The internet’s original purpose was to provide “a platform to facilitate information exchange between users” (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). It is interesting that the internet, with the influence of social media, has now come full circle. It is rare that the intended use of a product or service remains after so many years. I was surprised that my current employer is does not have a strong social media presence. The utility industry is wrought with confusion and misinformation. A general lack of understanding on how a utility bill is calculated and what the charges are actually for as well as what deregulated actually means is something I hear about daily. Using social media to educate the consumer would seem like an ideal approach.
Careful consideration should be made when selecting which type(s) of social media platforms your company should use. You cannot simply create a site, blog or profile and expect to get your message across. The first step is to listen to your customers so you can engage them in the conversations they want to have (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). When using social media you need to ensure you are being honest, humble, interesting and surprisingly unprofessional (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Most business would struggle with taking an unprofessional approach to their social media strategy. In the utility industry there are many rules and regulations that need to be followed and restrictions of what type of information you must provide. The use of social media to provide emergency information has been proven in the Calgary floods. This is something that can help spread important information and ultimately save lives.
The main conclusion I can draw about the challenges and opportunities of social media is this: be involved! Information about your company will be there regardless of your participation. You need to ensure that you are maintaining open channels of communication and at the minimum providing your side of the story.
Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Indiana: Kelley School of Business.