Municipal utilities deliver necessary services like electricity, water, sanitation and gas to customers across their service territories. For these utilities, building a strong bond with customers is not only important but necessary. Highly engaged customers tend to be more satisfied with services, more likely to participate in programs and exhibit greater brand loyalty. Fostering this engagement, however, requires reaching customers where they are very active – in the digital sphere.

Social media emerges as a powerful tool for fostering municipal community engagement, building trust and creating meaningful connections. It uniquely positions utilities to interact with customers where they spend considerable time. The average person spends 2 hours and 24 minutes on social media daily. Social media also leaves additional room to reach and connect with younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Z. In fact, over one-third of Gen Zers spend over four hours a day on various platforms.

Municipal utilities can reap substantial rewards by embracing social media as an engagement catalyst rather than just a broadcast tool. This shift in perspective allows for a more interactive and mutually beneficial relationship with the communities they serve.

Redefining the Customer Relationship: More than Just Ratepayers

Customers are more than just ratepayers – they’re individuals with diverse wants, interests, needs and preferences. Brian Lindamood, VP of Marketing and Content Strategy at Questline Digital, emphasizes the importance of leaving the bad habits of the ratepayer days behind and not taking customers for granted.

“Customers today have robust digital relationships with every company they do business with,” said Lindamood. “They expect companies to anticipate their needs and receive content relevant to their interests.”

Municipal utility companies must strive to add value to the customer relationship by fostering genuine connections and creating opportunities for two-way communication.

By engaging customers through social media, municipal utilities make themselves available as trusted partners. Customers then have the opportunity to become more engaged with their utility, increasing customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores in the long run. Loyal, engaged customers frequently like, share and comment on social media posts. Additionally, these customers contribute suggestions, questions, requests and ideas, showcasing their involvement and desire for interaction.

Best Practices for an Engaging Social Media Presence

Six best practices for creating a municipal community engagement social media presence.

To cultivate an engaging social media presence, municipal utility companies must focus on these seven best practices:

  1. Provide entertaining and educational content: Customers won’t feel compelled to connect if they don’t find content worthy of liking, commenting or sharing. Include a mix of fun, visually appealing posts like animated GIFs or infographics, along with informative how-to articles and short videos explaining energy topics. Videos, for example, get 200% more comments, likes and shares than posts with no media or links, according to Questline Digital performancemetrics. Content doesn’t always have to be utility-related. Sharing posts about holidays and events can also be engaging to customers and shows that there are real people behind the digital platforms.
  2. Plan and schedule social posts: Rather than posting sporadically, municipal utilities should develop a consistent cadence and quarterly content calendar to maintain an active social presence. Planning posts in advance ensures a steady stream of engaging content. Use scheduling tools to make it easier to coordinate and automatically publish posts at optimal times. For example, Facebook offers a free scheduling tool in its Meta Business Suite.
  3. Design content for smaller screens: Nearly 80% of social media users access platforms exclusively from mobile devices. Although most websites are mobile responsive, municipal utilities should still ensure all content is optimized for mobile. Focus on short, concise copy. Limit posts to one link that goes to a landing page optimized for mobile. And consider using eye-catching but simple visuals that don’t clutter a small screen.
  4. Research the most-used platform: Don’t spread resources too thin by trying to master every social platform. Analyze customer demographics and focus on one to three platforms where they are most active. For the majority of utilities, because it reaches the most municipal customers and the broadest audience overall.
  5. Use an appropriate voice: Municipal utilities must maintain a consistent, casual and conversational tone that reflects their role as a trusted community resource. This tone should not include technical jargon and should speak in a relatable way.
  6. Maintain transparency: Social media provides the perfect space for municipal utilities to uphold transparency and open communication with customers and the community. Strive for honesty in posts and replies, especially regarding outages and rate increases.
  7. Reply quickly to customer inquiries and comments: Prompt response times lead to positive customer experiences and brand loyalty. Many times, customers visit social media pages for answers to questions or updates on service information before even navigating to a utility’s website. Be warned that not all comments will be positive. It’s important to recognize this and strategically respond to comments, both positive and negative, when it makes sense.

Implementing the right strategies for resonating content, optimized delivery and meaningful interaction will determine the success of a municipal utility’s social media efforts. While best practices supply a framework, the most engaging social media accounts filter proven tactics through the utility’s unique brand voice and deep understanding of its customer base.

Examples of Municipal Community Engagement Social Media Posts

Developing compelling social media content that builds municipal community engagement requires a strategic approach and creative thinking.

