4 big digital issues that tenant engagement needs to consider in 2022
For some time now, digital has been changing how we interact within our communities and the pandemic has accelerated this even further. In this blog I want to focus on the 4 key areas that need to be reflected in all our engagement strategies.
1) Major realignment in social media strategy for engaging tenants
Put simply; social housing has to get with the kids! It has to start considering its approach to TikTok and taking Instagram much more seriously. The growth and usage of TikTok is massive – it’s overtaking so many other social media channels particularly amongst younger people.
As I’m writing this, a news headline has flashed up that Instagram has overtaken Facebook as Ireland’s most popular social media network, whilst TikTok’s popularity has soared past Twitter’s. This is for the whole online population of Ireland. I’m confident the figures for Wales are similar.
A question for you the reader is: How much of Welsh Housing tenant communications are focused on Facebook and Twitter? And how much is focused on Insta and TiKTok?
We might be using the media platforms we are comfortable with but our younger audience is increasingly not there to listen and engage with us.
Amongst people aged under 25, TikTok now has more users than Facebook and Instagram combined. New data indicates that the average time spent per user is higher for TikTok than for the previous top placed YouTube, which clearly indicates very high levels of engagement for this demographic.
Don’t believe the statistics or data trends? – talk to young people! My own teenage son is focused on TikTok, Snapchat and some Instagram. He has no interest in Facebook or Twitter – ‘that’s for old people’. He doesn’t watch TV like his parents did, YouTube is where he consumes and interacts for longer content.
In 2022, we need to refocus our social media strategies. Some organisations like Shelter and Citizens Advice are already doing some interesting work in these areas. TPAS Cymru is starting to work with students from a Welsh University to develop training and workshops to explore at how channels like TikTok can be used effectively in housing, community engagement and for educational and awareness campaigns. Get in touch if you want to find out more!
2) Hybrid meetings
Before Covid, all tenant & community meetings were held face to face, with the occasional video conference for large organisations - taking place between fixed office locations. The pandemic and the rise of platforms like Zoom/MS Teams etc coupled with the fact that the equipment and software are now much more accessible have likely changed our approach to meetings forever.
There are some clear benefits:
However, we have lost those that are not digital connected or confident with technology. We have also lost all those additional benefits that come from face-to-face meetings – all the non-verbal references, the human connections, the non-work-related chats and the relationships and friendships that we develop when we see people in person.
So now…. some people want to return to face to face meetings, others do not.
The answer, in the post-pandemic world, will be hybrid meetings – a combination of some attendees in a meeting room with others joining via electronic means. Cisco Research predicts that in the future 98% of meetings will include a remote participant.
Hybrid meetings will be the way forward in 2022 – however there are technical considerations as well as adaptations needed to ensure that they run successfully. Whether you are joining remotely or speaking in the room, all voices need to heard and respected and shared materials such as handouts and slides must be accessible to all.
As we move towards this new way of holding meetings and events, it’s essential that we get it right.
Note: TPAS Cymru offers training on how to get started in hybrid meetings and what you need to think about to make them work and avoid common mishaps. Contact us to find out more!
3) The ‘Metaverse’ and how landlords and communities interact with tenants and residents.
The ‘metaverse’ is not a new concept, but ‘metaverse fever’ is certainly big business and will be even more fashionable in 2022.
Wikipedia defines the metaverse as the expansion of existing internet technologies. Potential access points for metaverses include general-purpose computers and smartphones, in addition to augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual reality and virtual world technologies. Oxford English Dictionary has now defined the word ‘metaverse’ as a “virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.
The organisation that owns Facebook has changed its name to ‘Meta’ and Microsoft is launching new products like Mesh to integrate with MS Teams and MS Dynamics.
Currently though it’s easiest seen in gaming where it can offer organisations and brands a new place to interact, create, consume, and listen - but I will confidently predict that at least one reader of this article will be in a meeting this year when some analogue senior executive will ask ‘what are we [RSL] doing to be in the metaverse?’ after they’ve skim-read an article in a Sunday newspaper!
Still confused? Microsoft’s interpretation of Metaverse is set out in 2 very short videos that will either inspire you - or scare you even more!
What does it all mean for Social Housing and tenant/community engagement? For me:
It has incredible potential for community involvement in wider engagement in planning, regeneration, and development. The power of using augmented reality in consultations really excites me.
It could make events more accessible and immersive for those with limited mobility and those in remote locations.
It’s a new way of communicating and interacting with people in new virtual worlds. The opportunities for tenants and landlords to collaborate and interact could be exciting if we get it right.
Not convinced? Again, talk to younger people. My teenager may well spend more time and money on virtual skins and avatars that he does on his physical appearance! That may sound strange to many of you, but the hybrid augmented digital world offers interesting, innovative new ways to represent yourself and engage with likeminded people.
Timing and brand awareness will be key to this. About 2 years ago, TPAS Cymru arranged the world’s first tenant participation meeting within the ‘Fortnite’ universe, but we couldn’t get the attendees as our brand was not something gaming teens associated with, and our older audiences just didn’t get it! Whilst our attempt was not the most successful, I’d like to think that we were way ahead as engagement experts exploring new ways of engagement.
Interested in learning more? TPAS Cymru is considering running a session on this for those new to the Metaverse concept where we will go into more detail showing real examples of how the metaverse is developing and how this could impact social housing. Get in touch if you’re interested.
4) Volunteering v’s Gig economy and the rise of rewarding content creators
Wales has a proud history of volunteering, cooperative thinking and giving time for worthy causes. Tenants do amazing things and give so much of their time, skills and insights to make social housing better for all.
Traditionally society was anchored on a certain stability of jobs, pensions, and unemployment/disability benefits, however post-covid, we are seeing radical changes within society in terms of how people work, the attacks on benefits and the rise of the gig economy - in a gig economy, instead of a regular wage, workers get paid for the "gigs" they do, such as a food delivery or a car journey. People are now questioning who they are, and what really matters to them.
It’s a tough, changing employment market and younger people need to consider their time to get the work/life balance they are seeking. The pandemic has seen a massive shift in the employment market - termed ‘The Great Resignation’. People are rejecting low paid minimum wage jobs in favour of side-line gigs, they’re monetarising their hobbies and interests, and utilising the earning potential of firewalled content creation.
People interacting with digital channels know that these platforms make large amounts of revenue off the back of user generated content. People have options for their time and skills and expect (and should) to be rewarded. They increasingly know their worth.
This will be reflected in the coming years, I believe, in tenant & community participation uptake and responding to requests of their time - whether that’s online surveys, focus groups etc.
In a digital world, with young people having multiple gig jobs, they can give their time to those who value them and reward them or to those who don’t value or reward them. Which one do you think they’ll chose?
Tenant participation will need to up its game in terms of how it values, rewards, and interacts with this digital generation.
Finally, I hope you have found this blog interesting. If you have any comments or thoughts on anything I’ve touched upon, please do get in contact.
Note: We have a Facebook group dedicated for tenants and housing staff in Wales to discuss and share digital engagement tips on best practice or share solutions. Why not join in the conversations: https://www.facebook.com/groups/646005809134382