We’ve been hearing a lot about how important it is that clean water utilities become active users of social media. And while many utilities across the United States that have come to embrace various social media tools, there are many more that have not. Some confusion may lie in exactly how utilities are using social media and why. Utilities that have embraced use of social media are using it in a variety of ways including:
- Keeping their community up to date. For example, notifications about construction, ongoing projects, water main breaks, or other issues that could affect them.
- Educating the public. This could include everything from an explanation of the wastewater treatment process to an explanation of what is safe and not safe to flush down the drain.
- Providing customer service. One way in which social media is truly unique is that it has removed barriers between customers and their providers.
- Inviting public participation. Do you have an event the public is invited to attend? Perhaps a meeting, an open-house plant tour, or a public-service event such as a tree planting?
- Showing the community what you are doing. Take pictures or video at the plant, at the public-service event, at the meeting, so that you can show them all the good that you do every day.
- Explaining the reasons behind changes. Are ratepayers going to see an increase in their bills in the near future? Is there a new green infrastructure project in the works? Start early, and “chat” often.
The bottom line is to remember that social media is not a new concept—it is merely a new way to communicate with and reach your audience. Utilities have always had a need to communicate with ratepayers and other stakeholders; social media has provided another way to accomplish that task. A way that has removed barriers and allowed creation of more direct, honest relationships.