6 Ways to Incorporate SMS into Your Engagement Strategy
Nicole Vaughan looks at the versatility of using SMS in your engagement.
Inviting input via SMS can kick off a consultation that fosters rapport and creates trust and buy-in for your engagement process. It demonstrates that you are listening and seek to collaborate and inform in a way that works for them. It also serves to open the door for more in-depth engagement with a broader audience. Let’s look at the versatility of using SMS in the realm of engagement:
1. Don’t forget! Meeting and Key Date Reminders
UtilizeUtilise SMS to provide timely and relevant reminders to your community in a one way informative context. With face-to-face meetings somewhat extinct in 2020, don’t let precious live meeting time go to waste with no-shows. Schedule a short SMS reminder including the meeting link and details to all your meeting RSVP’s in advance. Send a quick SMS reminder to highlight key dates such as contributions closing to ensure your community don’t miss out on opportunities. You can also tailor specific messaging to subgroups such as important leaders to make their lives easier in keeping up to date with consultation timeframes. The convenience of receiving SMS reminders is a great method to obtain consent for providing a mobile number.
2. Understand the Pulse of your Community with SMS Polls
SMS is a great way to get a gauge on important topics with an easy and reliable quick poll allowing participants to respond with a simple number. Set up auto-flow SMS responses inviting the community to view the results of the poll, expand further on their response or engage in a deeper way. SMS can include short trackable links to take participants to your EngagementHQ site and view the total results. SMS poll contributions combine with desktop and web browser responses displaying real-time data. You can also set up your poll to only allow one response per phone number to ensure the validity of your results.
Polling can also be used in a meeting context as an icebreaker for stakeholders or workshops with fun questions providing insights into your group. Alternatively, it can be used wider in an open public meeting too – quick polls can help you understand the community sentiment on a topic and you could even retest the same polling question at the conclusion of a meeting or engagement to understand any shift or change.
3. Adding SMS into the Feedback Loop
SMS is a great way to garner feedback on important topics and insights from the community on the engagement process itself. There are countless ways this could be applied – telephone engagement experiences, insights from reports or outcomes released, understanding meeting productivity and experience, decision-making processes, feelings around communication and transparency, or gathering additional ideas or options not yet explored.
Just like email – SMS can be crafted and scheduled in advance to align with significant milestones in your engagement process. With the added advantage of Message Media’s Conversations package allowing you to set up auto flow responses – SMS feedback can be dynamic, immediate, and without administrative burden. How many times have you left a meeting with feedback at the ready but no opportunity to get into the agenda or submitted a survey form only to think of a really valuable contribution later – SMS provides an avenue to tap into those additional thoughts and ideas and get immediate feedback on what is working well (or not!) in your engagement process. Bang the Table’s integration with Message Media allows you to display the SMS feedback on EngagementHQ tools including the Guestbook or Ideas Board. The auto-flow responses can be fully customizedcustomised allowing you to invite those who make a contribution to increase their awareness, gather additional information, or further engage with questions or alternative methodology.
4. Idea Gathering in a Convenient Setting
SMS provides the opportunity to gather ideas from your stakeholders and community in a convenient way that encourages immediate action. Most of us could recall seeing email feedback options when on the go and making a mental note to follow up later, only to miss details from our contribution later on or forget altogether!
With SMS you can share a dedicated mobile number in a context that fits your stakeholders and/or engagement topics such as displayed in your organizationorganisation or public facilities and inclusion in communication materials. For example, a transport agency could display a dedicated phone number allowing for the community to participate via text to share their thoughts, ideas, and experience whilst waiting for a train which is convenient idle time.
The flexible nature of SMS allows for on the spot engagement with the contributions linked back to EngagementHQ’s tools including Forum, Guestbook, and the Ideas board. Integrating this additional channel into your engagement strategy allows other users on desktop or mobile to continue the conversation in an open context.
An example of this is the City of Somerville in the US, who shared their dedicated phone number on posters around the city and asked their community to text in their ideas on what kinds of community spaces they would like to see. These SMS contributions were then integrated into their EngagementHQ platform to display on the Ideas tool allowing other community members to view, also add their own ideas, comment, and vote.
This example from City of Somerville shows SMS allows participants to remain anonymous with contributions appearing on your EngagementHQ site as ‘via SMS.’ You can also allow participants to build on each other’s responses from the comfort of their own homes at the time of day that works for them.
5. Stay on Track with Question and Commentary
For people to feel valued and welcome in sharing their thoughts, it’s essential to foster and maintain a productive dialogue. Threaded questions or contributions allow for a question, opinion or idea to be built upon or challenged respectfully, without distracting from others.
This example from the District Council of Yankalilla’s Forum Tool showcases the threaded responses. Notice how their CEO has responded to questions posed from the community and in addition to SMS contributions from the meeting, Council staff uploaded email feedback and allowed for feedback outside of meeting times providing flexibility to the community to engage in a way and time that suits them.
With many meetings including the local government sector now online via video conferencing platforms – communities who are enraged, passionate, or just particularly vocal in video conference chat windows can run wild without threaded responses or filter for distracting, inappropriate, or offensive responses that could derail the agenda.
On the flip side, by filtering all questions through SMS (and turning off video conference chat) you can be assured of expert moderation with EngagementHQ, protecting you and your community against bullying, heckling, and inappropriate behaviorbehaviour from meeting attendees.
Bang the Table client District Council of Yankallilla used SMS to manage questions for a public meeting and integrated the responses with EngagementHQ’s Forum tool. Their dedicated phone number was shown on all slides throughout the meeting and verbally it was reiterated for all questions and comments to be received via SMS. This enabled the questions to be managed by the Council team and responded verbally in the meeting or followed up with responses from Council following the meeting.
This example from the District Council of Yankalilla’s draft budget project demonstrates the ease of SMS use. Notice how their dedicated mobile number is mentioned verbally at the commencement of the meeting and on screen. Throughout the meeting, the number and EngagementHQ Forum link is shown across the bottom of the screen. Using SMS Council addressed community questions without distracting from the main council meeting agenda.
6. Streamline your Reporting
Integrating your Message Media account with EngagementHQ allows you to utilizeutilise the extensive reporting suite to better understand insights and manage large amounts of SMS contributions with your other participation types. District Council of Yankalilla’s Community Engagement Officer, Natasha Hunt, enjoyed the benefits of ”streamlined reporting with all our commentary on council rates integrated to one Forum tool including SMS, meeting feedback and standard web inputs that made life so much easier”. The District Council of Yankalilla also took the additional step to input email submissions to the Forum tool as administrators allowing for transparency of Council response and holistic view of the community sentiment.
Text analysis allows you to group similar SMS contributions using advanced search and bulk tagging. To obtain added context around how each SMS received based on other’s comments, apply Sentiment Analysis which will automatically assign a positive, neutral, mixed, or negative sentiment tag onto each comment for an extra layer of insight.
Message Received: I Want to Use SMS – Where to Next?
Imagine what SMS collaboration could bring about for the future of your community and stakeholders. Develop your own strategies and utilizeutilise this channel in combination with EngagementHQ’s online engagement tools across various phases of consultation.
Whether you have an existing Message Media account or are brand new to the whole SMS world, we are here to guide you. Bang the Table’s expert team will ensure the SMS channel is a seamless addition to your engagement toolkit. Let us know about your next consultation and we can work with you to develop an SMS solution to broaden your reach.
Get in touch with us or talk to your Engagement Manager to get started with SMS to enhance your next engagement.
Learn more about how SMS can power your next engagement conversation.