Con Edison, the primary provider of utilities in the New York metropolitan area, approached Affect with the goal of using its social media channels to create positive associations with the brand and showcase its impressive work with local nonprofits.
Affect worked with ConEd to develop a social media contest called ‘Plug Into Summer Fun’. The contest was designed to highlight ConEd’s Power of Giving program, which provides more than $8 million in charitable grants to nonprofit groups supporting cultural, educational and environmental initiatives. The campaign resulted in substantial increases in engagement across all of ConEd’s social media channels including a 243 percent increase in “Likes” on Con Edison’s Facebook page and a significant uptick in ConEd’s number of Twitter followers.
Utility companies face a unique predicament when it comes to social media. Typically, people tend to engage with their providers when something goes terribly wrong. In fact, according to an article on the utility industry’s use of social media in the Wall Street Journal, “staying engaged with customers during periods of normal services can be more of a challenge, since consumers don’t usually give their utility company a second thought when everything is working.” ConEd was certainly no exception, with customers primarily using social media to vent frustrations, report problems and seek help in the face of service disruptions, natural disasters and high bills. As a result, their social media channels were overwhelmingly dominated by negative sentiments, overshadowing the important nonprofit work being done by ConEd throughout the year.
With this challenge in mind, ConEd sought to develop an initiative that would help improve community sentiment, drive traffic to their social media channels and generate positive interactions during periods of normal service. Affect designed a social media contest in order to promote the organization as an active member of the New York community and transform the tone of engagement on ConEd’s social media channels from largely negative to overwhelmingly positive.
The campaign’s objectives included:
- Creating positive interactions and associations with ConEd and its online community
- Promoting ConEd’s good works as a corporate citizen in its support of the 150 nonprofit organizations that benefit from its Power of Giving program
- Raising awareness for the nonprofits supported by the Power of Giving program
- Building ConEd’s social media following across multiple platforms
DEVELOPING A STRATEGY
Affect began by conducting extensive research that included a complete audit of ConEd’s social media and online channels, along with a competitive analysis of social media use by the nation’s top five utility companies. Following the initial research phase, Affect determined that a social media contest targeting ConEd’s entire customer base would be the most effective method for generating positive interactions and changing the conversation.
To accomplish this goal, Affect created the ‘Plug into Summer Fun’ contest. A six-week initiative that used a Facebook application to draw entries from all of ConEd’s social media platforms as well as the social media channels used by many Power of Giving grant recipients. To drive contest engagement, the Affect team made use of coveted New York experiences, like the Alvin Ailey Theater and the Museum of Natural History, and enticed customers with a chance to win tickets and access to events hosted by CodEd’s nonprofit partners. In addition, Affect promoted key ConEd Power of Giving programs by creating trivia questions meant to educate participants about ConEd’s corporate citizenship initiatives and provided daily and weekly prizes to generate ongoing engagement with the contest app and social media sites.
EXECUTION: USING CREATIVITY TO CHANGE THE CONVERSATION
The contest’s successful execution required attention to detail at every step in the process. To begin, Affect managed the application’s development with Strutta, a technology company specializing in social media contests. Affect then worked with ConEd and its advertising agency, The Gate, to execute a series of promotional activities using a combination of traditional and social media in tandem with email marketing and advertising. ConEd’s strategic partners were also encouraged to participate and were given information to promote their involvement. In addition, Affect used three of ConEd’s Facebook pages, as well as its Twitter accounts, to disseminate information about the contest.
A highly effective Facebook and print advertising campaign were used to support these promotional activities. ConEd also issued two press releases and conducted email blasts to customers, employees, retirees and participants who opted-in to receive emails throughout the contest, which resulted in a spike in the number of entries.
Finally, to make “Plug into Summer Fun” a reality, Affect administered the contest for six weeks from July 15, 2013 – August 23, 2013. Throughout its duration, Affect created and posted Facebook and Twitter content around the rules of the contest, the trivia question of the day and an announcement of the winners receiving daily and weekly prizes. Participants were encouraged to enter the contest multiple times a week for daily chances to win and were encouraged to share the contest with friends in order to increase their odds of winning. Combined, these activities resulted in a high volume of participation and helped cultivate positive engagement with all of ConEd’s social media channels.
With 72,241 visits to the contest app and 19,084 entries, the contest not only achieved all of ConEd’s initial objectives but also exceeded expectations. Customer engagement on ConEd’s social media platforms soared with a total of 1,735 Facebook posts, 358 Tweets, 132 Google+ posts, 108 Pinterest posts and 2,775 shares to a variety of online sites. The contest and related advertising initiatives were also successful in generating more than 117 million impressions and 37,191 clicks. Notably, partners involved in the contest reported a measurable increase in traffic to their websites and social media channels.
Most importantly, however, it was the first time in ConEd’s history that the company’s online conversations were dominated by positive community engagement. In fact, the contest inspired 100% positive sentiment associated with comments and updates on ConEd social media platforms throughout its duration.
In addition to changing the tone of the conversation in the immediate, the contest had a lasting effect on ConEd’s social media presence, generating a significant increase in both brand recognition and engagement. Specifically, ConEd saw a 243 percent increase in “Likes” on their primary Facebook page as well as a 2,728 net increase in “Likes” across all ConEd related Facebook pages. At the same time, ConEd gained 289 additional Twitter followers.
Given the program’s overwhelming success, ConEd plans to replicate the ‘Plug into Summer Fun’ program in the summer of 2014.