9 Steps to GroundSource Success

So you’ve decided to use GroundSource (hey — thanks!).

You may be trying to improve engagement with a community you’re already connected with, or maybe you’re trying to reach new people.

Regardless, there are a few key steps to making sure that your GroundSource campaign is effective.

The Big Question(s)

You can use GroundSource to send out news and alerts to your community, but what makes our platform different is that people can actually text back. There are plenty of mass texting tools out there, but none that make it possible to listen to your community.

Just like in a conversation, good listening starts with good questions.

The questions you ask are up to you. But here are a few things to consider:

(1) The voice you use is important.

When you text people, your messages are showing up next to messages from their friends and family members. You want to be as personable and human as possible.

So if I text the keyword “GS” (keywords is how people initiate contact with your GroundSource phone number), here’s what I get:

See? Wouldn’t you want to answer Andrew’s questions?

Pro Tip: Whenever possible, use a name. That way, people can feel like they’re talking to an actual person, not the disembodied voice of an organization.

(2) Start simple

The first question should be simple — ideally, a “yes” or “no” question.

You want to give people a simple way to jump into the conversation. Our experience shows that if you ask a simple question up front, people will stick around to answer more in-depth ones. But if you flip it around, people will stop and think, but never engage.

Here are two examples from The Listening Post Macon, from their conversation about gun control.

Notice that the first question is a “yes” or “no.” Then, respondents are willing to go deeper.

(3) Less is more

This not a survey — it’s a conversation starter.

The ideal number of questions is two. The maximum should be four.

Creating a simple one to four questions means a lower commitment for your respondents (who are busy, working, taking care of kids, etc.), but still gives them a voice. It also builds a connection so that if you want to, say, return for a more in-depth interview, you can — you’ve got their number.


Reaching out

Once you’ve come up with your questions, you need to get find people to answer them.

Each community has its own ways of talking to itself. There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for getting your message out there. You’ve got to plug into the natural ways that the community is already communicating.

Here are some ways that our partners have found to be effective:

If you’re already connected with a community….

(4) Use your bullhorn. Are you a radio station? Announce the phone number over the air. Are you a newspaper? Print the number next to stories on the topic that you’re trying to learn about.

Below is an example from The Virginian-Pilot. The paper used GroundSource to collect community feedback on a proposal for a light rail in Virginia Beach, after the debate turned nasty and spilled over into their comment sections. They posted the phone number in articles about the light rail, and then created a unique webpage with an ongoing feed of the responses. The dozens of contributions that they received helped shape the outcome of the light rail, which was ultimately not funded.

A peek into their webpage:

Via @virginianpilot

If you want to reach more people…..

Our partners have come up with a few creative ways to get out their message — beyond the people who are already looking for it. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some great places to start:

(5) Go to live events

This is one of the most effective ways of getting more people to respond to your questions. Announcing the number at an event — and displaying it on a PowerPoint or a poster on stage — is great. Even better: ask people to get out their phones and text the numbers right then and there, or to answer questions throughout the night. Our users have gotten up to a 90 percent response rate this way.

(6) Create shareable visuals

The Listening Post New Orleans, ProPublica and Prairie Public have all made posters and posted them all around their communities (on top of sharing on social media).

This is a great way to capture the attention of people who aren’t already following you on Twitter or looking at your website.

(7) Use social media — but not exclusively

We definitely encourage you to use social media in conjunction with other methods (live events, on-air callouts) — just don’t rely on it all by itself. Using more targeted outreach (i.e. live events) is always more effective.

Having trouble figuring out how to tap into your community? Read our “Best Practices for Building Your GroundSource Community.”

Looking for more inspiration? Contact us, and we can give you some more ideas.


Following up

You’ve created your questions, posted the number, done the outreach, and now you’re getting some great responses.

Following up with your participants is essential for building trust with your community, and ensuring that you continue your relationship beyond these first few questions.

Here are some simple ways that you can take the conversation you’ve started with them, and turn it into a long-term partnership.

(8) Thank everyone who responds

The easiest way to make people feel valued is to give an enthusiastic “thank you!”

You can simply include a “thanks” in your pre-written final text. You can also send out a big “thank you to everyone who participated” after all the responses have been collected.

In your GroundSource account, you can respond to people individually.

Either way, thanking people provides even more of a personal touch, and emphasizes to your community members that you value them and their opinions.

(9) Tell people what you’re going to do with their information

Make sure your participants know that you plan on reading every text. You don’t want anyone to feel like their valuable thoughts were sent into a void.

Then, follow up with a link to the story or feed. This can come in an email, or a text — just make sure that everyone who participated gets that information.

via Listening Post Macon

That way, you’ll have a built-in audience of people who are excited to read something that they may have helped with.


Wondering if GroundSource might be right for you?

Visit our website to find out more about what we do, the amazing projects that we have helped generate, and how to try GroundSource for free.

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