You’ve probably read about social networking and may even be asking yourself “is this relevant to my utility?” I’m convinced it is and will attempt to explain why…
Two of the most popular social networks are Facebook and Twitter. You’ve probably seen businesses encourage their customers to “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. In this issue, let’s take a look at how establishing a Facebook page can help promote your utility. Once your customers “like” your page, they will see your status updates in their Facebook news feed, just like posts from any of their Facebook friends.
If your utility promotes water conservation, what better way to communicate that message than on a Facebook page? For utilities located in an area that is dealing with drought, Facebook is an excellent way to inform your customers of changes in drought restriction stages. If your utility bills for municipal services such as trash or recycling, Facebook provides a great forum to publicize changes in collection days.
Maintaining a web presence
Previously, I’ve written about why I believe maintaining a web presence is important and about some common website mistakes to avoid. If your utility doesn’t have the resources to design and host a website, a Facebook page is a great way to create an internet presence, and it’s FREE!
If you are unsure where to start in creating a Facebook page, SmallWaterSupply.org has a standing offer to build one for you. If you’re unfamiliar with SmallWaterSupply.org, they provide a variety of free resources for small water and wastewater systems. If you haven’t visited their website yet, I encourage you to do so.
How one utility uses Facebook
Lancaster County Water and Sewer District (LCWSD) in Lancaster, South Carolina maintains a Facebook page in addition to their website. David Lee, the IT Director for LCWSD, says “Facebook is an excellent way to promote the ways your utility gives back to the community by showing your involvement in local charities such as United Way and Red Cross Blood Drives. Customers can see that you are “real” people rather than just a place to pay a utility bill”.
Facebook pages allow you to post photos, “likes” for your page and a map to your office, as well as interact with your customers. David Lee states “We use Facebook to post messages of water outages, location of outages, estimated time of completion and the actual completion times. I have had several great comments on how we are one of the only utilities that does this. Even if there are no outages, we post that twice a day as well – once in the morning and again in the afternoon.”
Interact with your customers
You can post status updates, as LCWSD does, poll your customers (as I did about cut-off policies on the Utility Information Pipeline Facebook page) and allow your customers to post comments and ask questions. Of course, you can disable this feature and not allow your customers to post, but I would discourage you from doing so. After all, Facebook is called “social media” and who wants to be social with someone who won’t allow you to ask a question or voice your opinion? You can always remove offensive posts from your page, but if your customers have legitimate questions about how your utility operates, why not provide a forum for them to ask?
Finally, if you’re a Facebook user, please take a minute to “like” the Utility Information Pipeline Facebook page.
If you have questions about establishing a Facebook page for your utility, please contact me by calling 919-232-2320or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012 Gary Sanders