It breaks my heart that community engagement is often just a buzzword that tossed around the table, often in the same breath as social media strategy. While community engagement is a huge part of social media strategies, it’s a completely different thing that needs it’s own showcase.

What the difference between social media strategies and community engagement? It’s a simple matter of outreach versus engagement. Social media strategies often include community engagement, in the form of replies, likes, secondary actions, hashtag strategies and contests. However, there are some elements that cannot completely be done through social media strategies, including moderated forums and interactive mapping. 

online outreach versus online engagement chart


In all engagement strategies, there are five different levels of engagement: inform, consult, involve, collaborate, and empower: 


1. Informing most commonly involves social media, newsletters, advertising and other forms of outreach.

2. Consulting is polling and surveys.

3. Involve is town halls (online or in person) or forums.

4. Collaborate would be interactive mapping and community commenting on projects or ideas.

5. Empowerment take collaborate and increases the engagement so that individuals are also collaborating with each other, not just with the organization.


It’s not easy feat getting to the empower level. Generally speaking, when going through the levels, there is a three step backbone: socially engage, create trust, and move to action. To socially engage, find your key stakeholders and influencers. Reach out to them, ask them to participate and ask them what draws them to your project/idea. Take their responses seriously and implement the feasible ones. This will demonstrate trust. From that trust, continue to engage with them and watch as they join in on the action.


Most important? Make sure that community is at the core. That’s how successful community engagement happens.

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