Online engagement requires careful curation to motivate and excite the silent majority, no matter how great the technology behind it

Online engagement matters, not least because it gives people that don't have the time or natural motivation an opportunity to get involved, where they might not otherwise.

There are lots of digital platforms for consultation out there that are transforming the way that organisations engage with people and people engage with places. But, too often, the opportunity to get real value and benefit from online engagement is missed because people aren't inspired to get involved, the information presented is too long-winded or complicated to digest or because people simply don't understand the importance of their involvement.

It isn't enough simply to provide an 'online arm' of your consultation and expect it to yield results, even with a slick digital interface for people to get involved. Here are our five simple top tips to get the most out of online engagement:

Don't risk instant rejection

The biggest pitfall often happens before the online bit even begins. Consultation publicity sent in window envelopes, addressed to 'The Occupier', can be rejected as 'junk mail'. Send bold and overt print publicity that instantly gets the message across, builds interest and motivates involvement.

Keep your URL simple

Google is quite forgiving when you mis-spell or miss out punctuation in a search term, but browsers are less forgiving when you misspell a website address. The longer your consultation website URL, the more potential for errors and the more potential for people giving up at the first hurdle.

Make it smartphone compatible

A younger, more tech-savvy person is more likely to check out your website on their smartphone, so make sure your website can handle a small screen. Minimise text as far as possible, consider how a small screen displays development plans, drawings and CGIs, and avoid PDF downloads if possible.

Avoid overwhelming with technicalities

The local authority may not *be able to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply* and your project may well *be policy compliant*, but your participants probably don't care. Concentrate on the things that matter to them, such as new places to live, work and play, and leave the rest out.

Don't ask too much

So, you've got their attention and you've inspired them to get involved, but do you really expect them to spend time answering 60 feedback questions? Think carefully about what insight from the community will be valuable and pick 5 or 6 questions that will help you yield it.

We at Participatr don't simply provide online consultation software, we provide a consultancy service to create and carefully curate bespoke online consultations that have maximum impact and yield the best possible results. Get in touch to find out how we can help.

Written by Paul Erskine-Fox - Founder, Participatr

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