Social media shines a light in Mississauga’s darkest hours


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When you think of successful users of social media, an energy utility might not be the first business that comes to mind.

But during Monday night’s heavy rains, flooding and power outages, Mississauga energy provider Enersource proved how social media could be used as an efficient tool to reach out to customers, especially during an emergency.

The company’s director of corporate communications, Karen Ras, told to that most utility companies are risk-adverse to social media and that Enersource was one of the first to get involved.

Here is Ras’ best advice for utility companies looking into using social media and how her team managed to keep sending out updates well into the night.

Don’t just broadcast, be informative

Ras and her communications team first started out posting ‘benign’ items on Twitter such as energy conservation tips, events and rate increases. But customers started asking for information about outages.

This led to a significant change in policy. “We were going to tweet as much as possible and as frequently as possible when there are outages that affect over 100 customers,” Ras said. “At that point, that’s critical mass.”

Be accurate and timely

Using different platforms shouldn’t affect the accuracy of your information. While the tone of Twitter messages is often much more informal, Ras and her team still tried to be forthright, clear and truthful, even when they didn’t have all the answers.

This strategy also saved a significant amount of time handling media inquiries. Since Ras and her colleagues were constantly posting updates to Twitter, media outlets were able to immediately pull that information. As a result, Enersource only needed to conduct one interview.

Close management is key

Enersource restricts access to its social media accounts to only three people on its communications team. This helps reduce the possibility of errors and ensure everyone stays on the same page. The company also has an established social media policy.

Be prepared to work atypical hours

Ras started monitoring Monday night’s storm soon after she was making dinner for her family at home in Mississauga. “I was getting notices of where outages are occurring in the city,” Ras said. “So even before I got a note from my control room saying there was a problem, I knew there was a big problem and people were also starting to tweet about it.”

Share what you know

Ras screened through the information about outages she learned from customers sent through Enersource’s website and via Twitter. She then sent some of that information back out. “Sometimes it’s a best guess,” Ras said. “But people are forgiving when you’re trying to keep them updated as much as possible.”

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