Bean-VotingAfter a month of intense campaigning, The Potentiality earned the third most votes in CERIC’s National Career Challenge. Our submission, Career Swap, finished ahead of a university, several college career centres as well as a number of community-based organizations. Of the 4,500 votes cast during the competition, Career Swap attracted over 750 from hundreds of people across Canada and our video was viewed over 427 times. Our success was predicated on our skill at communicating with our online communities and motivating them (and reminding them) to get engaged and take four minutes to sign up and vote for our entry..

First and foremost, we would like to thank all of our supporters who took the time to navigate CERIC’s website and cast 1-3 votes for our entry. Without their help, we would never have managed to stay at the top of the pack for the last month, let alone finish third.

In addition to having super supporters out there, we also implemented some effective tactics to communicate with our community in order to motivate them to take action and in this case, vote up our entry.

Lacking a massive mailing list or a bricks-and-mortar career centre, which are both important assets when generating a steady stream of supporters, our scrappy little campaign was dependent on the goodwill and support of our network of family, friends and colleagues, who in turn reached out to their networks. To a lesser extent we also got some LinkedIn/Twitter love from career practitioner online influencers. Based on what we learned during the campaign, here are five tips that will help you maximize your online community engagement:

Use Online Tools like a Superstar

Making ready use of online tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in addition to the ol’ mass email is a good way of spreading your message and idea beyond your traditional networks. Throughout the month we all posted multiple times on multiple platforms. By constantly reminding our supporters and setting online benchmarks (we need to hit 400 votes by the end of the week – can you help us make this happen?) we were able to keep our entry top of mind for potential voters. On Facebook we even tagged in potential voters who we figured needed (and wouldn’t be bothered by) a reminder. Pretty soon we had significantly grown our “Likes” around Career Swap and the comments (both on Facebook and LinkedIn) created a real sense of momentum.

Have an Offline Conversation First (if you can)

One tactic that worked well during this online competition was to, where possible, personally bring up the contest in person or with phone conversations. By explaining what the contest was all about, why it was important for us to do well and how easy it was to help we were in many cases able to not only get votes but also encourage supporter to spread the word in their own networks. This sort of thing can be particularly important when you’re approaching work colleagues (rather than your friends).

Get Creative

The short video that highlighted our entry helped differentiate us from others. The video, which was a bit on the amateur side, gave us a unique competitive advantage (we were one of two entries with a video), got us around the limited submission word count and helped give those unaligned with a particular contestant ample reason to consider voting for Career Swap. Later in the contest we used photos on social media to scavenge up the remaining interest. This new content also gave us excuses to keep posting about the contest on our social profiles without being (too) repetitive.

Personalize Your Ask

Wherever possible, personalize your email or online ask. Try to directly appeal for the individual’s help. If you are sending an email, consider adding a fun fact, funny story, cool picture, link or video. This is a great way to add value and give the supporter something in return for their voting (thanks to community manager Theodora Lamb for that pearl of wisdom). At the end of the day, the more your supporters feel like you are speaking to (just) them the better.

Turn Supporters into Messengers

Many of our supporters became messengers who enthusiastically talked about Career Swap to their own friends and colleagues. Our entry never went viral (you can’t plan for such a thing), but it certainly gave us a good number of votes from outside our networks. This sort of thing only happens when people are acknowledged and thanked for their initial support and genuinely believe enough in your idea to spread the word.

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