Example of a utility social media post educating customers about energy-savings tips.

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) used this post to educate customers on practical energy-saving tips for working at home. It includes an eye-catching visual and a relevant topic, as roughly 14% of U.S. workers now work remotely. The post’s short, succinct advice ends with a clear call to action that leads customers to a mobile-friendly website with additional information.  

Social media example from OEC about effective safety messages for municipal community engagement.

Oklahoma Electric Cooperative leverages pop culture and nostalgia to communicate a serious message about tornado safety. The shoes’ red color stands out in the black-and-white image and captures customer’s attention, making them more likely to read the post and learn safety tips. The casual, friendly phrasing also aligns with the community-oriented, approachable voice.

Municipal community engagement social media example from the Florida Keys about upcoming maintenance.

Florida Keys Electric Cooperative took to social media to inform its customers about upcoming inspections and maintenance. This post features transparency and open communication. It anticipates that customers will wonder why helicopters are operating in the area and features a photo of what the helicopters look like. The post also takes time to address a frequently asked question about drones.

Municipal community engagement example from Elk River Municipal Utility about conserving water.

This Facebook post from Elk River Municipal Utilities features a short, how-to video explaining an easy way to conserve water and reduce energy costs. Customers can quickly view how to replace their faucet aerators. This information provides value to customers by empowering them to take a cost-saving action.

Social media example of municipal community engagement from ODEC about weather changes.

ODEC also featured a short video reminding customers to change the rotation of their fans as the weather warms up. The image copy includes a direct question prompting customers to check out their ceiling fans. The topic is timely for the season and helps customers make the most of their electric-powered appliances and improve their comfort.

Water conservation music video parody from Denver Water.

Denver Water created a music video parody titled “I Water That Way” that promotes wise summer watering habits and shared it on Facebook. The entertaining video riffing on a boy band hit went viral and was even featured on the Today Show, effectively delivering an important conservation message through humor and pop culture savvy. The post earned praise from thousands of “likers” and hundreds of “commenters.”

The Power of Authenticity: Beyond Best Practices

While the best practices outlined here offer a strong foundation, remember that social media thrives on authenticity. Municipal utilities know their customers best. Municipal community engagement flourishes when utilities speak with a genuine brand voice that resonates with their audience.

Learn how social media content from Questline Digital can build engagement with your customers.

Behind the simple act of turning on a tap lies a complex system of infrastructure and services provided by water utilities — systems that customers may not always understand. From concerns about water quality to inquiries about service interruptions, customers seek clarity and reliability from their utility providers.

To ensure clear communications and effectively build long-lasting customer relationships, understanding their concerns and answering their questions is key. However, engaging with customers is no longer just about responding to their inquiries. Instead, it’s a matter of being proactive — anticipating water utility customer needs and providing timely, relevant information.

Transparency is paramount, with customers expecting clear communication about water quality reports, maintenance schedules, disruptions to service and more. By leveraging innovative communication channels, water utilities can forge stronger connections with customers and enhance their overall experience.

“With monthly rates continuing to rise and the water supply running dangerously low in many parts of the country, there has never been a more critical time for water utilities to proactively communicate with their customers about what they are doing to protect our drinking water today and into the future,” Andrew Heath, Senior Director of Utilities Intelligence at J.D. Power, explained in a press release.

The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study found a direct correlation between communications and customer satisfaction. The study showed that a 7-point increase in customer communications and a 6-point increase in customer service drove increased levels of customer satisfaction across the board.

“The communications factor continues to show improvement across each wave of the study, suggesting that utilities are proactively reaching out to customers throughout the year to provide updates on pricing, safety and supply issues,” according to the report.

Get to Know Your Water Utility’s Customer Needs

Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to learn and improve. Water utilities must recognize the diversity of concerns that customers may have. From questions about water quality and conservation tips to inquiries about billing discrepancies or service interruptions, being attentive to these concerns is crucial.

To begin addressing these concerns, your utility should first focus on identifying common customer inquiries, including knowing customers’ usual consumption patterns, common complaints, preferences, and their general attitude toward water conservation. By understanding your customers better, you can start to anticipate their needs and proactively address their questions.

After all, your utility may provide a needed service, but the way you approach communicating to water customers speaks dividends. Salesforce research shows that 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services. 

