Making the Most of Social Media: For Utilities

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Are you planning to use social media to communicate with your utility customers? Perhaps you’re thinking about reaching out to them via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another social channel.

If you want to connect with more of the people you serve via social, you will need to “boost” or “promote” your posts. Why? Utilities are considered businesses by social channels, so many of them limit the number of people who can see your posts for free, even if they follow you. In addition, you can’t reach non-followers unless you agree to pay-to-play.

Promoting posts will cost you, but the good news is that the price to do so is usually far less (the one exception is promoting content in LinkedIn) than for printing a document, purchasing banner or traditional advertising, or doing a mailing.

In fact, if the content you develop and promote is of genuine value to the people you serve, it could cost you a fraction of a cent for every person you reach and between ten and fifty cents for everyone who visits your website. The reason: Social media platforms generally charge less to promote content that target audiences engage with at a high rate. If your post gets a high level of clicks, likes or shares, the cost to promote it will go down.

Tips for Making the Most of Social Media

1. Choose the right platform. The two most popular — and usually the best for utilities — are Facebook and Twitter. If your customer base is family-focused or skews older — and your primary objective is informing or educating consumers — Facebook is likely the better choice. To reach younger consumers — or if distributing emergency communications is your primary objective — Twitter is the better alternative. Most utilities find that a mix of the two works best.

2. Create engaging posts. Remember that social media is, by its nature, a social medium. The same rules that make for successful in-person social interactions apply to the virtual social world, as well.

o Posts shouldn’t be too self promotional. (Do you enjoy talking to self-centered or boastful people at social events?) Avoid making emergency alerts too alarming. (No one likes being unnecessarily frightened by a tweet.).
o Use intriguing imagery and an inviting tone to get your consumers to engage with your posts and read your content. Thinking about how you’d start a conversation with a friend, acquaintance or someone you’d like to get to know is a good technique to use to craft engaging social posts.

o Get creative and keep trying new things. Typically what you think will engage your customers doesn’t and what you think wouldn’t engage them does! The City of Moscow, Idaho took a leap and tried something different a few weeks ago on their Facebook page, using humor to inspire customers to locate their water meters and received more than 600 customers engaged. Check out their unique post!

3. Target the right people or join appropriate conversations. The targeting capabilities in social are growing more powerful all the time. Not only can you find the people in the communities you serve, you can also target sub-segments of them in different demographic categories (for example, property owners versus renters), through the things they’re interested in (nature, conservation, green living) or position (community decision-makers versus consumers). A little targeting creativity can help you find virtually anyone you want to reach at an affordable cost.

4. Determine your timing and objective. Do you want to make people aware of a simple message or do you want them read something? Are you trying to educate consumers about a topic or alert them to an urgent emergency? Your ultimate time frame and reason for communicating will affect how you promote your posts. In most cases, you can pay for reach (how many people see your post) or engagement (clicks, likes, shares) over a defined period of time. Making smart choices will help improve your results while lowering your promotional costs.

o Tip: Sometimes promoting posts using the opposite objective (paying for awareness when you want clicks, or bidding on clicks when you want to reach a lot of people) can improve results. A social media pro can recommend the best strategies to optimize your campaigns.

5. Don’t limit thinking. The great thing about social media is that it’s a low-cost virtual medium. It’s easier to test multiple ideas than it is in print. If there are several photos you like, try them all to see which your target audience is most likely to engage with. The same is true of headlines and description copy. Testing will allow you to optimize engagement with your posts.

o Tip: If you decide to try multi-variant testing, use “dark” posts that your followers won’t see in your social media feed. It will keep the posts on your social sites from looking redundant or too similar.

Want More?

Need help developing social media communication campaigns for your utility agency? Could you use support promoting your posts or targeting the people you want to reach in your community? Goldstreet can help. Leverage our expertise working with utilities across the United States to optimize your campaigns so they get the results you expect at the most efficient cost possible.

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