By Alastair Turner, Aspectus PR
Energy is just about the most important factor in our lives, so it’s no surprise that it is a hot topic in social media circles. Whether it’s UK customers voicing frustration on rising utility bills, or a global push to reform fossil fuel policy, such as the enormously popular #endfossilfuelsubsidies hashtag which broke just ahead of the RIO +20 conference, lively social media debates on energy issues are taking place across the globe, right now.
Energy companies should ensure they are aware of the key debates on social media. Not only is it vital to know what is being said about your company, but it is also helpful to keep track of industry trends and breaking news. For example, if the Energy Efficiency Directive, or an announcement from DECC on Feed-In-Tariffs, are of interest to your business, it would be worthwhile to follow journalists covering these topics on twitter, or the official DECC feed.
By tracking live tweets from energy conferences, or following an industry journalist or official government feed, you can get the early heads up on key announcements. The earlier you are aware of news, the more time you have to react if appropriate. Being aware of key trends is not only important from a PR perspective, but awareness can also provide the R&D team more information on market needs and your sales team with talking points for new business pitches.
People are increasingly turning to social media to engage directly with energy companies. According to Pike Research, approximately 57 million customers worldwide will use social media to engage utilities in 2011, and that could rise to 624 million customers by the end of 2017. Therefore utilities must be confident in their ability to monitor and engage with social media. Get it right and social media will be a great way to improve customer service and thereby customer loyalty and retention.
Getting it right means being able to respond quickly and effectively to questions and comments via social media channels and being prepared to comment authoritatively, consistently and uniquely. Posting interesting comments and links to content helps to drive engagement on social media channels. It helps build credibility and authority. This is not just important in terms of direct customer engagement, but social media authority boosts your SEO ranking, making it easier for firms to find you on search engines.
However, social media can’t be looked at in isolation to the rest of the PR programme. A successful social media campaign is powered by a comprehensive communications plan, which is closely mapped to the company’s business objectives.