Top tips for engaging well with people online

After hearing from over 80 Healthwatch about how they've used digital tools since COVID-19 to engage with people online, we’ve put together some tips based on what you’ve told us and included learning from Healthwatch England too.
A man standing outside on his phone

COVID-19 has forced Healthwatch to rely heavily on digital engagement methods as face to face engagement ceased in line with the new Government guidance.

After a series of online sessions with over 80 Healthwatch from across the country in which learning and best practice was shared, we’ve put together some tips for how to engage people well online.

This resource covers:

  1. Using your website effectively
  2. Using social media effectively
  3. Using email marketing effectively
  4. Virtual events and meeting
  5. Mobilising your volunteers

Using your website effectively

  • Advice and information
    Since the arrival of COVID-19 Healthwatch have been inundated with questions about what this means for people and their current care, and what services are available. Creating advice pieces can help people find this information online based on the queries that are coming through regularly. You can use the articles from Healthwatch England too and localise them where possible.
    Do you already have advice content? Review these and make sure that they are up to date and relevant to your area.
  • Local information
    Localised information is key for your local Healthwatch website. Remember to always bring your article back to your core purpose. For example, if you are sharing an update about a local service, make sure that you encourage people to share their experiences with you or get in touch should they need more information.
  • Blogs
    Showcase the impact that you have made to people using your Healthwatch through blogs from service users and your volunteers.
  • Google analytics
    Google analytics can help you to better understand your audience, how your content is performing, and how people are getting to your site. Take a look at the latest training session from Healthwatch England to find out how your local Healthwatch can use this platform to be better informed about which content is having the most impact.

Top Tip: FAQ style articles perform better with regards to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Make sure you use headings to break up your content and use keywords throughout your article.

How to tell a strong story

Take a look at the resource ‘How to tell a strong story’ to help illustrate the impact your Healthwatch is making. Remember to focus on your findings and outcomes rather than on the background and what you did.

Go to resource

Using social media effectively

Social media is a hugely powerful tool for digital engagement. Our recommendation would always be to select one or two channels and do them well, rather than trying to be on every platform but not have the time to do it properly.

Here are some things that you can start doing to improve reach in your local area:

  • Joining local Facebook groups
    Local Facebook groups are a great way to make your Healthwatch known to people that could benefit from your service, or to get people to share experiences to help your research project. Unfortunately not all groups on Facebook will allow business pages to join so it might be that you have to join the group using your personal account. If this is the case, make sure that you make your purpose clear to admins and to the group members. Remember that this is their personal space to share information with each other about issues they are facing.
  • DM/Tag on Twitter
    Twitter posts have a very short life cycle. You can extend this by tagging people and using relevant hashtags. Before you post, check out what’s trending to see if there are any relevant hashtags that you can include. Can you raise your profile by tagging in your local MP? This is a great way of making issues known and improve awareness of what your local Healthwatch does.

    You can also DM local organisations to encourage them to share your content. Make sure that the organisation is relevant to the content of the post. For example, local 'Mind' organisations might be interested in posts around mental health, but they wouldn’t be interested in sharing posts about dentistry.

  • Make your content relevant
    Are there any awareness days coming up? Is there any news that you can use as a hook to re-promote your content? Keep an eye out for these opportunities.
  • Explore paid advertising
    Facebook advertising is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach out to your audience. With increased reliance on digital engagement, it is an effective way of raising the profile of your Healthwatch, as well as to encourage people to share their experiences with you online. You are able to target by location, age, gender and interests.
    The key to Facebook advertising is testing. It won’t work for you straight away, but you can start off with small budgets and then increase as you become more confident and successful.

Top tip: Create a spreadsheet of all of the relevant organisations and their Twitter handles, and organise by area of interest. It takes a while to formulate these lists originally, but it’s a great time saver in the long run and you can just build and build on these lists the more outreach you undertake.

More social media guidance

Here is some more guidance on how to use social media effectively:

  1. Take a look at Healthwatch England’s most recent training session ‘How to make the most of your social media channels’
  2. Setting up a Facebook advert

Using email marketing effectively

E-newsletters are a great way to build a relationship with your audience, keeping people and partners up to date with the impact of your work, changes to local services and the latest advice and information.

  • Think about your audience before you send your newsletter. Can you segment your audience into members of public vs partners and stakeholders? Make sure that the content is relevant for the audience so that people don’t unsubscribe from your list.
  • Are there newsletters from organisations in your local area that you can feature in? This is a great way to increase awareness of your Healthwatch and build relationships with local services.
  • Make sure that your newsletter displays short paragraphs that summarise the articles that can be found elsewhere, primarily on your website. You should think of your newsletter as a website traffic source.
  • People don’t have time to read lengthy emails – be succinct.
  • Personalise emails where possible e.g. Can you address it to a person rather than more generally? Take a look at Mailchimp for more information on how to use merge tags to personalise your content.

How to use email marketing

Take a look at the resource ‘How to use email marketing’ to find out more about the benefits of email marketing, how to get started and how to automate your content.

Go to resource

Virtual events and meetings

The opportunity for face to face engagement is limited, if not completely redundant. This has led everyone to move to online forms of communications including virtual meetings and events. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Attend events as a guest speaker
    You can connect with groups that are interested in other events and expand your audience by being a guest speaker. This is a great opportunity to promote your local Healthwatch, provide people with relevant advice and information, and gather intelligence on people’s experiences of services – all without the trouble of having to recruit participants.
  • Host an online engagement event
    Use platforms such as Microsoft Teams to host your own online engagement event instead of relying on face to face engagement events.
    Things to consider:
    Agenda - make sure that you make it clear to people what the purpose of the event is. Don’t try to cover off too many things at one, be specific and make it relevant to your target audience.
    What is the user benefit - what do they get out of the event? Online events incur a much lower cost, so it may result in spare budget that could be used to entice people to join e.g. a gift voucher.
    Event promotion -  how you are going to promote the event? Reach out to relevant groups that would be interested in the event topic.

Top tip: Once you have chosen your platform, hold a test event with your team or your volunteers to make sure all the functions work as you expect. It’s good practice to have a slide at the start of any online session with some ‘housekeeping rules’ such as instructing people to mute themselves until they want to speak to stop any interference.

Helping people to use video calls

We’ve had some feedback about people not feeling very confident with video calls. Age UK have put together a great resource to help people.

Go to resource

Mobilising your volunteers

You can involve your volunteers through online content such as:

  • Website blogs
  • Social media posts
  • Short online videos
  • Sharing surveys with other people/organisations

Volunteers posting photos of themselves during Volunteer’s Week holding a poster saying ‘I volunteer with Healthwatch because…’ proved to be a big hit so keep an eye out for any opportunities like this where you can involve your volunteers with your online content.

New volunteer role descriptions

Many of you were worried about how to keep your volunteers involved during lockdown so we created four new roles that carried out from the comfort of their own home. Take a look via the link below.

Find out more

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