By Greg Davis –
[Editors Note from Gerard Braud - Today we have a guest blog from Greg Davis of Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative. Greg wrote this as a follow up to my March 5, 2015 blog about utility companies avoiding a crisis by communicating with customers who take their complaints about high electric bills to Facebook. Thank you Greg.]
For electric cooperatives, consumer engagement remains critical to continued success. Social media allows you to be involved with members on a personal level. Many people view smartphones and other mobile devices as an extension of themselves. They’re connected—and they expect you to be connected, too.
To toss up a social media presence without proper management or trained communications people to guide content is a recipe for disaster; however choosing to avoid social media can prove to be as catastrophic.
The need for electric utility social media presence is best demonstrated during Crisis communication. Social media allows for fast, fact driven, controlled communication. During a major outage the worst thing a utility company can do is not provide regular up to date information with customers. Getting information from traditional media outlets alone is no longer acceptable.
When customers see that they are one of thousands currently without power or can see pictures of miles of downed poles and lines that information can greatly influence their expectations for restoration. It can also greatly influence traditional media expectations. Social media communication during prolonged outages has also been proven successful in deflecting inquiries to the call center and helping improve call center response time. Social media outage information gets shared by other organizations, the media and individuals, all helping your information reach a greater number of people in a timely fashion.
Not to be forgotten are the marketing opportunities, corporate branding and general community outreach.
The social media conversation will take place with or without you. “Doing nothing” has never been the answer to managing your brand. Being actively involved puts you in the conversation. It lets you tell your story with facts and better control of the message.
No matter what you do you will never create 100% customer satisfaction. Someone will make a negative comment on one of your channels. Some negative comments turn out to be a positive, offering the chance to transform an angry customer into a brand ambassador. More often than not your engaged fans will defend you if someone is bashing without a reason. If you opt not to establish a social media presence, your members can still post unflattering things about you online. What’s the advantage of providing a place for your members to talk about you online? It puts you in the conversation. They will establish a reputation for you even if you aren’t out there to share the facts. Your story will be told even if you “do nothing.”