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I’ll have what she’s having

Have you notice that fusion is the hottest trend with cuisine? Take two unlikely companions and mix them together for a delightful partnership. Much like Mexican sushi, pairing utilities and social media can have appealing results. I was reminded of this recently while attending the 9th Annual Social Media for Utilities conference that explored the various ways utilities are using social media to expand communication beyond the traditional means. In fact, one presenter suggested using social media to create “snackable” content.

A common theme discussed throughout the two days was the challenge of overcoming the conservative, slow-moving and bureaucratic stereotype to foster a nimble, responsive, and forward-thinking utility that embraces opportunities to reach an increasingly mobile and tech-savvy audience.

Alabama Power fosters engagement by asking for retweets and posts from followers.

Figure 1: Alabama Power fosters engagement by asking for retweets and posts from followers.

Creating fusion
So, how can a utility use social media to move beyond what is expected? Here are a few pointers from the conference:

  • Ask your social media audience to be a partner in communicating the utility’s message. Conference presenters reported higher engagement levels when people were asked to like, retweet, or share a post.
  • Show the audience how they fit into the larger picture. Use social media to help people relate to those around them.
  • Use photos, infographics, and illustrations to visually attract an audience. Present these “snackable” communications often to entice followers and tell a story with as few words as possible; experts indicate you only have eight seconds to grab a reader’s attention.

Recipe for success
At the conference, several utilities recounted positive examples of social media campaigns. Alabama Power shared a campaign in which it asked Twitter followers to share images following a storm, thereby increasing engagement. Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) likewise prompted engagement by encouraging customers to create safety videos in support of the utility’s commitment to making wise, educated decisions when working around electricity. In 2013, the utility switched the campaign from traditional communications channels to a Facebook campaign. Results showed increases in engagement, reach and Facebook fans.

KCP&L opted to run its customer safety video campaign through social media to increase engagement and build a sense of community among followers.

Figure 2: KCP&L opted to run its customer safety video campaign through social media to increase engagement and build a sense of community among followers.

Another presenter built off these sentiments and shared statistics indicating that content with compelling “snackable” visuals receives 94% more views than content without images. Similarly, Facebook posts with photos are reported to have 37% higher engagement than text-only posts.

I left the Social Media for Utilities conference invigorated by the smorgasbord of options available for utilities willing to fuse their traditional communications and marketing plans with modern approaches—social media certainly gives utilities food for thought.

 

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