8 tips for using AOD agencies online presence to enhance consumer participation
Everywhere I go the Alcohol and Other Drugs treatment sector seems to be struggling with how to best include consumer participation in their services. While each agency will approach the idea of consumer participation differently, I thought it might be useful to consider how the use of an organisation’s presence online might facilitate consumer participation.
What I came up with was 8 tips for using the organisations online presence to enhance consumer participation.
1. Meet consumers where they are at
Find out which social networking services the consumers that use your service access. Build an organisational presence there and let consumers know both online and off
2. Make your website a meeting place
Organisational websites have the potential to be far more than an online brochure of the services that you offer. By including the capacity for visitors to the organisation’s website to post comments, rate pages and respond to polls and surveys, you are starting a dialogue with people who will potentially access your service.
3. Work with others
Including links to consumer groups that provide advocacy and support for people who use drugs and/or access drug treatment services raises awareness amongst consumers about the potential for their involvement as an expert.
4. Reward participation
There are lots of ways that you can reward people for contributing to your service, probably the simplest way is to respond to them quickly, letting them know that their idea or issue has been heard.
5. Crowd source
Crowd sourcing enables you to include consumers in the shaping of the direction of the service and the projects that it is undertaking. By crowd sourcing ideas for how a service pursues a project you are actively asking consumers to help steer the ship.
6. Speak with, rather than talk at
So many organisation use social networks like Twitter and Facebook like an advertising bulletin, releasing a stream of posts spruiking upcoming events. The key word in the term Social Networks is ‘social’. To get the greatest benefit out of social networks organisations need to talk with consumers in these environments rather than speak at. Ask consumers a question. You’ll get more traffic in your social media channels and you will get a better idea of what consumers think of your organisation.
7. Measure and Review
By this time you will have collected alot of ideas and feedback. So often this is where consumer participation stalls. Don’t just sit on this information. Review it. Work out what you can do with it. What changes can the organisation make in response to the data collected.
8. Be transparent
Alcohol and other drug agencies spend a lot of time reporting to funding bodies but nearly never report to our consumers. It is important that if we are asking consumers to participate in how we run our services, that we report our organisational response to identified issues and recommendations for improvement made by our consumers. This can take place in our response to direct posts made by consumers in our organisations social media channels. Even if the organisation intends to make no changes based upon the feedback provided, be transparent and let people know how this decision was reached, and what further actions, if any that will take place. Organisations may also want to consider a regular report made available to all consumers that catalogues feedback given over a preceding period and outlines responses to recommendations and opinions expressed online.
I would love to hear of any other ideas about using online spaces to enhance consumer participation.