3 Ways to Engage Citizens through Push Notifications

This is a guest post by Santiago Jaramillo.

There’s one thing that still remains the same in towns across America. People still crave information about what’s going on in their community. But the way they’ve chosen to consume that information has changed. Today, engaging your residents and business owners is about meeting them where they are - in a convenient, mobile way.

Your citizens are constantly on-the-go, relying on their smartphones to keep them connected. In fact, 56 percent of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally to learn about community events or activities. And 67 percent use their phone to share pictures, videos, and posts about those events. (Pew)

So what’s the best way to stay in touch with your town no matter where they are? Push notifications.

“What Are Push Notification Messages & Why Should I Send Them?”

Push notifications are messages that are sent directly to app users’ screens for ultimate engagement. Why is push the most effective channel to reach your audience? With open rates of 47-80 percent (Thanx), push notifications have much higher engagement than even email, whose open rates fall in the 20s. It’s no surprise that this is the case — push notifications go straight to the front of users’ phones, which consumers now have within an arm’s reach at all times.

I’ve seen this first-hand in my own community of Fishers, Indiana — a rapidly growing city on Indianapolis’ northeast side, known for its commitment to attracting long-term, sustainable business growth. The Fishers story is a perfect example of an organization taking technology into their own hands to develop a strategy that works best for themselves and their citizens.

By using their mobile app to send push messages before and during community events like their summer concert series, arts crawl, or shop local Saturday, Fishers has been able to drive tremendous participation and patronage to area businesses, resulting in a 25 percent YOY increase in event participation. The app also allows users to look back at messages they may have missed and take action by sharing with friends or linking to more information, resulting in a 50 percent increase in daily active users for the Fishers app.

Like Fishers, it’s up to you as the sender to engage your audience with content that resonates. Here are three ways you can tailor your content to make your push notifications effective.

Get Them Involved

Attendance at community events down? Want to garner more awareness and buzz about what’s going on in your town? Don’t chalk it up to resident disinterest. It may just be that they aren’t informed or didn’t remember. Use push notifications to send them reminders and alerts with up-to-the-minute information about what’s going on around the community.

A few examples:

  • Art After Dark kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Don’t miss it!
  • The new dog park opens tomorrow! Open the app for details and directions.
  • Mayor Briggs will speak tonight at 7:00 p.m. at The Vine on the importance of sustainable planning. Grab a drink and pull up a chair!

Share What They Need to Know

Whether it’s a matter of public safety or just being transparent with your community, inform them of the things they need to know to stay safe and involved.

A few examples:

  • Public forum on the new hospital tonight at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall. Tap to view the agenda.
  • The new downtown roundabout at Oak & Elm is now open! Thanks for your patience this summer as we continued this exciting project.
  • The polls open at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow! Come out to vote and help shape the future of our city! Check the app for a link to find your polling location.

Connect Them to Local Business

Your businesses and local entrepreneurs are what keep your town thriving. But when they spend too much time on promotional tactics, they can’t focus on selling. Partner with them to support their efforts and get the word out to potential customers.

A few examples:

  • It’s First Friday! Save 10% at your favorite downtown shops until 9 p.m. Open the app for a list of participating retailers.
  • Jansen’s Deli on 3rd Street is now open! Come on in for a free meat or cheese sample when you show your app.
  • Students, bring your ID and show your Elkhart app at Cute Cuts for a complimentary haircut October 19-23! Details in the app.

Don’t have an app? Be sure to bookmark this article for later. With three hours and 40 minutes spent on smartphones per day (Flurry) — and 89 percent of that time spent in apps — it may be time to get one for your city.

Want more examples like these? Check out 20 Push Notifications Every Town Should Be Sending for examples, tips, and tricks on building a more effective app presence in your city.

About the Author: Santiago Jaramillo is the CEO and founder of Bluebridge, the world’s largest provider of tourism and municipal mobile apps. He is a nationally-recognized speaker and expert on mobile apps.

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