In their words: Creating Viral Engagement

From MetroQuest — a nice piece of advising on how to help your initiative reach beyond the usual suspects by making people want to share it — that’s called “going viral.”


At MetroQuest, we know how important it is to generate robust participation for your planning projects. We know you’d like to go beyond what we fondly refer to as those “same ten people” who show up for everything. You’d like a much larger and broader representation of the community’s views. So what works best? Over the past 16 years we’ve focused on engaging the public in planning projects using digital tools, and we’ve seen lots of strategies. We’re also very proud of the fact that MetroQuest was at the center of many of the most successful and award-winning community engagement projects in the planning world.

While every project is different, here are a few strategies that we’ve seen pay off well:

  1. Remember that your primary goal in a networked world is to create something that peoplewant to share with friends, family and colleagues. That means making sure that the experience is fun, easy, fast, compelling and relevant.
  2. Make sure that MetroQuest is easy to share, preferably with one click. Link it to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks and let your participants spread the word for you.
  3. Evaluate your community: Who are the thought leaders? What community groups exist? How do they communicate?
  4. Think carefully about the “voice” of your communication to the world. What personality do you want to present to the world? How can you make it more personal and engaging?
  5. Make sure that your site is live before public events so you can demo it and send those participants home with the site address and a request to help spread the word.
  6. Leverage partnerships. If, together, we’ve done a good job creating a fun and meaningful experience, community groups and agency partners will be glad to help spread the word.
  7. “Chance to win” contests work! For the price of one iPad you can boost participation dramatically.
  8. Give your site enough time to spread throughout the community. It can take a little while for a critical mass to build up, and when it does, wow!

Our goal is the help all of our clients achieve the best participation possible and we’ve seen many gems. We’re always learning too. What best practices can you add?


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