Customers are increasingly using social media and mobile apps to engage with businesses and services, including their utility. That’s why it’s so important for municipal utilities to build robust social media strategies. To boost community engagement and connect with customers, social media is easily one of the strongest tools in your marketing arsenal.

From our experience working with municipal utility marketers across the nation, we know that one social media platform in particular has proven its worth time and time again for engaging with customers. Read on to learn strategic best practices and tips for municipal utilities using Facebook.

Why is Facebook Important for Municipal Utilities?

Digital engagement methods have become the go-to method of communication for businesses in all industries. In fact, 70% of consumers prefer to learn about a product or service through content rather than traditional advertising. So it’s important to understand which digital platforms and social media sites are the best ways for your municipal utility to reach customers.

Facebook has proven to be the platform that produces the highest impressions and customer engagement for utilities, especially municipals. No matter the industry, Facebook continues to have a stronghold on the world of social media.

According to Statista, Facebook is the most used social media platform. There are 250.2 million Facebook users in the United States and, on average, American users spend about 30.9 minutes on Facebook daily.

With the crucial responsibility that municipal utilities have when it comes to communicating to their community about water service interruptions, rate changes, safety advice and more, social media’s expansive reach makes it an essential tool.

With Facebook, your municipal utility can provide real-time updates, share helpful information, receive feedback and connect directly with your customers. In doing so, your utility can boost engagement and build stronger customer relationships. Most importantly, the popular social media site is where many customers spend their time online. And we all know that in order to reach customers, you have to go where they go. So, if your customers enjoy Facebook, your utility should spend time there, too.

5 Tips for Municipals Using Facebook

Consider these best practices and tips for municipals using Facebook:

  1. Optimize post content
  2. Provide timely updates
  3. Promote community events
  4. Address customer inquiries
  5. Receive customer feedback

1.  Optimize post content

To engage and build a trusted relationship with your municipal utility’s customers, you’ll need to optimize the social media content you post.

This means diversifying your posts, from static images and carousels to infographics and more. According to Facebook’s own data, about 50% of the time users spend on the platform is spent watching videos. With this in mind, consider posting educational and entertaining videos for your customers to enjoy.  

Your municipal utility can also vary the type of content you share. Don’t just post content for customers that can be perceived negatively, such as when a power outage or water service interruption occurs. Although posting about those things is important and necessary, you should also include positive content, such as community events, celebrations and news updates.

Example of social media post from a public power utility to educate customers on Facebook

For example, American Municipal Power shares a variety of content on its Facebook page, including home safety facts, informational videos on how to save energy, community appreciation posts and more. The diverse range of content not only keeps customers entertained but also promotes customer education.

2. Provide timely updates

Customers like being kept in the loop and Facebook provides an accessible platform for utilities to communicate directly with them in real-time.

Through posts and stories, utilities can notify customers about any changes affecting their services, such as upcoming maintenance work, service interruptions, billing information and more. By regularly sharing updates, utilities can foster trust and credibility, keeping customers informed and engaged.

Example of Facebook post for a municipal utility to build customer engagement

Austin Energy effectively utilizes Facebook to deliver updates following storms. The public power utility shared images along with restoration updates, reassuring customers that efforts were underway to restore power.

3. Promote community events

Community engagement is a priority for municipal utilities. Collaborating with community partners like the local government, schools or non-profit organizations is an effective way to promote your utility’s programs and services. Share these collaborations and events on Facebook to reach customers and encourage participation. Bonus: You can even tag the related organizations in your post to extend its reach and drive further engagement.

Facebook also provides an events tab on the platform, which is an easy way to share event updates with customers. Municipal utilities should utilize this tool to promote events and invite community members to attend. Community events and activities are a great way for municipal utilities to interact directly with customers and demonstrate their commitment to serving customer needs.

Municipal utilities have strong ties to the community, and utilizing Facebook to communicate these efforts can effectively amplify your message.

Example of an event promotion on Facebook from a municipal utility

For example, Austin Energy frequently hosts community events, including open houses, career fairs, customer pop-ups and more. The public power utility even offers webinars, such as the “Green by Design” webinar series, which is a workshop that helps educate customers on building, remodeling or buying green homes to enhance energy and water efficiency.

