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24 June 2020

SMS can help community engagement initiatives take off

In this webinar, we explored how SMS can be used to enhance community and stakeholder engagement. In late 2019, we partnered with the engagement specialists Bang the Table to connect their engagement web platform with our bulk text messaging gateway service.

There are so many great uses cases for SMS, but one that is yet to be truly explored is within the community engagement space. Bang the Table joined us in this webinar to offer their expertise and to help you understand how powerful SMS services can be in improving participation in community-based initiatives and projects. 

Working collaboratively, they demonstrated exactly how SMS can be used at different stages of your community engagement process and strategies. As an interactive webinar, we’d really suggest you watch it, or sign up for the next one to experience the customer experience live. If you prefer to read the takeaways, check them out below.

7 takeaways from enhancing community and stakeholder engagement with SMS

1. Outbound engagement

There are two broad approaches or two broad channels when it comes to using bulk SMS messages as an engagement tool.

The first is all about outbound engagement where you’ve already started to establish a relationship with the community through SMS. You’ve collected their phone numbers, and they’ve consented to a 2-way text conversation between your organisation and themselves. 

For example, in this webinar we collected attendee information prior to the recording, and then during the webinar we did a Quick Poll sent via SMS through Bang the Table’s platform. Quick Polls are a lightweight way to get feedback for voting decisions. Alternatively, they can be used as temperature gauges for key decisions as well.

A great real-life example is the local council of Rockhampton in Queensland who were eager to increase public participation and get the community more involved in their projects. Working with Bang the Table, and using MessageMedia’s text messaging solution, they started building out their reach out to the community by asking for mobile numbers. With this database of numbers, they can now, broadcast out and invite people into these engagements.

2. Inbound engagement

The second approach is through inbound SMS. In these cases, organisations have a specific mobile number in which communities can text their feedback. It’s important however that organisations, however, begin to think about how they get that mobile number out to the community, and encourage their community to participate? For existing clients and organisations who want to move into the space, they will need to use a dedicated number to receive the inbound text messages. 

Using SMS messaging in this way, you can start reaching people who might not have had a relationship with your organisation before because they don’t feel comfortable jumping on a website and prefer just using the phone. This can provide a more grounded opportunity for more members of the community to engage with you.  

The rural council of Yankalilla in South Australia were running a consultation around their annual budget and business plan by running public Zoom meetings in early May. Due to COVID and concerns on community safety, they couldn’t be together in a physical environment. 

During the session, they promoted out a dedicated mobile number to get SMS feedback into the platform. People were texting in asking questions easily, and the CEO was able to jump in and respond. Being able to provide that level of connectedness, and another feedback loop is a great way to improve engagement with your community.

3. Health sector use case engagement

Bang the Table has worked with regional and rural consumer representatives within the health sector. One important use case that has risen that is the use of SMS for post appointments.

Post appointments are when you send out an SMS after an appointment and have the data come back into an engagement platform. It’s an interesting use case in terms of using narrowed, aggregated data from a patient experience or a local area instead of a broad stakeholder group.

4. SMS is universal

SMS engages and is ubiquitous for all, which is why it works. Recently, MessageMedia released a report on consumer attitudes towards SMS. The results showed that almost 73% of all demographics enjoy getting SMS. Although there is some resistance against its use by older demographics, millennials and those in their 40s prefer it.

Even better, SMS doesn’t require a new phone or the latest update. SMS works as long as you have a mobile phone and it is able to receive messages and SMS is the same across all platforms.

5. Watch out for engagement fatigue

It often occurs when an organisation requests input, but there’s no sort of feedback or closing of the loop. That’s where engagement fatigue starts to set in. Your community members stop participating and engagement rates drop really low. It’s important that you do what you can to prevent this. 

According to Bang the Table, engagement fatigue occurs when the community is very involved but there’s no feedback as to the value of the contributions, how resulting decisions are made, and why projects took a certain direction without further consultation.  At its heart, it has a lot to do with the ongoing behaviour of the organisation and their relationship with the community.

This is where SMS can come in to help keep people informed about when different connection and transition points are occurring in those projects. As we talked about earlier, SMS can be useful for specific project communication or outbound communications with community members especially if your methodology is evolving based on input at different states.

This is something Bang the Table often helps solve. They work with organisations to instil best practices in order to limit or reduce potential engagement fatigue and to make sure community members are actively coming back.

6. Get advice around compliance

Whether you’re following an inbound or outbound approach when using SMS for engagement, it’s important that you’re aware and understand any legal regulations or compliance laws for electronic communications and transactions.

It is always entirely a question of consent. However, we believe that it is always best to seek advice from the experts. At MessageMedia, we make it our business to know and understand compliance when it comes to SMS. 

Our SMS enablement specialists are really well versed in compliance requirements in multiple geographies and jurisdictions. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

7. All community use cases

While Bang the Table does specialise in government and community use cases, engagement through SMS could easily expand out to a number of use cases for the utility sector (water, gas, energy) through to primary health networks, hospitals and so much more.

There’s no limitation to using SMS and blended digital engagement when you need to engage your community or stakeholders around being informed and involved in decision-making. 

Final thoughts, further reading 

Make sure to check out Bang the Table’s engagement platform, or speak to one of our advisors if you are interested in utilising SMS as part of your engagement strategies. For further reading, make sure to check out: 

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