Communication vs. engagement


Andrea Di Maio, a VP at Gartner specialising in e-government, recently penned these thoughts about communication and engagement in a Government 2.0 context. I think he’s spot on, and it’s a pretty universal lesson. I swapped the words ‘citizens’ for ‘people’ and ‘government’ for ‘your organisation’ in his text and here’s what I got:

Using social media to communicate means to expand a multichannel communication strategy to encompass new channels. It used to be the counter, the telephone and the web site: now you have the Twitter hashtag or the Facebook page, but these are just channels. Of course people can engage, retweet your information, post on your Facebook page, and so forth. So it would appear that simply setting some ground rules about what people can and cannot do and how the moderation policy works would go a long way toward moving from simple communication to engagement.

But “real” engagement is something else. It is about figuring out where people are already having conversations that your organisation needs to be aware of. It is about bringing information and dialogue to places where people want that dialogue to happen: their blogs, their Facebook groups, their Twitter streams.

In essence, an effective communication strategy is likely to be almost the exact opposite of an effective engagement strategy. The former chooses and controls channels, while the latter joins somebody else’s channels. The former determines rules of engagement, the latter follows somebody else’s rules. The former assumes that people reach out to your organisation, the latter is based on your organisation reaching out to communities and groups.