Example of a social media post from a municipal utility event on Facebook

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) also frequently posts on its Facebook page about community events. Recently, the utility partnered with City Plants to celebrate Arbor Day, where volunteers helped plant approximately 136 trees. LADWP strategically tagged City Plants in their post to both extend the reach of its message and allow customers to learn more about the organization. Community events like these show customers how their municipal utility is working toward a more sustainable and greener future.

4. Address customer inquiries

Customers want the convenience of being able to contact their utility through a platform they use regularly, and Facebook is commonly used for customer support inquiries. In fact, 59% of Facebook users have reached out to a brand on the platform.

Municipal utilities can improve customer experiences by promptly and effectively addressing their inquiries. Providing helpful responses can resolve issues and prevent potential escalations or negative experiences.

You should monitor your customers’ comments on posts and interact with them when helpful. It’s important to keep in mind that not every customer comment will be positive, and that you don’t have to respond to every negative comment. Rather, strategically choose ones that are gaining likes or engagement, or ones where your comments could prove useful to other customers.

Example of municipal utility responding in Facebook comments to answer customer question

CPS Energy actively responds to customers in the comment section of their posts. By promptly addressing customer inquiries on Facebook, CPS Energy demonstrates its commitment to customer satisfaction.

5. Receive customer feedback

Facebook provides a convenient and accessible platform for customers to share their feedback, whether through positive comments, constructive criticism or suggestions for improvement. Although feedback may not always be positive, it’s important to allow your customers to express their feelings and respond accordingly when appropriate.

Additionally, gathering insights into customer needs and preferences is crucial. By monitoring customers’ comments, questions and concerns on social media, municipal utilities can better work to meet and exceed their needs. By prioritizing customer feedback, municipal utilities can build stronger customer relationships and drive continuous improvement.

Build Community Engagement with Facebook Best Practices

A robust social media strategy should not be overlooked in engaging with municipal utility customers. By implementing best practices and tips for municipals using Facebook, your municipal utility can effectively connect with customers through this digital platform.

Learn how Questline Digital can help your municipal utility build community engagement with our proven social media and content solutions.

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.

Personalized energy customer videos cannot be overlooked as a tool to reach, educate and engage with your customers. Videos play a key role in attracting and capturing attention, as well as delivering information in a fun, easy-to-understand format.

These benefits are magnified for utilities that need to communicate complex program and energy-use information in a way that’s compelling and actionable. Using personalized energy customer videos in your outreach strategy can elevate program promotions, smart home technologies, rate plan communications and more.

Why your energy utility needs personalized energy customer videos:

  1. Capture and hold customers’ attention
  2. Entertain and educate customers about complex topics that are relevant to them
  3. Drive traffic to your utility’s website or program landing pages
  4. Encourage social media shares and engagement
  5. Build brand trust and loyalty

The Value of Personalized Energy Customer Videos for Marketing

It’s no secret that videos have been a common way to consume content, whether for entertainment or educational purposes. According to Statista, U.S. adults spend 103 minutes every day watching digital videos on various devices. That’s nearly two hours’ worth of video content consumed per day. Questline Digital’s own performance metrics show that video is consistently one of the most popular formats for educational utility content.

In the current digital landscape, personalization has become increasingly important. Customers now expect unique digital experiences, and a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer effective. More than 98% of marketers say personalization improves customer relationships, and personalized energy customer videos are a perfect way to achieve this.

Why should your utility take advantage of personalized energy customer videos?

Just as consumers are inundated with emails and ads from brands around the world, they are also inundated with video content. That’s why your utility’s video content needs to stand out. Videos should be created with the customer in mind to help them solve a problem, answer a question or otherwise bring value to their daily lives.

Relationship-building emails that include a video can boost click-through rates by 200% to 300%. In addition, including videos in emails has the potential to reduce email unsubscribe rates by 26%.

It’s also important to deliver content that is personalized to each customer. Videos tailored to individuals have a higher click-to-open rate and a unique click-through rate that’s 4.5 times higher.

According to Questline Digital’s Benchmarks Report, the top 10 most popular residential customer videos achieved an impressive nearly 100,000 combined page views. The types of video content marketing included topics that helped customers save money, DIY solutions for energy-efficiency and informational videos on other energy equipment.

