This week’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, program specialist with the ACC Water Conservation Office.
Have you been thinking about dipping your toes into social media but still haven’t taken the plunge?
A water utility deciding whether or not to use social media is similar to going in for a flu shot. Your rational brain knows the flu shot is beneficial for your long-term health, but you drag your feet walking into the doctor’s office. You fear the pain of the needle, dread the lingering soreness in your arm, and worry about the possible negative side effects.
Content creation is the social media equivalent to the flu shot. You know social media offers you an enormous opportunity to building a healthy relationship with your customers, just like a flu shot prevents the flu all season. But the burden of having to create continuous and engaging content can linger like the painful memory of a needle stick.
Assuming you got the flu shot, you know it wasn’t that bad after all. Content creation for your social media sites can be the same way. To ease the pain and anxiety, here are a few ideas to get you started creating content.
1. Organize your outreach calendar. Start your efforts by creating a social media calendar to compliment your outreach plan. A good social media strategy helps you determine your goals, organize your outreach tactics, and create content. Doing this step makes social media less daunting and gives your utility more direction. For more on this, check out the wonderful book Content Rules, by Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman.
2. Give real-time information and warnings about water main breaks, boil water alerts, or weather related emergencies. You can also look on Twitter for postings from your customers about breaks or other issues, possibly allowing you to get to a problem quicker than before.
3. Brag on your employees and boost morale. Our water and wastewater workers are a vital part of our community, but these men and women are often taken for granted. Post photos of them at work on Facebook and Instagram. Have the employees submit on the job selfies. This helps the community understand what the utility worker does behind the scenes.
4. Engage in conversation with customers. Use social media to speak directly to your customer base. Explain upcoming utility changes before they happen. Share tips on how to prevent frozen pipes. Worried about negative comments? See this public feedback as an opportunity to address the problem and make it right.
5. Share videos. Find something really disgusting in a sewer line? Share a video of the yuck being removed on You Tube or Vine, then use this as an opportunity to educate your audience of proper waste disposal. Post links to videos explaining how to check the house for leaks on Twitter. If sharing videos made by others, remember to watch the entire video for appropriateness before posting!
6. Publicize upcoming events. Have a great toilet repair workshop in the near future? Boost attendance through your social media outlets. Create a Facebook event page and send reminders on Twitter. Provide links to online registration forms and additional information. Take pictures during the event and share in a photo album on Facebook.
7. Establish yourself as an expert in your field. Write blogs, answer questions posted by your audience, or post on Linkedin message boards in a knowledgeable, thoughtful, and professional manner. Do this consistently throughout the year and you become the trusted expert your customers turn to in an emergency or drought.
8. Attaboys! Did you recently win an award for your drinking water quality? Do you have a drinking water treatment operator working at your facility named the best in the state? Brag about your accomplishments! Share a photo of the trophy on Instagram. Write a brief bio and snap an image of the operator for Facebook.
9. Share your Consumer Confidence Report, or Drinking Water Quality Report, with your customers through links on Twitter or Facebook. You need to share this with the public anyway, so why not add this to your list of distribution methods?
10. Highlight local businesses. Do you know of a business who has made great strides in water efficiency? Recognize their efforts through photos and words. Take a photo inside the location and ask your audience to guess which local business updated their toilets. Have a drawing of the entrants and give a prize. Add this business to a board of Water Warriors on Pinterest by including an image, brief description, and link to the business.
11. Create targeted messages utilizing your smart meter analytics. With the data collected from a smart meter, you can target particular groups with community based social marketing messages to change social norms. For example, let a specific neighborhood know that “75% of the people in your neighborhood reduced their water use from the month before. Keep up the good work!”
12. Stay with the current! Look for what is trending on Twitter, BuzzFeed, or other sites and incorporate it into your content. For example, 50 Shades of Gray was trending, so a tour of a water reclamation facility is a perfect place to promote 50 Shades of Brown.
13. Post images and infographics. Add posts with an image to increase engagement. Capture a pretty sunset over an aeration basin? Find an easy to understand inforgraphic about World Toilet Day? Share the image with a creative and brief caption or text. This easy content builder works well on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
14. Share articles, posts, and blogs from other experts. Stay up to date and keep learning about the water field by reading blog postings and articles by others. Did you learn something new? See something another utility posted? (Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has great content!) Share it with your readers! You can also take a moment to post comments and questions to the author. Linkedin is a good place to find articles and create discussion.
15. Ask your audience what they want from you. When in doubt, go to the source. We can only pretend to know exactly what our customers find helpful. Ask your followers what they would like to see you share. Examine your analytics to determine which posts received the most view, shares, likes, and comments, then do more of it.
Using social media is an inexpensive way to conduct outreach, but it can cost time. Develop an organized plan of action and content creation becomes much easier. You can even do it from your phone while waiting for your flu vaccine. Just do it.