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Measuring Online Citizen Engagement

by Nina Vuong
Post Date:01/04/2017

If you work in local government, odds are you have been directed to “improve engagement” at some point by a well-meaning elected official or administrator. It’s not surprising: in our recent What’s Next in Digital Communications survey, 100% of respondents said engagement would have a significant impact on local government operations by 2020, yet only 5% considered to be “outstanding” at engaging their residents.

With so many agencies looking for ways to improve, what’s the best way to measure the effectiveness of engagement?

As with implementing any campaign or strategy, the best place to start is by taking a step back and thinking about what you’re specifically trying to achieve. Engagement may take on a number of forms in different circumstances, depending on the issues at hand. Making a blanket statement that you would like to “engage the public” is an extremely difficult goal to achieve because it lacks focus. Get specific, and determine what you’re looking to achieve such as:

  • Landing Page Icon - Measuring Engagement-01.pngBuilding followers on social media
  • Getting feedback on an important policy change
  • Promoting participation in an event
  • Demonstrating transparency around a development project
  • Increasing awareness about a particular issue

Once you determine what you’re trying to achieve, you need to set specific, measurable goals to help you track the success of your efforts. For example:

  • Adding 100 new Twitter followers in Q1
  • Receiving 50 survey responses about a policy change in 30 days
  • Getting 25,000 visits to the project update web page by the end of the year

Outlining your objectives will not only help focus your efforts, but will also help provide alignment around how you are defining and measuring engagement for the project.

If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some other measurable goals to consider:

  • Percentage of returning website visitors: Returning visitors are more engaged with your agency because they have visited your website, liked the content on your website, and have returned for more information.
  • Social media likes, shares and impressions: When more people like and share your posts, you can reach a broader audience outside of your network. Similarly, residents are able to interact with your posts by commenting, liking or sharing them.
  • eNotifications subscriptions: eNotifications allow residents to sign up to receive alerts about news that’s relevant to them, and it’s a great way to publicize engagement opportunities, like events and surveys. This lets your residents choose the topics that interest them, which continues to further promote their engagement with your content.
  • Feedback and comments: Having a blog or a forum for citizens to voice their opinions, concerns or requests is a great way to see how many residents are engaging with your agency.
  • Blog views: Interested citizens who may not otherwise participate may connect with your blog because it offers them a way to access more detailed information on topics like elections, facility improvements and committee openings.

Though you may not rate your efforts as “outstanding” overnight, always returning to a metrics-driven mentality will help you gauge your organization’s improvement over time and identify ways to continually improve over time. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out our Local Government Guide to Online Management.

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