Chart listing the most popular types of video content marketing

Top Reasons to Use Personalized Energy Customer Videos

Including personalized energy customer videos as part of your utility’s communications plan is a highly effective way to increase customer engagement and satisfaction. Read on to learn the five specific reasons why video content adds value to a marketing strategy.

Chart listing the top reasons to use personalized energy customer videos in a marketing strategy

1. Capture customer attention and drive conversion

Customers are bombarded by hundreds of marketing campaigns each day, but a personalized video provides an individualized experience, capturing attention in a unique and powerful way.

Personalized energy customer videos drive higher engagement and more conversions. In fact, a personalized call to action results in 202% more conversions than one that isn’t. Customers like to feel cared about, and they are more likely to engage in content that is tailored specifically for them.

2. Entertain and educate customers about relevant topics

Personalized energy customer videos are especially useful when needing to explain complex topics to utility customers, like demand response programs or new rate plan options. Additionally, it is an easy way to provide relevant videos to each customer. Rather than writing a wordy text article about a time-of-use rate plan, a personalized video can quickly show the impact of the rate plan using the customer’s actual energy use in a relevant example.

The visual elements of a video are also helpful tools to help customers understand how something works, like in the case of a bill redesign. When PSEG Long Island introduced a new bill design to customers, it worked with Questline Digital to develop an engaging and educational video to help customers understand the changes to their monthly bills.

3. Drive traffic to your utility’s website or program landing pages

One key advantage of personalized energy customer videos is their ability to drive traffic to your utility’s website. Personalization not only captures customers’ attention but also positions your utility’s website as a valuable resource for further exploration. Plus, when you include a call-to-action that drives customers to a particular program or service, you’re making the video actionable and directly driving enrollment.

By delivering highly relevant and targeted content, these videos create a compelling reason for customers to visit your website and take action.

4. Encourage social shares and engagement

Whether on social media or a website, customers expect to see video content. In fact, consumers say that videos are their favorite type of content to see on social media. When customers love what they see, they will often share their good experiences with friends and family, expanding the reach of your utility’s audience. After receiving a personalized energy customer video, many customers may want to share their experiences on their own social media, furthering the reach of your utility’s message.

Videos on social media also feature rich storytelling capabilities in an easy-to-digest format, making it well-suited for busy, on-the-go audiences. Make the visuals eye-catching and keep the video to one minute or less. Make sure you add captions to all your videos so that viewers don’t have to turn on the sound when watching.

5. Build brand trust and loyalty

From fun, animated videos to live-action stories, personalized energy customer videos can show off your company’s unique personality and brand voice. In turn, this helps build trust and loyalty among your customers.

Be authentic in your utility’s creation of video content. Consider a video marketing strategy that includes not just products or programs, but content that demonstrates the human side of your utility as well. Interview employees or show behind-the-scenes moments. These human-centric videos are a welcoming sight to customers and help balance your utility’s marketing strategy.

Adding testimonials into your personalized energy customer videos is another great way to not only promote a product or service but to continue showing the human side of your utility. By showing reviews from real-life customers, others will get to know your utility as a trusted source.

Types of Video Content Marketing

Before your utility can jump into video content marketing, it first needs to decide on the purpose and direction of the video. When choosing the type of video content marketing, consider:

  • Goals: What is your utility trying to accomplish with this video? To educate or entertain customers, or to explain a program or service?
  • Audience: Who is your utility trying to reach with this video? Does it include a range of residential and business customers or one or the other?
  • Metrics: What key performance indicators does your utility want to track? Video views or shares?
Chart listing different types of video content marketing

When these questions are answered, it’s time to choose a video format.

Explainer videos

These types of video content marketing help customers more easily understand how your product or service works and why they should purchase or enroll. Many utilities will host explainer videos on their website landing pages or feature them on a homepage of a website.

Key attributes of a good explainer video:

  • Short in length, roughly 1 to 2 minutes long
  • Includes a strong call-to-action (CTA) that clearly states what a customer should do after watching
  • Focuses on a specific challenge and how to overcome it

Educational or how-to videos

Instructional videos help teach something new to your audience. Whether it’s a new industry term you want customers to know or it’s a DIY video about energy efficiency, these types of videos provide value by:

  • Encouraging continual learning for customers
  • Bringing customers “into the fold” so they understand more about the industry
  • Provide customers with the confidence to complete energy-efficient tasks on their own

Animated videos

Animated videos can be a good format for topics that are difficult to grasp and need strong visuals and direction to clearly explain the concept.

