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Utilities CX

Launching Your Utility Social Media Pilot in 4 Easy Steps

Why Utilities Brands Need to Get Ahead of The Social Media Curve

After watching our latest ibex webinar, How To Protect Your Brand with Social Reputation Management, I found myself reflecting on the pivotal changes social media has had across multiple generations which lead me to an eye-opening statistic from eMarketer that the number of Gen Z mobile users on TikTok has eclipsed those on Instagram. As a member of Gen X, I can't quite fathom that reality. Then again, my Boomer parents, who didn’t really understand Facebook or Instagram before COVID, now use as many mobile apps as I do.

The news that Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok each have close to 50 million Gen Z mobile users shows just how valuable social media can be for building brand engagement with upcoming generations. For utilities companies, which traditionally struggle to keep pace with customers’ digital behaviors and expectations, those numbers say one thing loud and clear: it’s time to start listening to social media.

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Let’s take a closer look at why utilities brands need to get ahead of the curve on social media and how you can develop a social listening program to modernize the way you interact with your customers.

The rise of social media

Anyone who uses social media apps knows they have a very muddy signal-to-noise ratio. For every interesting picture or post, users face a torrent of material that’s irrelevant to their needs and interests. But the effects of the medium have changed brand communication forever to an extent that utilities companies simply can’t afford to ignore.

Over the past decade, Facebook went from a social connection app to a primary storefront and virtual yard sale for billions of users globally. While Instagram may have started with gratuitous food and vacation photos, it now accounts for more than 1.7 billion users who collectively drove over $20 billion in ad revenue in 2019. TikTok, along with offering a plethora of meme videos, has quickly become a channel of choice for Gen Z to find content related to news, politics, culture, and purchases.

New engagement opportunities for utilities

For utilities, social media marketing can feel like a foreign language. Many in the utilities space are still in the process of driving transformation in their basic digital communication programs. Adding social channels to the mix introduces a whole new set of challenges—and opportunities.

Given the increase in Gen X mobile social users, the role of Millennials in driving purchasing today, and the even bigger up-and-coming force of digital transformation led by Gen Z, it's critical for utilities brands to understand how social media fits into your digital marketing and communication programs.

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Launch your social listening pilot project

The best way to learn a new language begins with listening. Utilities brands can start by setting up a pilot project to capture customer feedback and map the landscape on social media.

Just like learning a new language, who you listen to and the tone of your communication matters. Every social media space has different rules, communities, and conversational tones, so don't jump into the deep end right away. (In other words, leave Twitter alone for now!)

ibex recommends starting with these four steps:

1. Tune into your social feeds

Kick off your pilot project by listening to your own social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram. Over the course of several weeks, collect and review the content – but resist the urge to respond right away.

Remember, customers commenting on your Facebook and Instagram accounts consider those posts the same as direct messaging to your brand. They take your responses seriously, so you’ll want to spend a bit of time listening before you engage with feedback. Get into the headspace of your customers and identify the trends and key topics they are discussing.

2. Read customer reviews of your brand

Next, start reading customer reviews on sites like Google Reviews, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau. Customers use these types of forums to share their experiences with other customers, not companies themselves. You can use the feedback on these forums to spark insights about business operations, customer service, and what customers think about your brand that may not be captured in your corporate social feeds.

3. Collect feedback about your peers

Sifting through customer feedback on social channels and review sites may feel a bit overwhelming, and even discouraging. Keep in mind that the digital space is full of reactive channels with few rules, and all brands deal with similar challenges.

To put things into perspective, do some digging into customer feedback on your peers. Look at the same data for those adjacent to your geography to get a sense of the relative tone and sentiment of customer messaging. You may find that the feedback is comparable to yours.

4. Create a strategy for how you respond

Just like any new language, early practice can be painful, so it helps to have a plan before you start actively engaging with customers on social channels. Take it slow, listen and learn, then test responses by providing helpful information related to key issues, such as billing or outages.

If customers engage, try to direct them to call you or your support center for more help. Don’t forget to track outcomes with customers by measuring the quality of their experience, so your pilot can expand to new cases and channels for social engagement.

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Get ahead of the curve on social

Social media engagement only accelerates with each passing year and new generation. Utilities brands that pay attention to how demographic changes influence digital behaviors, channel preferences, and customer expectations can leapfrog ahead by engaging customers where they are.

At ibex, we specialize in helping utilities brands develop digital engagement programs. Our Social Reputation Management platform does the work for you, listening across 100+ social media channels (including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Reddit) to analyze sentiment and customer feedback, so you can better manage your social and digital relationships and reputation. Our ibex leaders believe Social Reputation Management is an essential component of your CX strategy. 

Ready to drive better results for your digital marketing program? Connect with me on LinkedIn today, or book a demo to see our software in action.

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