Alternative online engagement tips from a Harry Potter fan. 

For the past 4 months I have been working with SA Power Networks providing community engagement advice and support on a vast engagement program including a State-wide regional workshop tour, vulnerable customer conversations, CALD engagement workshops and so much more. But the most far reaching engagement project I have taken on for SA Power Networks is the Talking Power online engagement website.

I have built and managed a number of online engagement websites over the years, and have come to the singular conclusion: online engagement websites are fantastic beasts!

I use this JK Rowling reference quite deliberately. Because online engagement websites are effectively the hybrid offspring of a corporate webpage and a social media platform.

How do you find a balanced state when two such contrary beasts collide?

The Badger of Hufflepuff (my visualisation of the corporate website), has been around for a long time. Its tried and tested. Staff from across the organisation are fully literate in its linguistic style, tooled up to roll out an online engagement website full to brimming with acronyms, corporate catchphrases, formal language and a tone of authority. But do you really need two corporate websites? And is this corporate style going to encourage people to engage?

The Eagle of Ravenclaw (org facebook page) has a few years under its belt too. But Slytherin has been razzed up over a few issues in the past, so the organisation only allows a few staff, with a very specific skill set, to manage the eagle. And they are great at it. Interactive, upbeat, conversational; they know how to splash a message and attract attention in this highly competitive space. Attention-capital is paramount don’t you know! But it’s easy to fall into the trap of hunting likes, and posting material with little depth. Informed feedback and considered views should be your goal – not fleeting opinions posted on the run.

Building and managing online engagement websites is an important responsibility. To do it well you must you must know your beasts, Eagle and Badger, and focus on consistently bringing the best quality of each to the table.

Here are my alternative tips for bringing out the best of your fantastic beast:

  1. Treat every interaction with a participant as a relationship building opportunity. Every single one! Seek authentic connection with users. Your regulars will break the ice encourage others to engage. Don’t be afraid to take the conversation offline with an email or phone call.
  2. Personalise language. Don’t say ‘the City of Bla-bla is seeking feedback from residents on bla.’ Who talks like this in face to face interactions? No one! Use personalised language such as ‘we’ and ‘our’. ‘Your views are important to us.’
  3. Don’t say ‘have your say’ too much. It gets old really fast! Try substituting one of the following: share your thoughts, hit us with your feedback, voice your thoughts, chime in, your two cents, be frank, say what you think, make yourself heard, speak out, let’s hear your views, up for a chat?
  4. Block your diary out after sending a newsletter. Kinda obvious really! But the newsletter functions as your fantastic beats notification system. That’s when your people will be engaging. Be ready.
  5. Be present. Try to be on your site every day. Update content regularly and keep it alive. It is only with regular contact will that you can get to know the rhythms of your fantastic beast. Know your people and know your beast.

I would love to hear some more ‘alternate tips’ on keeping fantastic online engagement beasts lively, fun and interesting. Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email on

By the way, the mascot of Ravenclaw is an eagle – who figured!

Cheers – Valli