Animation can be less expensive and more flexible compared to live-action videos. If changes need to be made, a designer or animator can easily make the changes in the file versus needing to reshoot live video scenes.

Other benefits of animated videos include:

  • Easy to demonstrate abstract concepts
  • Any idea can be brought to life even if it doesn’t exist in the real world
  • Has a longer shelf life and is easier to make edits or updates

Live-action videos

Live-action videos simply mean that the video includes real people versus computer-generated or animated characters. Some benefits of live-action videos include:

  • Captures real human emotion and reactions
  • Live footage can create an immersive setting for viewers
  • Camera and environmental effects, like the sun’s shadow, can more easily be created in real-time versus in animation

Case study and testimonial videos

These types of videos feature real-life, satisfied customers or employees discussing the positive experiences they had with your utility or the products or services that have brought value to their daily lives.

Great testimonial videos often:

  • Tell a story from a first-hand perspective
  • Are authentic and feature real customers or employees
  • Focus on the “why” or the solution that was provided

Product or service overview videos

Often, the best way to promote a program or service to customers is to show them the value it provides. In fact, consumers are four times more likely to watch a video about a product than to read about it. A good product/service overview video should:

  • Easily explain a product’s key features and benefits
  • Highlight the main components of a product customers should know about
  • Provide a clear CTA of what customers should do after watching the video

Video Content Connects with Utility Customers

Personalized energy customer videos are a critical way to engage with customers. Survey results show that 25% of consumers lose interest in a company if they don’t use videos. Don’t let this be your utility. Include different types of video content marketing and personalized energy customer videos to achieve program enrollments and increase customer engagement and satisfaction.

Learn how personalized energy customer videos from Questline Digital will help your utility build engagement and inspire customers to take action.

Animation has the power to break through marketing clutter. No matter the company or industry, consumers want entertaining, educational and aspirational content. In a sea of sensory overload, animated explainer videos enable your energy utility to stand out in a memorable, compelling way.

Animation helps brands to develop a unique and identifiable look that instantly separates them from competitors. Graphic imagery is a powerful tool. Graphic imagery that moves? That’s influential.

Benefits of Animated Explainer Videos

  • Eye-catching and attention-grabbing
  • More flexibility
  • High performance
  • Aids understanding of complex topics
  • Memorable

Video content is now an essential element of any marketing plan. Animation provides the flexibility to make branded video content faster and often for less money than live action alternatives.

While live action video depends largely on specific locations, appropriate talent and other external variables, the possibilities are endless with animation. You control every aspect of the environment and characters — your story can take place in the middle of the desert or on the surface of the moon.

For brands on a budget, that means they can do much more for less.

“The power of animation lies in the ability to translate emotions and ideas into a visual experience for viewers,” said Mary Harrison, Questline Digital Animator. “You don’t have to limit your imagination — animation pushes the boundaries beyond what is possible in real life.”

According to Questline Digital Benchmarks data, video and other multimedia content outperforms articles in residential customer communications. We see some of the highest engagement for animated explainer videos that break down difficult energy topics.

Animation provides opportunities for energy utilities to educate their customers on complex topics. Technical information can be effectively explained through simple animated videos, compared to a lengthy article or complicated lived-action explainer video.

“Animation is like having X-ray vision,” explained Matt Irving, Questline Digital Creative Director for Video. “You can see exactly how technology works inside the equipment — something that wouldn’t be possible with live footage.”

3 Ways Utilities Can Use Animated Explainer Videos

When people think of animation, they often think of cartoons from classic Disney movies, Pixar films or TV shows like The Simpsons. However, animation can also be realistic and lifelike — it all depends on what style works best to tell your story.

The subject matter can be serious, educational, technical or even heartfelt. Questline Digital has utilized animation in promotional campaigns ranging from communicating the safety and security of outdoor lighting to PSAs explaining rate cases. There are no limits to the stories that can be told with animation.

Animated explainer videos have the power to capture attention, engage audiences and make your message memorable — which, let’s face it, is not always easy to do.

Here are a few examples of how you can use animated explainer videos in your energy utility’s marketing to increase customer engagement.

Explain new billing programs

Animated video is a great way to educate your customers on the main features of their energy bill or a new billing program. Whether your utility is debuting a new bill redesign or simply wants to educate customers on how to read their bill, animated video makes an impact.

