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Is social CRM a good technique for utility and energy marketers?

Posted by Sheera Eby on June 25, 2013

Many utility marketers are leveraging social media to support their customer service, brand and customer satisfaction initiatives. Utilities may be trailblazers in leveraging social media for customer service. There is, however, an opportunity to evolve a utility’s social media strategy to be more proactive and help support other marketing objectives.



Social media marketing can be a natural for delivering educational messages and explaining the “why’s” to customers. Utility marketers are constantly faced with a key challenge: “How can I communicate to my customers in a manner that they won’t perceive as self-serving?”


We’ve learned through millions of touchpoints with utility and energy customers that communications should be delivered in a straightforward, non-sensationalized tone. Hype doesn’t play well with utility and energy customers. Here are five considerations for evolving the utility and energy social media marketing into a more transformative social CRM approach.


1. Education plays well.

Social media marketing is perfectly aligned to educational messaging. Position content educationally, and use content to explain the “why’s”. Through the years, we’ve done a significant amount of testing as well as multiple pre- and post-communication research studies in the utility and energy industry. The net takeaway is that prospects and customers view promotional messages from utilities as propaganda.


Content-based social media marketing aligns tightly to this finding. Content should be straightforward, matter-of-fact and educational in tone. A utility or energy company has a unique position in being thought leaders. Even though many utilities may feel that energystar is the ideal source for certain energy efficiency information, customers are likely to see their utility as a trusted expert.


2. Drive engagement with C&I customers.

Commercial and industrial customers might be the best target for utilities to initially consider for this transformation to social CRM. Business decision makers are accustomed to searching for information to make the best decision. According to HubSpot, approximately 46% of online users count on social media when making a purchase decision. Many utilities haven’t had deliberate and consistent strategies against small- and medium- sized businesses. And for many businesses, their energy bills are a key expense.


Similar to all social media efforts, the first step is to drive users to engagement through a number of techniques. Engagement can be driven by form of articles, infographics and videos, as well as ebooks and even white papers. Once the engagement devices are built, it is critical to tailor user-centric posts in a number of social outlets to drive engagement.


Leveraging social media in this way can help utility and energy companies increase visibility with C&I customers, and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.


3. Integrate social behavior with newsletters.

Once users engage, leverage behavior to develop targeted relevant communications. This is the biggest differentiator that transforms social media to SCRM, and it’s the real magic. Applying behavioral information to personalize outbound and follow-up communications takes the entire customer experience to the next level.


Many utilities and energy companies currently have an online newsletter. A starting point for integration can be leveraging social information to inform ongoing communications streams, such as newsletters. The easy execution of this approach is to review aggregate level social analytics to shape newsletter content. The more refined application is to tailor and segment newsletters based on social media engagement. This distinction is the cornerstone of SCRM. Technology and analytics provide the ability to identify engagement on a user level and categorize users for future communications follow-up.


Meaningful, relevant messaging can also be built into other email programs, direct mail, landing pages, personalized URLs (PURLs) and other targeted tactics. We often recommend email as the quickest and easiest application to marry with social efforts.


4. Start social CRM with your highest marketing priority.

Rather than working toward a social media revolution, make the migration more of an evolution. Choose one area of marketing for your initial social CRM transformation. At this time of year, many utility marketers are focused on demand-side management. SmartGrid and energy efficiency also tend to be areas of focus for many utility marketers. Choose an area that would benefit from educational messaging, and one that is a priority for marketing.

Then determine whether you want the content to be delivered to your current social followers, or whether the content is better suited for a different audience. If it’s a different audience consider leveraging inbound marketing techniques, such as building content around keyword selection, as well as what topics that might get traction in newsletters and other outbound tactics.


Then build out your editorial calendar to support this area of focus. Answer questions that customers might have on topics. While utilities always have to overcome being a low involvement category, some topics will naturally generate more interest. Even be willing to answer some of the tough questions like, “Why is my utility spending money to help me use less energy?”


I believe most utility marketers will be most successful in transforming their social media efforts to social CRM if they start small and expand upon success.


5. Measure program activities on both a macro and micro level.

Today it’s all about ROI. And that’s a topic that many marketers are still wrestling with in relation to social media. Our recommendation is to gain an understanding of social media impacts on both a macro and micro level.


On a macro level, closely analyze the results of your social programs for business impacts and to gauge opportunities for program enhancements based on user behavior and engagement. This information enables you to quickly understand what content your prospects and customers are engaging with and what is on their minds. Used correctly, social data can also provide a platform of real-time learnings and feedback that will shape other communications tactics messaging.


On a micro level, it is critical to leverage social behavior to determine the value of social engagement against specific groups. This helps determine how to best enhance content going forward to generate leads that have positive business impacts. Analyze content that drives engagement, social sharing, comments and reviews, and information downloads. And do it all with a clear aim at marrying these metrics to targeted behavior.


Social media has transformed marketing over the past five to 10 years. The next evolution of social media for utility and energy marketers is likely to be a more integrated and measurable effort. Do you agree? Do you think social CRM makes sense for utility and energy marketers? Please leave me a comment. I’d love your thoughts.



Topics: Utility Industry

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