One of the greatest challenges with social media is building a following. The problem is particularly acute when you provide a public service and need to be able to reach customers in times of service interruption.

Virginia American Water and Maryland American Water wanted to face this challenge by building their social media following on Facebook and Twitter. Kurtz Digital Strategy (KDS) served as the social media expert on an external relations team led by SaVi PR, LLC.

Planning with an Editorial Calendar
As a first step, KDS helped to develop an editorial calendar that highlighted routine opportunities for relevant messaging. Summertime is a great time to focus on water conservation tips, while fall is a time to talk about planning for adequate hydration during outdoor activities. The calendar also accounted for the types of messages that would meet the utilities’ social media goals: community relations, customer service, and awareness.

The editorial calendar was used to guide daily messaging for Facebook and Twitter. This outlined made it easy to ensure that key issues, programs and season themes were addressed.

Messages that Engage
Tap water is more of an expectation than a point of excitement. However, the social media messages created for the utilities challenged customers to get excited about their water service as well as their service provider. Interesting photos, videos, quizzes and clever text were all used to generate engagement.

Building a Following
In addition to posting messages, KDS helped the utilities to like, favorite, and share relevant messages posted by others.  This support of others’ content led to increased engagement with the utilities own messages.

The number of followers was dramatically increased by searching relevant keywords and connecting with community organizations. Followers were encouraged to ask friends and neighbors to connect. As a result, the utilities are directly connected to a far larger audience for routine as well as emergency messages.