Effective Strategies for Customer Communications

Effective communication is crucial in addressing your water utility customers’ needs. This starts with establishing clear communication channels where customers can reach out with questions or concerns. This doesn’t just mean responding to their queries in a timely manner, but also being able to clarify complex water-related topics. For example, if there’s a change in water rates or a new policy on water usage, it’s your utility’s responsibility to communicate these changes to your customers.

Traditional communication methods like call centers are extremely valuable. Training customer service representatives to handle inquiries efficiently and providing educational resources can empower them to address common questions. However, it’s also essential to create digital experiences for water customers through email, newsletters, mobile apps, social media and your utility website.

According to the J.D. Power 2024 U.S. Utility Digital Experience Study, customer satisfaction with utility websites and apps lag behind other industries, achieving only a 594 rating on a 1,000-point scale. This is compared to other industry scores, including:

  • 718 for wealth management
  • 702 for property and casualty insurance
  • 685 for retirement plans

“Digital is the first stop for utility customers when they experience a problem or need more information related to billing or special programs, but more often than not, their digital inquiries are leading to dead ends and phone calls to customer service,” Jon Sundberg, Director of Digital Solutions at J.D. Power, explained in a press release. “The static, reactive approach to digital being taken by utilities is falling far short of current customer expectations.”

Given the preference for digital communication among customers, it may be time to put effort and resources into developing or updating your utility’s mobile app or ensuring your utility’s website offers a seamless user experience.

Chart listing the best digital channels to engage with water utility customer needs
Image Source: Salesforce

Additionally, personalization goes hand-in-hand with digital experiences and communications. Research shows that 59% of customers already believe businesses should personalize their experiences based on the data they collect about them. Further, the J.D. Power Utility Digital Experience study showed that only 54% of utility customers say they have received personalized information regarding their energy or water consumption, despite 49% of customers indicating that they would find this helpful.

Knowing these preferences, utility personalized video offers an easy and appealing way for water providers to engage with customers. Personalized videos leverage customer data, such as usage, program participation and content interests, to create unique, relevant videos for each individual. It’s no surprise that data shows that using personalized calls-to-actions (CTAs) result in 202% more conversions than those without.

4 Key Factors to Meeting Water Utility Customer Needs

In addition to developing strong digital communications, there are other key factors to remember when addressing your water utility’s customer needs.

1. Enact Transparency

Customers appreciate when they are kept in the loop about issues that impact their water service. Whether it’s an unexpected disruption in water supply, a planned maintenance activity or a change in billing procedures, ensure that you communicate these developments to your customers as early as possible.

Notifying customers in advance demonstrates respect for their time and helps manage expectations. Similarly, continue to update customers throughout the process to keep them in the loop. Transparent communications build trust, and trust leads to customer loyalty.

Additionally, implement systems to notify customers in advance of planned maintenance, service interruptions or emergencies. These notifications can be sent through automated phone calls, text messages and/or email alerts, and will continue to act as transparent forms of communication.

2. Implement Feedback Loops

Providing avenues for customers to voice their concerns is one of the most impactful things your utility can do to make sure customers feel heard and valued. Consider conducting surveys, providing feedback forms or holding interviews to gather insights about your customers and their experiences. These methods can provide valuable insights into water utility customer needs and help tailor future communication strategies.

For example, the City of Naperville, Illinois, hosts a water utility customer satisfaction survey on their site that customers can fill out. The survey covers the date of service, what service occurred and satisfaction questions about the experience. Customers can provide their name, address and phone number to be further connected to the utility if there are additional concerns that could not be explained in the survey. The utility uses this customer feedback to guide its service delivery.

Example of customer satisfaction survey for water utility to assess customer needs
Image Source: City of Naperville

3. Educate and Engage the Community

Provide educational materials and resources to help customers understand their water service, conservation practices, billing processes, and any other relevant information. Don’t discount both physical and digital methods of outreach: Send direct mail postcards, host community events, post on social media and keep your website updated.
Additionally, engage with the community through public meetings, events or outreach programs to address concerns, gather feedback and build customer relationships. Keep customers informed about any changes or developments related to their water service.

For example, North Texas Municipal Water District hosts quarterly tours of its water treatment plants. In the first quarter of 2023, the tour was dedicated to elected officials and staff of their member cities and customers. They received an overview of the district, as well as information on history, service areas, water conservation, outreach initiatives and ongoing major projects, then toured the plant complex to see operations in action.

4. Consider Your Diverse Customer Base

Recognize and accommodate your utility’s diverse customers, understanding that inclusivity is paramount in effective communication. This may mean offering customer support in multiple languages, ensuring that language barriers do not hinder access to essential services.

