Last week I had the privilege of speaking about social media to a group of marketing and communications professionals at the Southern Gas Association Marketing and Customer Experience Conference.
I’ve given similar presentations a number of times in the past and led a discussion not dissimilar from those we have with clients. Social media and content marketing are not the tools like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest that get all the attention from mainstream media. Effective social strategies create real relationships between your brand and your customers or clients. Companies who understand this leverage those headline-generating tools to add value to their customers’ lives.
At the SGA event, I found myself in a room of 30 or so folks all wondering how to use social to talk about more than utility rates and service outages in a heavily regulated industry. We discussed the role that Twitter can play in crisis communications; in times of true emergencies, companies and citizens alike publish news via this microblogging platform at lightening speeds compared to the broadcast news. Pinterest also came up as a highly engaging way to add value for gas customers. Imagine a company that posted photos of innovative kitchen designs (that featured gas appliances) or that showcased new homes with the latest energy efficient technologies (many of which may have nothing to do with natural gas.)
Companies that move in this direction will win as they transform in customer’s eyes from a standard provider of a commodity product into a trusted resource for inspiration and information. As our session ended, the attendees left the room with more questions than when they arrived, and that was a good thing. Instead of seeking the next new widget to put on their website, they left thinking about how to engage their customers in a conversation…one that leads to real relationships and adds value for everyone.