on purpose) to optimize for things that produce shock value as they result the in most amount of views/followers/likes. This naturally facilitates a polarizing conversation and we tend to lose our ability to capture any nuance.

So while companies have seen traction through online channels, they haven’t really built very many meaningful relationships with that same community. In fact, they have invested millions of dollars in building relationships which can end at any time. Not the best return on investment in our point of view!

You could build a lot more trust

What’s more is that solely connecting with your audiences through social media does not allow you collect any structured data about what they truly want. You may have a rough idea about what the loudest community members are saying but you do not know what most people think / want.

As there no real feedback cycle (one-off tweets or facebook messages don’t count!) for you to draw aggregate insights from your community, it becomes very hard to build a trust based relationship. Like the one you had prior to our transition to the digital economy.

To build a long lasting and resilient community, it has now become important to invest in methods which not only allow you to engage with your audiences online, but are also designed to help build trust.

Pillars of building trust online

We believe that there are 3 pillars of building trust online.

1. You should be able to talk with your communities live— the same way as if you would have during an in-person meeting or event.

In practice, this means you should be able to run events or town-halls where you can run live Q&A sessions and surveys in a structured way.

2. You should be able to collect meaningful data during your conversations with your community and then make smart decisions based on that data.

Many organizations now use customer behaviour data to make decisions. However, it is rare to see organizations having any robust system in opening up a direct dialogue with their communities and then using the data from that engagement to make decisions. Tracking behaviour is not the same as opening up the floor for meaningful dialogue. Structured data collected from these higher fidelity conversations go a much longer in a) helping make the right decisions and b) building more stickiness with your community.

3. You should facilitate a way for the people in your community to engage directly with each other on a specific topic so that richer insights can be uncovered.

As social creatures, people tend to get more open about their point of view if others are also openly sharing around them. And thus the things that you will learn by allowing your community to engage with others on a specific topic will greatly add to the things you already know by engaging directly with them.

But don’t all these things already exist?

You may say that I can already talk with my communities live through Zoom Webinars, can already collect structured data through Survey Monkey, and can already see what my community is saying over Reddit. So why can’t I use those things?

The challenge with using multiple different platforms to achieve a singular purpose will always be that your understanding will be fragmented. Your data will always have gaps and you will never know for sure if the Jane Smith who said that one thing over Zoom was also the same Jane Smith who made that really important point on Reddit. So you never truly know what Jane Smith wants.

Enter PublicSquare

We built PublicSquare to fully integrate the 3 pillars of building trust online into one single platform. Our vision at PublicSquare is to let you engage live with your community, collect structured data and provide a forum those deeper conversations all in a 1 stop shop.

It’s time to bring the trust back in our online strategies and truly build relationships that will last.

Policy / advocacy tools of the future.

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