How to engage your community during a hackathon

What strategies can I use to boost my community engagement? That a question we get asked frequently.

When it comes to the community, numbers aren't necessarily the most important factor to consider. It is often better to have a smaller, yet engaged audience, rather than a large number of uninterested people.

In the case of hackathons, without the involvement of the community, it becomes much more difficult to streamline and create that amazing environment and focus that is so distinctive to hackathons.

Not all strategies are created equal, just as not all communities are built the same way. 

Below you’ll find strategies and actions you can perform in order to boost your hackathon participant’s engagement and foster the hackathon’s growth. 

The list is in no particular order, but we’ve structured it by channels, content, and communication.

The best channels to engage your community 🎯

Create a Discord or Telegram channel 💬

One of the most effective strategies you can implement right away is to set up a Discord server or a Telegram channel. You can use another platform, but these two are the most popular and make it easier for participants to join right away.

These channels provide a more frequent and personal connection with hackathon participants, as well as serve as a home base for them to locate important information, clarify doubts, and interact with other participants.

For reference, you can take a look at our CASSINI case study and how they mastered the art of community management!

However, creating the channel is not enough in and of itself. 

In order to support participants, moderate chats, and develop compelling content, we recommend having one or more team members dedicated to managing the community within the platform (community manager).

Finally, don't forget to promote the channel and invite participants on social media!

TAIKAI is a virtual hackathon platform that makes an online hackathon event much easier to host. Talk with us today or Request a Demo, we’re always here to help :)

Promote close to your existing followers!

Just as we stated above, it’s important to promote your channel on social media. But you should go beyond that and promote the hackathon itself too. 

While it may seem an obvious statement, we often have hackathon hosts that do not engage their already existing followers.

This is a big mistake - you’re ultimately rejecting proactive members that like and enjoy your business, products, and services.

They are advocates of your company and having them interact with new participants can help you build social proof, reputation, and a higher number of participants.

You should promote your hackathon in every channel you have at your disposal, whether it’s social media or newsletters, for instance.

Complete all the information in the hackathon platform.

The hackathon platform is most likely one of the first touchpoints of the participants.

Ensure that you complete all the information necessary regarding the rules, goals, prizes, timeline, and other subjects. 

Also, make sure that you have high-quality images to draw attention and retain a potential audience!

Bulletproof content that connects with participants 📝

Provide all the necessary materials and tools ⚒️

A hackathon is always a one-of-a-kind experience, whether it's for a seasoned participant or a beginner.

When discussing open innovation (and depending on your challenge), it is critical to guide participants so that their projects are aligned with the hackathon's purpose.

It is typical for innovators to seek as much information as possible early in the event, and your duty should be to facilitate this process. If you have insights, tools, or support resources to offer, make them clear and easily attainable.

If you don't have support material yet, we recommend that you produce some - the more data you have available for participants, the better.

Host a webinar! 🤳

Webinars are online events held by organizations and broadcast to a chosen group of people. 

This format of the content is great for many reasons: it’s easy for participants to digest, fairly easy to structure and it’s a one-time-only creation - meaning you can create once and share it later on other platforms.

Create templates for deliverables 🧾

Another strategy to engage with your audience is to create templates for the deliverables. Some hackathons are more structured than others, and have specific goals or solutions in mind.

If that’s the case, creating a template might be a great way to facilitate project submission and have participants engaged during the hackathon.

Again, these small details help innovators focus on the hackathon itself and increase engagement.

Improve your communication 🗣️

Host a Q&A session

Questions & answers are a successful communication tool. They are straightforward and easy to host.

This action is especially impactful in earlier stages of the hackathon, where the doubts flow in and it might seem overwhelming for the organizer.

By addressing the most asked questions in a Q&A session, you have the chance to engage with your audience and explain your goal and vision for the hackathon.

Video content is king! 👑

We've already covered the creation of templates to facilitate deliverables, however, there is another format that can and should be used: video content.

You can create short videos explaining the purpose of the hackathon, the challenges, the deliverables, and even the company's vision.

Along with other tools, types of content, and channels, it makes the strategy foolproof not only to engage the community but also to attract more participants.

Don’t forget to collect valuable feedback 👍👎

Everything we've mentioned so far are strategies and methods that work before and during the hackathon. But we couldn't finish without stressing the importance of collecting community feedback.

One of the quickest and most effective ways is by running a survey, but we also advise you to personally question teams and listen to the real feedback they provide.

We are sure that it will be extremely useful not only for future hackathons but also in the development of products and services for the company.

Just remember…

Engaging your community requires effort and dedication, but it pays off. The more participants are engaged and driven by your hackathon, the better the outcome will be!

Here's a great follow-up read about 4 company hackathon examples to get you inspired.

Focusing on these strategies will surely give you a boost in engagement and participation rates, so try it out and let us know if you have other suggestions!

TAIKAI is a virtual hackathon platform that makes an online hackathon event much easier to host

If you’re looking for a new way to drive innovation, feel free to reach out to us.

We’re always here to help :)

Carlos Mendes
Carlos Mendes
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