The visual nature of video works best for this type of communication. Instead of describing all the key features in an article or bill insert, your customers can clearly see them in the clip. Plus, you can highlight important changes with animation.

For one major utility, Questline Digital created an animated explainer video highlighting their new and improved bill, which featured a fresh look and easier-to-find information. This educational video experienced strong customer engagement with a 42.7% open rate and more than 14,000 total clicks from a promotional email campaign. The video also experienced nearly 8,000 views on the energy utility’s YouTube channel.

Simplify technical content

One of the most valuable capabilities of animation is simplifying intricate topics. You can provide an unobstructed look into equipment or drastically abridge the complexity of a concept.

For example, in the following video, variable frequency drives (VFD) are explained in just a few seconds with the use of animation. Showcasing how pipe valves and VFD technology differ would be time consuming without the use of graphics.

Educate customers about energy use

From smart home devices to electric vehicles, customers have more energy technology at their fingertips than ever before — and more questions about how best to control their energy use. Animated explainer videos can bring these topics to life, helping customers understand new energy technologies in a fun and entertaining format.

Questline Digital created the explainer video series “The Evolving World of Energy” for the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative. With the friendly character Professor Energy as a guide, the videos help unravel complicated energy topics and demonstrate the benefits to customers.

Step Up Your Storytelling

Explore the limitless possibilities of animation. Questline Digital can help you create customized videos to maximize engagement with your energy utility customers. We handle every facet of the process from pre-production and scriptwriting to art direction and editing.

Discover how Questline Digital can help step up your storytelling with animated explainer videos.

Working for a small electric cooperative, Robert Raker wears many different hats.

Currently, as Manager of Communications and Public Relations for West River Electric Cooperative, Raker uses his technical background as a master electrician to effectively communicate complicated information to members.

“I never went to school for marketing or public relations,” Raker says. “While it wasn’t traditionally my background, my technical knowledge about electricity allows me to effectively speak about it to our members. At a small coop, you wear so many different hats that you become a jack of all trades.”

Robert Raker headshot for energy spotlight interview

Raker joined West River in 2008 as a marketing representative where he was tasked with “selling things that generate load,” specifically electric heat and water heaters. Now, the emphasis is on selling time-of-use (TOU) rate programs, opening the market for electric vehicles. For example, West River developed a residential EV rate with unlimited charging on nights and weekends for $30 per month. The goal of the program is to reduce the burden of EVs on the electric grid.

“Human nature takes a long time to change so you need to change it early and often,” Raker explains. “A flat rate of $30 takes away the unknown. Customers know what it’s going to cost to charge an EV. As long as members charge when the peak demand is low, we can keep it at a low price.”

Recently, Raker was responsible for communicating a three-month rate reduction to membership. Thanks in part to a Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan during the coronavirus pandemic, West River was able to give members a lower rate for three months via a power cost adjustment.

“Early on when COVID-19 started, we were watching our energy sales decline as commercial businesses were scaling back,” Raker explains. “We applied for the PPP loan and got it. Fortunately, our sales didn’t plummet dramatically like we were anticipating. We ended up getting the loan forgiven, and that was a portion we were able to give back to our members.”

To reach members of all ages, Raker says it’s vital to communicate on multiple platforms. For older audiences, he utilizes Facebook and West River’s Cooperative Connections magazine. He also takes advantage of LinkedIn and Questline Digital eNewsletters to connect with Key Accounts customers, along with Instagram to connect with younger generations.

In the early days of social media, Raker says he remembers pitching Facebook to leadership and receiving initial resistance. He didn’t give up, and eventually, West River became an early adopter of Facebook. Fast forward to today, and he is once again communicating the benefits of a popular social media platform — this time with TikTok.

“We have younger members, and they won’t be reading an article in our magazine or coming to our annual meeting,” Raker explains. “We have to go where they are, and where are they? They’re on TikTok.”

As West River’s primary social media manager, Raker has been successful at building a presence on the trendy video-focused platform. In fact, one TikTok video received more than 1.1 million views. Other electric cooperatives are following West River’s lead and creating TikTok videos of their own.

