5 Ways Social Media Can Benefit Your Utility in 2023
Can we all agree that utility workers have enough on their plates? The quintessential doing-more-with-less industry, public utility employees wear a variety of hats—many of which likely “don’t fit” if we’re being honest.
So, it’s no surprise that many small to medium utilities are resistant to using social media. After all, it’s one more hat to balance on your head!
“Like” it or not (see what I did there?), social media has become another tool for utilities of all shapes and sizes to connect with consumers and build awareness. Here’s five benefits achieved by regular engagement in social media:
- Customer service and community engagement: Utilities use social posts to not only share information and updates with consumers but also to listen to feedback and concerns and respond to them. Social media can serve as prime real estate for important updates on service disruptions and outages. In addition, unlike a payment portal or utility business website, social media may be better suited for promoting and encouraging feedback on community involvement and public initiatives. Use social media to speak directly to your customer base: provide tips on winterizing a home, publicize an upcoming community initiative, share a water quality report, and make the case for rate increases.
- Emergency communications: Social media outlets can be used to quickly disseminate real-time information to your consumers and keep them informed about the status of an emergency. In fact, not only can you post about a water main break, boil water notice, or gas leak, you might even utilize social media to scan for information from your consumers about a break or weather-related emergency—enabling you to potentially know about a problem sooner. Using social media in this fashion increases the likelihood of prompt and appropriate action being taken by consumers; undoubtedly, a timely Facebook or Twitter emergency post could result in life-saving action.
- Marketing and brand awareness: Social media platforms can be used to promote your utilities services, products, and programs. While this may seem insignificant, what if a large portion of your customers aren’t using your payment portal? Social media is a great way to encourage them to utilize essential products and services, as well as to reach out to new customers and build brand awareness. This is your opportunity to emphasize the value your utility provides through an exploration of the brand.
- Sustainability and conservation: Social media can be used to promote important sustainability and conservation projects. You can use social media to educate consumers on these issues and illustrate the role they plan in preservation. You can highlight conservation success stories, share education content like articles and videos, and even run campaigns that encourage better sustainability and conservation practices (such as World Water Week, Stewardship Week, etc.).
- Industry news, trends, and insights: Sharing relevant industry articles, research, and related content is a great way to promote your utility as a thought leader. Promote relevant information and insights with consumers. Highlight innovations and breakthrough technologies. Comment on any impactful changes and developments. As an added bonus, this can help establish yourself as a knowledgeable and trusted expert that your customers can turn to.
Be sure to outline some goals and guidelines before you dive deep into social media. By developing an organized plan of action up front, content creation takes less time.
So, how much time can you expect to devote to social media? Start small (3-4 hours per week) but aim for having enough buy-in from your leadership (as well as follows and likes from your consumers) to double or triple that number in the future.
You may be wondering about the potential return on investment (ROI) when investing in social media. It depends on the size of your utility, the resources/staff you dedicate to it, and your specific goals and objectives.
But make no mistake: establishing a strong presence on social media can help improve your reputation while demonstrating your commitment to customer service and your community. Think of it less as having to put on a new hat and instead as a new opportunity to engage with your consumers and present your brand to a wider audience.
Watch this space for future content on social media for utilities, such as general social media best practices, which platforms to use in specific circumstances, social media dos and don’ts, and other topics that resonate with our customers.
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