Accessibility considerations extend beyond language. Utilities should make their communication channels and materials accessible to customers with disabilities, providing options such as Braille, large print or audio formats.

By embracing inclusivity and accessibility, utilities can effectively engage with all customers, fostering a sense of trust and belonging within the community. This commitment to diversity not only enhances customer satisfaction but also strengthens the utility’s reputation as a provider that prioritizes the needs of all its customers.

Meeting Water Utility Needs with Customer-Centric Communications

Effectively addressing your water utility’s customers’ needs requires a multifaceted approach that prioritizes proactive communication, transparency and customer engagement. By understanding your customers’ concerns and implementing effective communication strategies, your water utility can build trust, grow satisfaction and ultimately provide the high-quality service that customers expect.

When you focus on understanding where customers are coming from, and creating experiences that help make their lives easier, your water utility is proving its dedication to its customers and providing real value.

Learn how Questline Digital’s turnkey solutions can help your water utility improve communications to better meet customers’ needs.

Capturing customer attention has become more important than ever for utility marketers. With high customer expectations and the vast array of digital media and communication channels available, it’s not easy to cut through the clutter and connect with customers. One powerful solution is video marketing for utility companies.

Why does your utility need video marketing? Personalized video marketing can:

  1. Capture and hold customers’ attention
  2. Educate customers about complex topics
  3. Personalize the customer experience
  4. Increase program enrollments
  5. Boost customer trust and loyalty

The Value of Video Marketing for Utility Companies

The fact is, people prefer video content. A staggering 73% of consumers prefer learning about a brand through video. It’s one of the most successful ways to get your utility’s message in front of customers.

Video makes your marketing messages easy to digest in a memorable and sharable format. By conveying information in a visually compelling manner, video is an invaluable tool to connect with utility customers.

Videos for educational content

Whether it’s to educate customers about water conservation or explain a new rate plan, videos are an effective way to address the specific needs and concerns of utility customers.

Utility marketers have a lot of information to share, and it can be difficult to communicate without overwhelming customers or resorting to technical jargon. When it comes to educating customers about complex topics like time-of-use rate plans (TOU) or demand response programs, videos can deliver detailed information in an easy-to-understand and accessible format.

For example, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) wanted to engage its customers in a fun and educational way. Questline Digital helped SECC develop a video series, “The Evolving World of Energy,” to illustrate the industry’s dramatic transformation with real-world examples.

Questline Digital developed the creative concept of Professor Energy, a lively animated character to serve as the guide and narrator. In each video, Professor Energy educated and entertained viewers with captivating storytelling and eye-catching animation. SECC shared its videos on various channels, and as a result, generated nearly 62,500 views.

Personalized video marketing

One facet of video marketing that’s gaining widespread popularity is personalization.

According to McKinsey and Company, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions and 76% of consumers get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Utilities can leverage personalized customer videos to make each customer feel valued and recognized.

The effectiveness of personalized video marketing lies in its ability to address individual customer needs and concerns. For utilities, this could include offering personalized program recommendations based on an individual’s energy or water usage, providing customized bill comparisons to help them save money and educating customers about relevant topics based on their interests.

Statistic about the performance of personalized video marketing for utility companies

Personalized video marketing combines the impact of personalization with the entertainment value of video, making it a highly powerful tool. It creates meaningful experiences that resonate with each viewer, building customer trust and loyalty as it drives programs participation.

Increase in program enrollments

Video marketing for utility companies is crucial for driving participation in programs and services.

Customers will engage with a program or service when they have a clear understanding of how it works and how it will help them, so prioritizing customer education is crucial. Videos are emerging as the most effective way to do so, as a staggering 96% of marketers found that videos have helped them increase customer understanding of their product or service.

A well-produced video will simplify complex concepts, making it easier for customers to understand how your utility’s offerings could benefit them. When customers are well-informed, they have the confidence to select programs and services that best suit their needs. This not only benefits the customers but also strengthens their relationship with your utility.

Review about personalized video marketing for utility companies does it really work

PSEG Long Island used video marketing to educate its 680,000 residential customers about energy use and saving opportunities in their homes. The campaign included information about beneficial electrification, energy efficiency, smart technology and safety.