When he’s not managing PR for West River, Raker is wearing yet another hat: law student. He is in his final year at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and hopes to use his degree to expand to other areas of the industry like legislative affairs. To break up the long days of working and studying, Raker takes advantage of the amazing mountain bike trails and skiing areas in western South Dakota.

Questline Digital connected with Raker to get his thoughts on impactful customer campaigns, connecting with younger generations and the changes he foresees in the industry.

How did you get started in the energy utility industry?

I started as an apprentice electrician for a local electrical contractor, and I worked with utilities to provide services to both homes and businesses. I eventually worked my way up to journeyman and master electrician, while keeping my eye open for opportunities to get my foot in the door of a utility.

In 2008, I got the chance as a marketing representative. I have since furthered my education while working at the co-op. I’m currently in my final year of law school, all while working full-time for West River Electric Cooperative.

What has changed the most about your job in the utility industry over the course of your career?

When I started, my time was primarily spent selling products to promote load growth, for example water heaters and electric heat. Today, we are still focused on load growth, except now we emphasize using the energy at the right time. This means pushing demand response and dusting off the old time-of-use (TOU) rates. As for the technology, West River Electric Coop has had its TWACS AMI system since the early 2000s. That is what I learned on, so I don’t know any different.

The major changes in technology that I have seen relate to the way we communicate with our membership. There is so much “noise” in people’s lives, we are forced to meet them where they are, and that requires different platforms. We have our monthly magazine that we have always had, but we now have Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and, most recently, TikTok. We leverage Questline Digital for our commercial accounts and use the content on our LinkedIn page. Our co-op is experiencing exponential growth, and we must try and squeeze out more with less. That’s why we need to use content across multiple platforms.

What excites you the most about the energy utility space? 

The canned answer is the changes and challenges ahead. I’m excited about the future changes, but more specifically, the new workforce that is replacing those retiring. We (those in the utility industry) are standing on the shoulders of giants, and they are definitely giving up something that is better than when they took over. So, now it is the younger generation’s turn to do the same thing. These new leaders come with a different perspective, and it will be exciting to see what that looks like. I use the analogy of a puzzle that lost the lid. I don’t know what the picture is going to be, but my job is to just keep trying to put the pieces together.

What campaign or initiative are you most proud of?

We recently lowered our rate for three months to return margins back to the membership via power cost adjustment. In a time when prices are going up, and many utilities are trying to recover costs from last February’s cold spell, we are returning money back to the membership. This demonstrates good management and the power of sticking together. It also makes for a high open rate in your email. 

What’s a marketing campaign you wish you’d thought of (inside or outside the energy industry)?

The Budweiser “Wassup?” campaign because it was very catchy. I can appreciate how it focused on a specific demographic using a common platform, TV. Target marketing is nothing new, but we can get more granular and precise with our messaging now.

What is the hardest part of working in the energy industry today?

Keeping up with the growth and changes. The industry has some of the brightest people working in it, but it needs more. Another part is showing the true value of electricity because it is human nature to expect things like electricity. Today, our members expect uninterrupted service and instant notifications.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t working in the utility industry, I would be…

A self-employed electrician/building contractor. I enjoy putting in hard work, and the real estate market is rewarding and lucrative. Homeowners deserve a quality and sustainable product. A house is typically someone’s largest purchase, and contractors work very hard for their money. 

How do you anticipate the world of energy evolving in the coming years?

The world of energy will become more known, transparent and open because of peer-to-peer energy trading and artificial intelligence. We will have consumers and producers in one, known as “Prosumers.” Energy will be transferred and sold via artificial intelligence and electric utilities will be more service oriented. “Prosumers” will value electricity and energy because they are a potential revenue stream.

On a side note, they have always been a potential revenue stream, but we don’t often view it that way. However, the older generation does because they have gone without it before. We will experience that same shift in perspective in the future because of the options that are available to anyone connected to the grid.

What advice would you give to those entering the utility space? 

First, make your bed in the morning to start the day off with a win. Next, read “Who Moved My Cheese,” become a lifelong learner and be OK with being surrounded by smart people. The utility space is full of smart people, and it is OK to not be the smartest person. In fact, if you are the smartest person in the room than you are in the wrong room. Finally, put your head down, work hard and appreciate the small wins because the utility space doesn’t always change fast, but it will be worth it.

Participation in Questline Digital’s Energy Spotlight series does not indicate an endorsement from utility partners.