How will you engage your audiences?

There are many ways to engage with audiences online. Remember that people are willing to support your campaign. To build momentum online, campaigns must make it as easy as possible for people to participate and show their support.

If you provide a spectrum of participation, with different levels of engagement or points of entry, then supporters – whether active or passive – can identify ways they could get involved. Some people may want to show support by simply changing their social media avatars; others may want to donate online or even make a video. However supporters want to participate, it is important that they can.

Ultimately, you want more people to get involved with your campaign. This requires being specific and explicit. Including calls to action such as “Click here to learn more”, “Show your support”, “Sign up here” and relevant web links will prompt audiences and clearly show your objectives. All your campaign content should state clearly what action you want people to take. Ensure that calls to action are realistic and achievable.

Creating and sharing high-quality content is the backbone of any online campaign. Equally important, however, is the ability to listen to the conversation and interact with supporters and stakeholders. This gives campaigns a real opportunity to hear first-hand what is important to target audiences. Social media has changed how audiences interact with campaigns and organisations. Communicating has become a dialogue, with social media providing the other voice. Users have come to expect that when they engage with a campaign or organisation on social media, they will receive a meaningful response. Responding to genuine questions or comments and joining discussions on social media will help campaigns and organisations to deepen engagement, build rapport and convert audiences to supporters and advocates.

How you respond to feedback, questions and concerns also affects the tone of the campaign. Consider what people post, and respond calmly and constructively. Or, where appropriate, refrain from responding in a heated debate when it is best just to ignore. Most social media platforms have ways to report harmful or abusive behaviour.

Engaging confidently with audiences on social media requires time and practice. Establishing social media guidelines for your campaign, and preparing responses to frequently asked questions, will make it more enjoyable and efficient. The benefits of engaging with audiences far outweigh the risks.

Social media listening tools such as Keyhole, Tweetreach and FollowtheHashtag will allow you to monitor the conversation, mentions of your username, and any campaign hashtags and relevant keywords. This will help you identify opportunities to join in the conversation.

Social Media Crisis Communications

It is paramount to pay attention and listen to the conversation. Monitoring social media allows you to have a finger on the pulse of the conversation online. This will give you an early warning if a crisis occurs – or, in an unfolding crisis, it will help you understand how audiences are responding. This helps you tailor your response accordingly.

If a crisis is identified, you should be ready to respond appropriately on social media. Responding quickly, even if it’s just “We’re looking into it”, shows users that the problem has been acknowledged. Draft key messages and ensure they are communicated to target audiences and influencers. Acknowledging and responding early will allow you to own the narrative and claim the online space, often preventing a crisis from spiralling. Social media lets you take control of the situation.

If social media users post criticisms of your campaign, interest or organisation, do not delete or suppress such posts if they make valid points. Let the comments stand. Quickly address any inappropriate messages or misuse. Correct misinformation, but don’t engage in heated arguments. Often, the community will correct itself and step in to correct inaccuracies or defend the institution. If this happens and is sufficient to resolve the issue, there may be no need for an additional official response.