Questline Digital created an interactive microsite simulating a family’s home, featuring 29 animated videos demonstrating energy-saving behaviors and products. A text call-out and CTA connected each video to a related program, product or more information on the utility website. In just four months, the utility’s Smart Energy website garnered over 66,000 video views. Because customers were well-informed about PSEG Long Island’s offerings, they were able to choose programs and products suited for them.

Sharing videos on social channels

Video marketing is a versatile means of communication for utility companies. It’s easily accessible and sharable on social sites, amplifying customer engagement across many digital platforms. Videos posted on social channels generate up to 1,200% more shares than text and images combined.

With the surge in popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels, it’s evident that quick, entertaining videos are here to stay. Even industries not typically associated with social media entertainment, such as utilities, are finding success in this space.

In a recent webinar, Jonathan Nelson, Senior Marketing Manager, Acquisition and Engagement with the American Marketing Association observed, “Utility companies might not necessarily think that they are out there to entertain, but they absolutely are.”

Utilities should take advantage of video marketing on social media and connect with customers in an entertaining format. “When people are on social media, they’re looking for something to make their day better,” says Nelson.

Leverage the Advantages of Video Marketing for Your Utility

In 2024, videos will make up for 82% of internet traffic, so your utility’s content needs to stand out. The rise in popularity of video content has raised customer expectations — viewers are quick to tune out a poorly made or uninteresting video. To succeed, utility marketers must follow best practices to create video content that is both appealing and impactful.

Videos should help customers solve a problem, answer a question or bring value to their lives. When done correctly, video marketing is extremely valuable in connecting with customers. It can capture their attention, educate them on relevant topics and programs, and ultimately improve customer engagement and satisfaction.

Learn about how Questline Digital’s video solutions can improve your utility’s customer engagement.

So much to do, so little time.

Marketers in all industries face a constant struggle of managing a heavy workload with limited resources. In the utility space, working on billing updates, program promotions, marketing services and assisting with daily customer questions can feel like it takes an army to accomplish. In the public power sector, that army is typically made up of one person.

It’s no secret that municipal utilities typically have smaller marketing teams, while still trying to accomplish the tasks of large investor-owned utilities (IOUs). It’s a difficult space to maneuver in, but it’s not impossible. In fact, despite being small, these municipality marketing teams play a profound role in enhancing customer satisfaction, building community engagement, and driving overall success.

Regardless of team size, it’s imperative for municipal utilities to fine-tune their marketing strategies. A carefully planned and well-executed marketing initiative can dramatically boost customer engagement, enrich service offerings and make a substantial contribution to the utility’s bottom line. Small municipality marketing teams face many challenges, but there are ways to navigate these hurdles with a strategy that drives meaningful results.

The Challenges for Municipality Marketing Teams

Small marketing teams often grapple with several common challenges. The top two? Time and money.

Time is always at a premium, with countless tasks demanding attention. There’s never enough time in a day to accomplish everything on a to-do list, so priorities must be made.

Budget constraints can limit the scope of marketing initiatives, making it difficult to keep up with larger utilities that have more resources. With little or no budget, marketing initiatives can falter, missing the intended mark.

However, these challenges are not insurmountable. With the right approach, even a “team of one” can achieve impressive results.

Meeting Marketing Hurdles Head-On

Smaller municipality marketing teams don’t have the luxury of assigning tasks to various teammates or picking and choosing the projects they work on. Instead, they’re all-in on anything and everything. It can be difficult at times, but with the right strategy in place, smaller marketing teams can thrive.

Developing a marketing strategy

As a team of one, efficiency is of the upmost importance. To empower your municipality marketing team, it’s essential to first establish an effective strategy and clear goals. In doing so, the marketer will better be able to maximize both their time and energy.

When developing an effective marketing strategy:

  1. Establish clear goals: Understand what the team wants to achieve with your marketing efforts and what the utility’s overarching goals are. Whether it’s increasing customer engagement, promoting conservation or driving program participation, having clear objectives will guide your strategy.
  2. Understand your audience: Know who your customers are, what they want and how you can provide value to them. Use data-driven insights to create messages that resonate with your audience.
  3. Create quality content: Focus on creating content that is informative, engaging and provides value to your audience. This could be blog posts, infographics, webinars or social media updates.
  4. Leverage digital tools: There are numerous digital tools available that can streamline your marketing process. Tools like Canva for designing visuals, Hootsuite for managing social media, and Google Analytics for tracking website performance can make the team’s job much easier.
  5. Measure and adjust: Regularly measure your marketing efforts against your goals. Use the insights gained to adjust your strategy as needed.

