[WEBINAR] How to Optimize Online Engagement for Government Agencies

woman on tablet with map marker screen

Watch Webinar Recording

About the Webinar

Government agencies frequently ask how they can get the best results from online community engagement. This webinar presents a visual tour of the strategies that agencies of all sizes can use to achieve unprecedented levels of participation, informed public input and actionable results. Whether you are interested in trying online engagement for the first time or are already a power user, this session is the fastest way to get up-to-date and learn about how you can optimize your online public engagement.

Learn the best practices to help you create the most effective online engagement experience, promote your site for maximum participation and analyze and showcase your results to give decision makers the confidence they need. You’ll learn from award-winning case studies and see simple techniques that you can use to optimize your online engagement to achieve the best results for your agency.

Additional Resources for Attendees

As described in my presentation, you can download your complimentary Beginner’s Guide to Effective Online Engagement. I hope you find it useful.

Presentation Slides

My slides from the presentation are available here.

Questions and Responses

There were so many questions that came in that this post would scroll on and on if I responded to each one separately. It would also get repetitive since there were common themes among them. What I’ve done below is pull out one question from each of the common themes and wrote a response. I hope this covers most of what’s on your mind. Naturally I would encourage you to reach out to me or one of our engagement specialists if there are still unanswered questions on your mind.

How does MetroQuest account for those who might not have computer access or speak another language?

MetroQuest offers multilanguage support. Once a site is created in English, since there are not a great deal of words on each screen, it’s easy to have these translated into any language of your choice. We do not recommend using automatic translators as these often get the meaning wrong and compromise the integrity of the input. Once created, participants can simply toggle to the language of their choice on the opening screen. We find that it’s important to engage the leaders of the community groups to help to promote participation among these other non-English speaking people as they are often better connected and a more trusted source.

For people without computer access, using kiosks for iPads at community centers or local events can be very helpful to gather the input of difficult to reach populations. If you can set up a table with a staff person on hand during popular events this will allow people to get assistance if they need.

With this said, there will always be people who will not want to use a device of any kind so sometimes a paper-based option can be useful as well. It’s really all about providing many easy options for people to participate in the way they feel is most convenient or comfortable.

Do people need to log-in/register to use MetroQuest?

This question was addressed at the end of the webinar at 41:35. In short, no, the MetroQuest software is optimized to engage as many people as possible – going well beyond the “usual suspects.” For that reason, it’s designed to avoid any possible barriers to participation like requiring people to sign-up before they participate. Such a barrier typically reduces participation by approximately 90%. MetroQuest still allows you to collect demographic information on participants as well as email address and other information as a part of your survey if you wish.

Can the look of the platform be changed or adjusted to our needs?

Yes there are many ways that the look of your MetroQuest sites can be modified to suit your project. First there are many screen types which act as templates. You are free to use whichever ones best meet your needs for the project in question. Next the look and functionality of each screen can be adjusted in a variety of ways to match the branding of your agency or project and the specific public input needs of your project. There are naturally limitations in place that are mostly to ensure that everything works well on all platforms and smartphones and to adhere to the best practices we’ve learned over the years.

Do you have these surveys available at actual public meetings or do you send people to a website after the meeting to provide feedback?

Yes, often our clients bring devices like iPads or laptops to public meetings to provide options for people to participate on the spot if they wish. Since these are some of your most engaged participants it’s a good idea to make sure they go home with the link and possibly even a handful of post cards with the project info and url on it to share with their friends or community group.

MetroQuest seems like a great engagement tool with large participation numbers, and we’ve been thinking about using it for upcoming projects. However, you never discuss HOW citizens learn about the survey in the first place. We have a limited online following, and while a survey like MetroQuest’s would be great, I’m curious what you all do, or what your clients have done, to promote the survey.

This is a great question and one that I did not have time to cover in the webinar. Thankfully there is an entire section in the Beginner’s Guide on this very topic. I hope you find it useful. In short, there are a wide range of promotional strategies that our clients have found to be useful. Any kind of digital outreach is always useful since recipients can simply click a link to begin. Email and social networking tools are top of the list. Facebook ads provide a cost-effective way to target specific areas and demographic groups. Once the ball gets rolling, a fun and user-friendly tool such as MetroQuest should be shared by participants and away you go.

How would you avoid one person submitting multiple surveys? Is this managed by IP address

I addressed this at the end of the webinar but only partially. I mentioned that there are safeguards in place to avoid people being able to abuse the system by “ballot stuffing” but I did not discuss how we do it. Part of the reason is that we do not publicly share all of these details to protect the integrity of the safeguards. I can say that part of the safeguard system involves IP address tracking but it’s more sophisticated than that because there are situations where a single IP address could legitimately be used by many people. For example, a single library computer or kiosk could collect input from hundreds of people so caution must be taken to only filter out real abusers. A multilayer system is needed with IP address being only one of those layers. As I said, this kind of abuse is extremely rare but it’s comforting to know that these safeguards are available.

Can you talk more about your success with kiosks?

Success with kiosks is hit and miss and depends largely on the location where they are placed. Our clients have had the most success in busy area where people find themselves with time on their hands such as libraries and community centers. If you are waiting for your child to come out of the locker room, a nice-looking kiosk can be appealing. When you are waiting for your bus or train, you might have time but you will be unlikely to stop because you are preoccupied with getting to your destination. In a great location, we’ve seen participation numbers in the hundreds per day. We’ve also seen much lower numbers so it might be useful to speak with one of our engagement specialists about your situation and needs to see if kiosks are likely to be a good return on investment.

Hi Dave – I enjoyed the webinar and wanted to thank you for this and the resource. What I find often times is that we continue to see examples where tools are developed or designed mainly for community/municipal engagement. We are seeking examples of engaging broad audiences/perspectives on policy and strategy topics. I’m not seeing how this tool would do that for us. Our engagement does need to delve into exploring what exists, brainstorming opps/challenges and seeking advice on solutions. Any examples?

I did focus the examples on community and municipal engagement projects since the audience was largely local government representatives. MetroQuest has been used for all kinds of strategy and policy projects (climate action, health care, etc) that I did not show. If you have a particular type of project you have in mind I would encourage you to reach out to one of our engagement team as they will likely have ideas and examples that would resonate better than the local government ones I showed.

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