Utilities: everyone needs them, but few people think about those businesses outside of sending in their monthly bills. Social media has helped change that situation, giving these infrastructural companies a public voice that is improving both their reputation and general visibility.
In fact, utilities are one of the strongest performers in the social media space in terms of engagement. Data from the recent Sprout Social Index revealed that not only does the industry receive the most inbound messages relative to audience size, but utilities easily took the title of the most responsive industry. Here are three examples of utility companies that exemplify the type of creative and successful social customer engagement that earned the industry that top spot.
As you’d expect, one of the most important facets of a utility’s social media presence is communication in the face of outages. This was demonstrated most admirably by PSE&G, the Newark-based power company that used Twitter during Hurricane Sandy to stay in touch with concerned New Jersey residents.
While the hurricane took its toll on the region, PSE&G had 22 people from its operations and communications teams working the company Twitter channels for 15 hours a day for two and a half weeks. The group sent more than 9,000 messages over those 17 days. They used pre-established criteria to help facilitate responses to the huge number of tweets. Having that existing framework meant everyone involved knew when to reply and still reach the biggest audience possible, even when the message volume was at its highest.
Comcast was one of the early adopters of social media in the utility field. As early as 2009, Comcast made waves with the launch of a Twitter handle specifically focused on customers. Frank Eliason was the brains behind the @ComcastCares Twitter handle, and even though he’s no longer at the company, his impact in establishing social as a service tool is still visible.
The cable and Internet provider has a huge team of individuals replying to customer concerns from their own branded accounts. We’ve covered how companies can make the decision of whether separate professional and personal accounts are useful; the success of Comcast’s fleet of service reps shows how effective the professional profile strategy can be.
— Will Osborne (@comcastcares) August 21, 2014
The key to their success is that, thanks to such a large number of reps, any tweeted problems get a fast resolution. The shift away from a single support Twitter handle to the whole team of reps — they’ve welcomed 10 new members by tweet since August — means that almost no customer will be ignored.
3. Southern California Edison
A heavy focus on service and support is a natural match for utilities companies using social media, but that doesn’t mean those brands should feel restricted to those topics. In fact, Southern California Edison, the local branch of power company Edison International, has made inroads into creative visual content that educates and involves its customers. In addition to the usual Facebook and Twitter accounts, SCE has an active profile on Instagram that is comprised of artistic shots of power lines taken by individuals. If fact, anyone can tag the utility or use the #socialedison hashtag and those crowd-sourced pictures are mixed in with photos of the team at work. It also runs a video series on Instagram called “Ask a Line Man,” where an SCE employee answers questions from the utility company’s social media audience. With several entries a month, this is a great recurring feature that gives a more personal presentation to the company that might easily be seen as faceless and opaque.
A video posted by Southern California Edison (@sce) on
The company takes the same outward approach on YouTube. For instance, it recognized the diversity of the Southern California region and created YouTube playlists of its safety campaign in eight different languages so that everyone can access important information. All of SCE’s video and photo content works to reach out to customers and involve them in more than basic service interactions.