Social media marketing

Social media is a powerful tool to use to your municipality marketing team’s advantage. Connecting with utility customers on Facebook, Instagram or X (formally Twitter) is an easy way to reach customers with important information and receive their feedback in real-time. Although not always positive, it’s important to allow your customers to express their feelings and respond accordingly when appropriate.

For a small team, however, the thought of managing multiple social media accounts can be daunting. It can be hard to find time to post on all the platforms, plus keep up with the constant changes in algorithms. There’s a learning curve to social media. Still, there are many tools to assist small teams in developing social media content.

  1. Scheduling tools: An easy way to have posts ready for the week is to schedule them in advance. Many platforms offer their own scheduling tools that teams can use directly. There are also paid tools like Sprout Social and Hootsuite that offer advanced scheduling and reporting capabilities.
  2. Design tools: Small teams typically don’t have in-house designers available for projects. Luckily, platforms like Canva and Adobe Express allow anyone to create images and graphics for social media. Both tools include ready-to-use templates in various social media sizes, and both have free or paid versions.

Agency partners, like Questline Digital, can even provide images and copy for social media that are available for anytime use. A simple “copy and paste” and you’re on your way to building social engagement.

Community engagement

A major way for municipality marketing teams to make an impact is through community engagement. A marketing team may be small, but that doesn’t mean it can’t lean on partners who can help. In fact, collaborating with community partners like the local government, schools or non-profit organizations is a surefire way to spread the message about your utility’s programs and services.

For example, in an interview with Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) in Minnesota, Patty Hanson, Manager of Utility Programs and Services, discussed how important community is to their organization. They have a multitude of community events throughout the year to connect with local organizations and share important information with customers about their electric and water programs and services.

“We have coming up our 21st Annual Arbor Day Celebration. That’s a huge community event. We engage the school district and do a poster contest through the school district, we invite students, third through fifth, and bring in live music,” says Hanson. “We have partnerships with nurseries, the Boys and Girls Club, Minnesota Energy Resources, all these different vendors.”

Sustainability and conservation are important topics within the Rochester community, as well as weatherization and energy efficiency. Connecting with different types of customers in the community about these topics is an important goal for RPU, including those who may be lower income or who speak different languages.

“We actually did a partnership with Minnesota Energy Resources [the local natural gas provider] where we did weatherization events at trailer parks and we handed out LED bulbs. We talked about how to read your bill and conservation measures that people can take,” says Hanson. “We also have our Neighborhood Energy Challenge where we provide free workshops and offer a discounted energy audit, only charging customers $50 or providing it free of charge for low-income customers. We sent out 867 multi-language postcards promoting the event to low-income customers receiving financial assistance. We have a very diverse, multicultural base in Rochester.”

By working with the local community and holding different events, RPU is able to effectively connect with customers. For all small municipality marketing teams, community involvement is an important tactic to reach as many customers as possible.

Small Marketing Team Success Stories

Success means different things to different people. When it comes to small teams versus large teams, success also takes on a different meaning. While there are many similar measures of success among IOUs and public power, there are some things a smaller team might want to additionally focus on.

What does success look like?

Measuring the success of a municipality marketing team’s initiatives can be different than measuring the success of a team of 10 or 20 from a large utility. Since one person can’t accomplish as much as a large team, it’s important to pick and choose what metrics of success to focus on.

For any sized team, measuring success in terms of key performance indicators (KPIs) is important. Some of these KPIs include:

  • Open rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Follower growth
  • Social media engagement
  • Website traffic
  • Event attendance

However, while the numbers from each of these metrics speak loudly, sometimes success needs to be measured more qualitatively than quantitatively. These metrics come down to the goals and expectations your team set at the beginning of an initiative.

Some qualitative metrics that are less tangible, but just as important to consider, include:

  • Credibility: Are customers turning to your municipal utility for answers and resources?
  • Awareness: Is your municipal utility becoming more recognized online or in the community?
  • Customer education: Are your customers showing more interest and knowledge in the topics or programs you’re sharing with them?
  • Customer feedback: Is your utility receiving positive feedback from its customers about the initiatives you’re working on?

These qualitative metrics are just as impactful as the analytics following an email deployment or social media post. It’s important to reflect on all aspects of success when it comes to a smaller team.

Small Marketing Team Success Stories

Remember, despite being small, you’re not alone. There are a vast number of resources available to assist with your municipality marketing team’s goals. For example, one Southeast utility’s marketing team wanted to increase training opportunities for its account managers. However, as a team of one, the utility didn’t have the resources or time to produce quality training materials.

