Social Media: A Missed Opportunity?

It’s no secret that clean water agencies have been slower to embrace social media than most other industries, including service-providers. Which is a shame, because by not taking advantage of the power of social media clean water agencies are missing out on some great opportunities.

One thing to remember is that social media is not just another form of communication, but a whole new way of collaborating with industry peers and reaching out the public. Social media has broken down barriers and created a level of transparency between organizations and the public that has never before existed. Transparency and public participation are often part of a public agency’s goals, and social media can be a great way to achieve those goals.

This ability to communicate with the public is particularly important at a time when many clean water agencies are undoing breathtaking changes—going from providing narrowly defined provider of wastewater treatment to more holistic resource and recovery provider. Agencies are doing everything from generating electricity to producing water for reuse and biosolids as a soil amendment. And all of this is happening in the context of an expansion in mission to include environmental protection beyond the original goals of protecting human health.

These are all great stories that the public needs to know about. Having this knowledge will help individuals, for example, understand the reason for rate increases, the cause of inconveniences when streets are closed due to collection system work, and the importance of funding for aging infrastructure. Your service area can become your advocate, speaking up for the importance of clean water and environmental protection. They can lobby their local and state representatives, and participate in informed decision-making when needed.

If social media has taught us anything, it’s the power of the crowd when people are motivated to make changes for a greater good.

We will continue to cover various topics related to social media and its implications for clean water agencies as a regular feature of The Water VoiceTM. Please feel free to post your thoughts and ideas for topics you’d like to see covered. We’d also love to hear how your organization is using or planning to use social media. 

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2 Responses to Social Media: A Missed Opportunity?

  1. Hugh says:

    Much is written about communicating via the social media to reach one’s constituencies, and that is certainly a major benefit of this new set of communications channels. Less discussed, in my observation, is the value of listening (or reading and watching) to the social media. If you want to know about the concerns, goals, challenges, and problems of a market sector, a category of regulators, your competitors, or any constituency, identify leading organizations and people. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and other prominent social media. If you do not have accounts on the major social media, this will cause you to establish them, and that is a benefit in itself. Scan YouTube and Google News. Listening not only provides valuable intelligence, but also helps make your comments more pertinent and current when you start transmitting.

    • estriano@nacwa.org says:

      Ryan – Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right, listening is often underrated but is critical in an effective conversation. And certainly that is really the heart of social media — it allows people to have a conversation rather than the typically one-way communication of traditional media.

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