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June 20, 2011
A Utility Goes Social
 
Utility companies typically have an old-line image. That is, they're staples. They keep the lights on and the water running. They're community conscious and value good customer relations, but you don't normally think of the electric company as being on Twitter and Facebook. Then there's Baltimore, where the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., The Baltimore Sun reports, "recently redesigned its website to make it easier for customers to connect with the company on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

"This is an enabler for us," says Rob Gould, BGE's chief communications officer in The Sun's story. "This is something that can add to the customer experience, and if we don't do it, we risk customer angst for not being in this space."

"Shortly after the utility dedicated itself to monitoring social media and other websites last year," The Sun reports, public relations staffers picked up complaints from a blogger that a utility crew had left a large spool of cable in a neighborhood worksite.

"BGE responded to the blogger and tracked down the eyesore.

"'Within a day, that spool was removed,' Gould said. 'In doing so, we changed the dynamic of the conversation [and] the opinion of the customer.'"

So you'll find Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, You Tube, Flickr and RSS click-through logos displayed on the BG&E homepage. But in Philadelphia, as a perhaps more typical example, there's no evidence on the Philadelphia Electric Co.'s homepage that social media exists.


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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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