Instead of stretching its bandwidth to a breaking point, the utility partnered with Questline Digital to produce and host monthly training webinars. Through live webinars and on-demand recordings, the utility was able to build up a robust library of training resources without exhausting its internal team.

Quotation explaining the value of webinar services for a municipality utility marketing team

Keys Energy Services shared its initiatives as a small team at the recent American Public Power Association Customer Connections Conference. Julio Torrado, the utility’s Director of HR and Communications, shared a multitude of examples of his work to connect and engage with customers.

The presentation’s focus was on humanizing your utility’s brand. Torrado shared examples of successful customer engagement tactics, including hosting a calendar drawing competition for schools, planning bucket truck rides for the community, sharing lineworker day-in-the-life photos on social media and more.

As Torrado shared these examples, he asked the following questions to the audience:

  • Are your communications friendly? Approachable? Easy to understand?
  • Are your outreach efforts as reliable as your power system?
  • Are you visible on both sunny and cloudy days?
  • Do you showcase a wide cross-section of employees from varied fields, or do you keep using the same faces?
  • Are you the first place a customer turns for information?

Although Torrado has worked as a team of one, he reinforced connecting with outside partners to assist with various initiatives. Collaboration, whether within the organization or outside, is imperative to producing work that resonates with customers.

Social media example of post for a municipality created by a small marketing team

For example, Torrado has specific lineworkers he can call or text to ask for photos in the field. He also has strong relationships with local school districts to help promote calendar contests and other community events. By partnering with the community, Keys Energy Services saw some of the largest engagement with a Facebook post reaching over 220,000 views.

Small Team, Big Impact

Being a team of one in utility marketing doesn’t mean you can’t achieve big results. By building a clear strategy, leveraging data-driven insights, getting involved in the community and making use of digital tools, you can drive significant results even with a small municipality marketing team. Remember, it’s not about the size of your team but the impact of your efforts.

Learn how to empower your small marketing team with turnkey digital tools from Questline Digital.

An effective digital marketing strategy is essential for reaching utility customers and establishing a long-lasting digital relationship over time. To genuinely connect with customers, utilities must embrace a relevant outreach strategy.

As another year has come and gone, the digital marketing landscape has continued to evolve with the emergence of new trends and technologies. It’s crucial for utilities to adapt to the evolving digital marketing landscape to ensure their communications are relevant and engaging for customers.

Our recent webinar, “2024 Digital Marketing Trends and Best Practices,” provided insights and strategies from marketing experts Brian Lindamood, Questline Digital’s VP of Marketing and Content Strategy, and Jonathan Nelson, Sr. Digital Marketing Manager, Growth with the American Marketing Association. They discussed what’s new in the digital marketing world as well as best practices for the upcoming year to revolutionize the way utilities engage with customers.

What’s new and trending for digital marketing in 2024?

  • Content Marketing
  • Newsletters
  • Social Media
  • Artificial Intelligence

Content Marketing Trends for 2024

To kick off the webinar, Nelson introduced the EEAT, which stands for:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

This is a framework used by Google to evaluate content for search engine optimization, or SEO. Content that encompasses EEAT is more likely to show up on the first page of Google search results, which makes it a valuable guide to follow while creating content.

Nelson recommends that utilities should incorporate the EEAT framework in everything they do. He advises to consider your audience and assess if your content is engaging and consumable.

“You’re writing for someone who is not nearly as involved in the industry as you are. Take time to explain and walk them along the process and your thoughts,” says Nelson. “My general recommendation is to write something that you want to read. You should be publishing and creating content that you’re excited about.”

The concept of EEAT lends itself to the work Questline Digital does with utilities nationwide. “EEAT is right in the wheelhouse of how we create content for utilities. Content marketing is a chance to educate customers about utility topics to inform them without being promotional. You can explain programs without directly selling,” says Lindamood. As content becomes educational and engaging, it builds trust among customers and reinforces the utility’s authenticity.

Newsletter Trends for 2024

Newsletters are another way that EEAT and authenticity can be implemented into utility digital marketing strategies. Newsletters provide a chance for utilities to establish a digital relationship with customers that extends beyond the monthly bill. They are an engaging and meaningful touchpoint that offers an opportunity to add value to customers on a consistent basis.

“No one likes parting with their money. Having a form of communication where you aren’t asking for money and you’re just providing value is a fantastic route for any organization to go after,” says Nelson. “I think utility companies in particular have a huge opportunity to help educate and reach out to their community.”

