Amid hurricane, power company keeps customers informed through social media

When Hurricane Irene left more than 200,000 of Con Edison’s customers without power, the company took to social media to keep them connected.

What do you do when more than 200,000 of your customers are without power during Hurricane Irene, and it’s your company’s responsibility to not only bring it back, but keep your customers in the know?

If you’re Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc. (Con Edison), you take to social media.

Con Edison’s use of social media during the worst storm of the company’s history earned it top honors in the Best Use of Social Media in a Crisis category in the 2012 PR Daily Awards.

Con Edison provides electric, gas and steam service to 9.2 million people in New York City and Westchester County. When Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast in late August of 2011, more than 203,800 Con Edison customers felt its effects.

When the hurricane hit, Con Edison not only had to bring the power back, but maintain credibility with its customers. To do this, it provided customers with timely and accurate information throughout the storm via social media—primarily Twitter and YouTube.

Before, during and after the storm, Con Edison used Twitter to curtail rumors and correct false information that made its way around the Web. Employees manning Twitter gave customers the same messages the company gave to traditional media, but with a more personal touch. Con Edison’s continuous engagement on Twitter provided the company with close to 300 new followers in a matter of hours. This tweet was retweeted the most: #ConEd is not shutting down power before the storm hits. Will shut power in some areas due to flooding, if necessary, to protect equipment. Con Edison also relied on YouTube. The company created a series of videos to show customers how to prepare for the storm, the extent of the storm’s damage, and the company’s progress in restoring power. This video detailing how Con Edison prepped for Irene became the third-most popular video on the company’s YouTube channel: Its website was full of storm preparation and outage information prior to the hurricane’s landfall. One of the most visited locations on the website was its interactive outage map. It was updated every 15 minutes. There were more than 270,000 page views just prior to and after the hurricane, compared to 3,479 page views the week prior to Hurricane Irene. (Image via)

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