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Why people may be more willing to engage in planning consultations online rather than offline

As we speak, there are no ‘contact’ events, and planning consultations are now online. Is this a change for good? What if you knew that the latest studies show that people may be more willing to engage in online planning consultations rather than traditional offline engagement methods?

So, why is online engagement is so popular? We'll explain how controlling the conversation through a planning consultation platform can be key to attracting quality responses from key stakeholder groups and community members. 

So, what does the science tell us?

People engage online because it’s the new normal

Younger generations are often excluded from traditional planning consultations and to them, the town hall meeting would seem alien. Gen Z and Millennials have grown up connected, with powerful smartphones in their pockets and tablets and laptops at home. They have complete confidence in engaging with online content.

Gen Z represents 32% of the world's population, and they spend an average of 10.6 hours online each day. On average, Gen Z will pay attention to content for eight seconds, and they check ten social media platforms daily.

Engaging in social media-02A study also showed that Millenials pick up their phones a staggering 150 times a day and even Boomers (born 1946 - 64) are now far more likely to own a smartphone than they were in 2011 (68% now vs. 25% then). This points to rapid, multi demographic adoption of tech.

Simply put, online engagement is the natural move to ensure planning consultations can speak one-on-one to all demographic groups. 


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People engage online to connect to others

If you often forward, share or tag people in the content on your phone or computer, you’ll agree with UCLA professor of psychology and psychiatry, Matthew Lieberman, who says that people seek ways to share with others.

“We always seem to be on the lookout for who else will find this helpful, amusing or interesting."

A New York Times study shows that top reasons for sharing online are to grow and nourish relationships (80%), for the feeling of having others comment and engage (81%) and to spread the word about something that they believe in (84%).

Traditional engagement methods limit this desire to share. Instead, online planning consultations not only gather more reach, but satisfy our need to connect to others.

Connecting as a community

People feel able to share online

The internet gives us the cloak of anonymity which for public engagement, is a huge benefit. It takes confidence to go to a town hall, stand up in front of others and voice an opinion, yet with online engagement, planners can hear every view.

It leads to better virality (“Why Content Goes Viral,” shows that content that evokes emotions like anger, anxiety, fear or sadness has a far better chance of being shared). Still, at the same time, this can lead to too much high emotion taking centre stage and overwhelming the debate. Luckily, there is a solution.

Containing and guiding the conversation is a smart move

Your online planning consultation should be able to capture dynamic, changing opinions – but in a controlled manner.

That’s why online planning consultation platforms represent the best solution. You access the open and passionate audience through the channels they love to use and are already present on, harnessing their opinions and translating them into useful data that drives real change.

Data reporting

Want to learn more about the Commonplace planning consultation platform?

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Mike Saunders

Mike Saunders

Mike is the CEO and Co-Founder of Commonplace, an online community engagement tool that promotes trust between residents, property developers and local government.