• Emily Singerhouse

Virtual Engagement Platforms for Socially-Focused Institutions


When someone says, “Virtual Engagement,” what comes to mind for you? Most people think of social media or using Zoom. While this is accurate, virtual engagement is also a diverse form of communication taking place in many ways. There are four main categories of virtual engagement:

- Social Networking

- Teleconferencing

- Telecommunication and Broadcasting

- Direct Communication Marketing


You can use them all to benefit your social issue prevention programming! However, this post will focus mainly on social networking and direct communication marketing because that is a large part of virtual engagement for many agencies and organizations.

 

Social Networking

Social networking is the platform that people use to build social relationships with like-minded individuals. This includes social media platforms, websites, chatrooms, and more.


For use by socially-focused agencies or organizations, the following platforms and their descriptions are recommended:

Platform

Purpose

Audience

Culture

Facebook

​Photo, video, and blogging/caption posting site

26.3% of users are between 25-34, highest usage by people in rural areas

Simple posting; re-sharing of content; event and news announcements; informative

Instagram

Photo and video sharing platform

70% of users between 18-29, 44% of users identify as women, 25% of users live in rural areas

​Simple and positive posts, highly creative and authentic posting; primary way of updating others; sharing voice & opinion on social issues

Twitter

Microblogging site with posts up to 280 characters

44% of users between 18-24, 62% of users identify as male but the most active users identify as female, high use from people in suburbs

Short, unique, and authentic informative/ knowledge sharing, self-expression, typically more realist

Youtube

Video-sharing website, search engine style; share videos widely

54% of users identify as male, 77% of 15-25-years old and 70% of 45-64 years old use YouTube

Videos shorter than 20 minutes, informative/ knowledge sharing, often promoted on other social media platforms

As stated in Part II: Use of Virtual Engagement, choosing a platform is an incredibly important step. Although, I would recommend that you choose a platform based on your goals and intentions.


Here is an example of that process:

Prompt: A non-profit wants to educate the youth in a rural community on what happens after a sexual assault has been reported to increase comfortability and for education purposes.


In this case, they would use Instagram and YouTube to convey their message.


Here is why:

Instagram

  • The platform’s largest demographics are youth under 29 years old, female-identifying, and people living in rural areas

  • The culture of the platform is informative and creative­–ideal for culture change and educational messaging.

YouTube

  • Over 70% of youth under 25 use this platform, and many users identify as male, which helps spread the message equally

  • Culture of use is informational and knowledge sharing

  • Videos can easily be reposted on other platforms

 

Direct Communication Marketing

Direct communication marketing is a form of communication through emails, newsletters, texting, and more. Direct communication for agencies and organizations can look like sending email updates to team members, newsletters to community members, or texting campaigns to notify partners of events.


Before choosing which form of direct communication marketing to use, keep in mind the following:

  • Your organization's Goals and Values

  • The culture of your discipline

  • The climate of the community in your region

 

Teleconferencing & Telecommunication/Broadcasting

To briefly cover, teleconferencing is largely an internal use of virtual engagement within your team. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts are popular teleconferencing platforms, which can also be used in a hybrid way. Telecommunication/broadcasting has been popularly used in PSA messaging campaigns, radio announcements, or advertisements.

 

In closing, no matter the chosen category of virtual engagement, this is a new way of collaboration since the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to utilize these resources to make a widespread impact–internally and externally.