Lindamood agreed, explaining that newsletters are an especially effective way to deliver relevant and timely information directly to a customer’s inbox. “As a consumer, it saves time and cuts out the digital clutter of trying to find that information on your own time,” he says.

Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) utilized this approach, establishing a monthly residential email newsletter that included educational content for customers, plus information on the utility’s programs. As a result of this implementation, SWEPCO saw a substantial increase in J.D. power scores for customer satisfaction and increased participation in its energy efficiency programs. 

Like SWEPCO, the results of consistent digital communications, such as newsletters, can be substantial. “Newsletters have an impact on your overall brand and company health,” says Nelson.

Social Media Trends for 2024

Harnessing social media is imperative for proactive digital marketing and customer outreach strategies. “Social media and content marketing are linked very closely together. I don’t think one works super well without the other,” says Nelson.

Many industries, including the utility industry, use social media not just for content marketing but also as a customer service channel. For effective customer service, X (formerly known as Twitter) and Facebook were recommended by Nelson, as they are ubiquitous and have robust direct messaging services.

TikTok and Instagram reels, centered around videos, offer an ideal platform for sharing educational and entertaining content. “Utility companies might not necessarily think that they are out there to entertain always, but they absolutely are,” says Nelson. “When people are on social media they’re looking for something to make their day better.”

In fact, businesses that are not traditionally associated with social media are succeeding. Nelson provided an example from the Milwaukee Public Library, which is effectively creating entertaining content on TikTok and encouraging engagement. The library’s efforts are enticing more visitors to the library, a substantial win for digital marketing tactics. With the rise in TikTok and Instagram Reels, vertical videos have become common and Nelson doesn’t see this changing anytime soon.

Another popular social media platform, LinkedIn, had a major algorithm update to their feed this past June, which now works similarly to the EEAT framework. This means that the more that content follows EEAT — experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness — the more likely it is to show up on LinkedIn users’ feeds, therefore increasing engagement.

While many usages of social media from X to TikTok are rapidly increasing, organic social media reach for companies has been declining and is continuing to do so. Nelson advises utilities not to be discouraged. He explains, “It’s just how the system works.”

Artificial Intelligence Trends for 2024

It’s widely recognized that artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an important tool and widely discussed topic for marketers. “Something is new with AI every day,” says Nelson. “Don’t wait to start using it. Get comfortable through trial and error and give it a shot.” 

AI signifies a transformative change in technology, reshaping the functioning of various industries, and carries the potential to revolutionize the landscape of digital marketing. Nelson mentioned that AI has streamlined workflows and made it easier to solve marketing challenges, without replacing digital creators.

There are concerns with the accuracy and security of AI, but Nelson and Lindamood both recommend that these concerns can be mitigated with human oversight. While AI has not reached the stage of surpassing human capabilities, it stands as a highly valuable resource to make humans more efficient and effective in their work.

“It’s here to stay,” says Nelson. “This is going to be the next internet, the next smartphone. This is something that is going to change how everything functions.”

Quotation advice about artificial intelligence for 2024 digital marketing trends

Overall Best Practices for 2024 Digital Marketing Trends

  • Go where your audience is, not just where you want to be.
  • Use personalization and segmentation to make sure your messages are relevant to customers’ interests.
  • Don’t get bogged down in other people’s best practices; do what is right for your utility.
  • Make sure your marketing strategy is driven by business goals, not the other way around. You should be communicating with customers for a reason.

All of these best practices are driven by consumers interests, preferences and needs. “Everything you do should have a purpose,” says Nelson. “Meet your customers where they are.”

An example from AEP Ohio highlighted the importance of providing relevant content to customers. The utility sought to increase engagement among business customers. To do so, the utility implemented monthly newsletters that were segmented by industry type, including healthcare, education and manufacturing. The results of this segmentation campaign were substantial, driving up to an 84% increase in customer engagement.

“AEP Ohio’ success underscores the point that customers will engage with content that they’re interested in, that’s relevant to them,” says Lindamood, “and a segmented content strategy is a good way to achieve that.”

An effective digital marketing strategy is critical for utilities to meet customer’s expectations and engage with them in their preferred channels. Incorporate the latest trends and strategies into your utility’s strategy and reinvigorate your digital marketing efforts for 2024.

Learn how Questline Digital can enhance your utility’s digital marketing strategy and build stronger relationships with your customers.