In our last post, we looked at ESCOs (Energy Service Companies) and examined how they are using (or not using) social media. We observed that only a few ESCOs were taking advantage of social media to connect with customers, their target market, and for recruitment purposes. With this in mind, let us see what opportunities they might be missing, or can be improved upon.
Social Media Playbook for ESCOs
Before doing that, two issues need to be addressed. First, ESCOs should decide which social media platforms are most relevant to their customers, target market, and business objectives. Second, formulate a strategy as to how you’ll use each social media platform. Often this strategy is called a social media playbook.
Let us take a brief look at the basics of a social media playbook. Essentially it will be a document that establishes what your business objectives are. For example, is it to curate and retain current customers, acquire new customers, generate leads, gather feedback on your firms reputation, and/or for use as part of your customer service. In addition it will layout ground rules for when and how to engage and how to measure outcomes.
Opportunities In Social Media
The first opportunity we observed missing from ESCOs use of social media was incorporating a connection from their website to their presence on social media and back from social media to the website. This reciprocation was evident on BlueRock Energy’s website use of social media icons near the upper left hand corner of their website. On the other hand, a few ESCOs had no reference to their presence on social media or a reference to their website on their social media property.
Opportunities With LinkedIn
A more specific opportunity concerned the use of LinkedIn. As we saw with BlueRock Energy and Ambit Energy, each of these ESCOs has a presence on LinkedIn. Linkedin provides these ESCOs several opportunities for connecting with their current and potential business customers. Let us look at these opportunities more in detail.
First, LinkedIn offers the Company Page on which an ESCO can build a robust profile concerning itself and its services. With this profile, an ESCO can request reviews of its services, recruit employees, network with other businesses, and obtain followers.
Second, assuming that the employees of the ESCO are using LinkedIn, this provides a networking opportunity. If the employees of a ESCO are on LinkedIn, they’ll most likely have listed the ESCO as their employer. When anyone browsing looks at that employee’s profile, they’ll see the connection to the ESCO and may very well click on the company name listed. This provides a channel to reach potential customers through the ESCOs employee.
An excellent summary of how to use LinkedIn for business is offered by Hubspot.
To summarize, LinkedIn can provide ESCOs an effective method to connect with their business customers or potential customers.
Opportunities With Facebook
Now that we’ve consider a platform that primarily focuses on connecting with business customers, let us switch to one that is more in-tune with connecting with the residential consumer of energy. Facebook is the largest social network at the present time. During our review of ESCOs, we discovered that the two most active ESCOs with a Facebook presence were Bluerock Energy and U.S. Gas & Electrics.
Other ESCOs may want to consider looking what BlueRock Energy has done. Looking over their Facebook page you’ll notice they have a fresh stream of content, and they have gone and liked other pages. The purpose of liking other pages is to create connections (networking) with other pages which may be customers or could be potential customers. You’ve taken an interest in that businesses page and in theory the page administrator for that other page will like your page back. This also serves to increase brand awareness.
Even though Bluerock Energy is a good example of how to use a Facebook page, there are several missed opportunities. If we visit Constellation energy’s Facebook page, you’ll notice that they use the “Custom Tab” area (Labeled B) to offer links to special offers and to where a potential customer can sign up. Constellations Energy’s “About” section (A) on their main page serves as a clear description as to what they are about. And they’ve selected their “Category”. On the other hand, Bluerock Energy does not have their “About” section and “Category” (A) completed in the manner as Constellation Energy. Nor are they using the “Custom Tabs” (B) . One other worthy note is Constellation has decided to define the rules of engagement for its Facebook users – House Rules (C). By defining these rules of engagement, Constellation Energy provides a guideline for its users as to what is expected of them.
There are a few opportunities within Facebook that they are not using. For example, the use of promotions, such as asking fans to recruit other customers by offering a percentage off their next bill for each new customer that signs up. You can read more about using promotions at this Mashable article. Only one ESCO chose to add a link to Twitter within their custom tab area. This may be useful as some Facebook fans may use Twitter as well for their social media platform.
Opportunities With Twitter
Now, let’s take a look at Twitter and how ESCOs might leverage it to connect and cultivate its current and potential customers. As we observed from our list of ESCOs, some are actively using Twitter. For example Bluerock Energys Tweets contained useful content that concerns its industry and content about its services with a link back to its website.
First, consider using a custom background that includes design elements that are helpful to your audience. Looking at Constellation Energys Twitter page we can see on the left-hand side they share key contact information. One element they could add is their UVP (Unique Value Proposition) that explains how they can or have helped their target market. For example, save on your energy needs with Constellation.
Next, what wasn’t observed was the use of favorite Tweets as testimonials. This works by identifying those tweets which can serve as a testimonial to your service or product. You’ll mark them as a favorite. Once you have a few, they can be displayed on your website. Note, before deploying this tactic take into consideration whether the person who tweeted the message is agreeable to having it used in this manner and whether using such a widget elegantly fits into to your website. You can learn more about using this tactic at Social Media Examiner.
One other opportunity missed was the use of Twitter lists. An ESCO could create either a public list or private list. Public lists can serve several needs such as cultivation of potential customers, reinforcement of your brand awareness, and connecting with relevant influencers. Private lists on the other hand can be used for such purposes as keeping track of current customers, monitoring competitors, and interacting with suppliers and employees. Social Media Examiner and Marketing Land both offer interesting articles on the subject.
Two useful resources for learning more about leveraging Twitter are Social Media Examiners interview with Mark Schaefer on using Twitter for marketing and Hubspots Twitter for Business Marketing Kit.
In summary, there are many opportunities for ESCOs concerning the use of social media. The how and why of this usage is something they would have to determine for themselves in order to meet their business objectives.