Best Practices for Engaging Your Innovation Community

Community meeting with a group of people standing and sitting.
Get everyone in the community involved.

Developing a broad and deep innovation community puts a wonderful resource at your fingertips. Yet tapping into that resource requires more than just cheerleading. Here’s how to bring your community together and work toward a common goal.

Know Your Community

Start by truly understanding who your innovation community is. For example, perhaps the unifying factor is that everyone works for the same company. From there, dig deeper. What do they do? What are their interests? What are their pain points? Who are their advocates, and who’s most active on your innovation platforms or meetings? Put together a view of your community and use that as a starting point.

Have A Simple, Easy-to-Complete Task

The complexity of a task and the willingness of a crowd to do that task have an inverse relationship. If you send out an email asking people to vote yes or no on an idea, you’ll get far more votes than if you asked for a paragraph about what people think. Make any tasks you want someone to perform as streamlined and easy to grasp as possible, while leaving the door open for more detailed communication. For example, you might ask for yes or no votes, and then follow that up with an optional request for people to detail why they voted a particular way.

Have Clear Deadlines And Milestones

If you’ve ever had a task with a vague or non-specific deadline, it’s likely slid down your to-do list as other things become more urgent. The same is true of community engagement; if people don’t have a specific timeframe, they’ll get to it when they get to it, if at all. Include clear dates and other data-driven milestones you want to reach to drive engagement.

Community meeting around a conference table raising their hands in agreement.
Getting to yes takes more than just holding a vote.

Be Concise And Transparent

Everyone’s busy, and nobody has just stumbled into your innovation community unaware you might ask for a little help getting things done. So be clear about what you want and why you want it. If you need their feedback on an idea, get the idea in front of them as quickly as possible, and explain why. This extends to other communications; if someone asks you for more details, be forthcoming. Make free use of links to add details and follow up on concepts, so you can keep your copy direct and to the point.

Tailor Your Messages

Let’s say you have a contest for new app ideas for local government that includes a cash prize. Since you’re being concise, you can write the same message multiple ways to cater to different needs and desires in your group. For example, you may have a segment that couldn’t care less about the prize, but are civic boosters who want life in their city to be easier and better, while another segment is interested in the prize. You should mention both, of course; remember transparency is key.  However, you might send different messages foregrounding the different aspects to these groups.

Community engagement requires thought, flexibility, and effort. To learn more, download our guide Activate Your Crowd Outreach.

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