Does Online Community Engagement just mean having a Facebook page?

One of the questions we hear around Australia and New Zealand’s stakeholder engagement community is “does online engagement mean social media”?

It can, but it doesn’t have to.

Think of online and digital media like walking into a shoe shop.

There’s lots of choice in online engagement.

Some are designed for everyday use. Some are for special occasions. Others are hard-wearing, designed for the long haul and almost never have to be replaced. Then there are the must-haves for online engagement because, well, you’re expected to have them.

And finally, there’s that on-trend, “oh-my-gosh I really have to have it so everyone notices.”

Here are some tools and how they’re used.

Online engagement – Interactive Games

Used to gather information about how people use energy and water to educate the community and therefore understand the trigger points for change.

Augmented Reality Tours

Street tours and walking tours overlay future images or videos from project or community leaders.

Virtual Reality Apps

Apps where you can be immersed in the future of what is being proposed, for example, imagine standing in a 360 degree world with birds flying overhead depicting a future life.


Rather than a boring survey that tells you everything and gives nothing back to the participant, some organisations are building surveys that produce a participant avatar (character that describes who they are or what they believe). Avatars are being used for internal staff online engagement and community visualisation exercises.

Interactive Images

Rather than a static image, clients are creating interactive images or maps that you can click on and get access to a video, facts, link to another URL, or a “contact us” form.

Live Polling

Poll a group at engagement events where the results show in real time and can be discussed afterwards. It’s being used in everything from waste industry forums, to housing policy forums, to deliberative forums.

Online Discussion Forums

Some organisations are using online purpose-built platforms, and others are building their own, especially in scenarios with long term community engagement.

Collaborative Mapping

This is where the community can pin issues, opportunities or great ideas onto an online map including transport routes, planning schemes, environmental planning and more.

Wikis for online and policy engagement 

The ultimate way to have open and transparent online deliberative discussions. Wikis are similar to Wikipedia but are created for specific engagement projects and they’re being used particularly in policy engagement.

Many other ways including crowdsourcing of volunteers and technical solutions, mobile app creation for anything, online policy hacks, polling, creating photo montages for the future, live twitter chats and more. All of these are paving the way for improved online engagement for communities.