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Building a Social Media Plan To Bridge the Generation Gap and Strengthen Your Business Plan

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Abstract:

Society's thirst for instantaneous information has changed the way we communicate and is forcing organizations to change how they receive and deliver information and interact with consumers. The advent of social media has changed the communication game. Now, communications specialists and business managers must adapt, while their organization's workforce might not be ready to strategically change the way they communicate. How can water utilities build internal awareness of the power of social media, educate management and employees on its value and potential and build a strategic plan for the future to meet the changing demographics of their customer base?

Greater Cincinnati Water Works' (GCWW) workforce and customer base, like many water utilities, ranges from Baby Boomers to Millennials. Each generation has communication preferences from how they receive news and information to how they seek it out. In essence this divide rests at the core of a water utility's business processes, from billing to recruiting to infrastructure replacement and more.

Approach: In the spring of 2010, GCWW established a Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube Channel. About 10 months later, a 6 hour training session was held for senior staff and a separate session was held for middle managers and other key support staff. Training was conducted by an outside firm in partnership with GCWW's Chief Communications Officer. Participants were given an overview of social media, presented with business case examples as well as success examples the utility had experienced to date. Lastly, attendees were asked to brainstorm on ways social media could be used throughout the organization to enhance communication with customers and the community.

Results: A change in organizational thinking has occurred and it's growing. An editorial calendar is being assembled using ideas from the brainstorming sessions. Engineering is exploring twitter to update customers about construction projects and main replacements. Discussions are underway to develop a team of senior call center staff to monitor social media and with real time response to customer tweets and Facebook posts. And GCWW is exploring the idea of a social media team with representation in key areas such as Distribution for main breaks and leaks, Engineering for construction projects, recruiting and more. In addition, the potential of social media is now being explored within goal teams developing GCWW's latest Strategic Business Plan.

Conclusions: Social media is continuing to grow in amazing leaps and bounds. Organizations like GCWW that are active in social media and include employees as active participants in strategy building are seeing results and are increasingly utilizing it in influential ways. Social media can no longer be considered simply as a phenomenon of the younger set. It must be a fully integrated element of any comprehensive strategic business and communications plan.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2175/193864712811694640

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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