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With record-breaking snowfalls in many parts of our country and more snowfall predicted this week, it’s no surprise that we see a rise in internet usage leading up to and during intense weather events. Think about it: schools are closed, parents stay with their children and employees are working from home. At ChatterBlast, we see a dramatic increase in online activity during these times. We call it “The Snow Daze.”

How are organizations and brands leveraging this opportunity? Most aren’t! Our utility clients know when a storm is coming and plan for increased customer service, special content and social advertising. Events like the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show have all sorts of marketing plans ready for bad weather. Every organization either needs to participate for customer service and communication, or should participate to gain additional benefit.

End-User Usage

By the time a storm has finally hit, most of us are sick of seeing post after post talking about it. But the fact remains that we see a huge increase, up to 1,822% (see below) in weather-related social media activity leading up to a major storm like Juno. It’s like a mini Superbowl each time it happens!

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During this time we also see our clients’ efforts increase across the board: reach, impressions, engagement and overall effectiveness. When more people are online, more magic happens.

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Outage Communication and Customer Service

A survey of 15 utilities across the country showed that 76% use social media for outage communication. Not surprisingly, negative sentiment increases leading up to and during the major weather event. This matters even more if you are a utility company that is NOT currently using social media as part of your communications strategy. Getting ahead of the storm, from a social perspective, is online casino critical to keeping customers happy and avoiding a digital crisis.

Our work with public services like California Water (not snow, but they have their own unique weather situations) and the Philadelphia Parking Authority taught us a few best practices around serious weather incidents:

  • Create a solid plan – Don’t let any scenario surprise you. Be prepared for storms, droughts, outages and killer bees. Don’t be cheesey, though. Don’t take a “me too” approach to your content.
  • Staff up – Plan ahead and call in extra support. You’ll usually need it.
  • Be proactive – Don’t ignore the problem! Get your content ready and alert your community well before things go wrong. Most people just want communication and acknowledgement, not miracles. Get ahead of the message, before your customers do it for you.
  • Let people in – By showing customers what is happening during a crisis, you neutralize negative feedback and gain support. Add something valuable or interesting.

The communications team at MBTA and Keolis in Boston have been dealing with an ongoing public crisis all winter. After a season of record-breaking snowfall, outages and delays and issues have plagued the system, despite their efforts to get ahead of the issues. A recent article in Boston.com showcased the social media community manager’s day, calling it the “hardest job in Boston.” There’s no denying that there’s some truth to that statement.

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Seize the Opportunity

Get in front of the storm or crisis by launching a proactive campaign. Launch an integrated Frozen Pipes campaign aimed at educating customers and the general population using content, advertising, social and video like our client Aqua America did.

While everyone is in a Snow Daze at home and using social media during the storm, what is your message going to be?

About the Author

Evan Urbania

Evan Urbania is the CEO and Co-Founder of ChatterBlast Media. He can often be found cycling, reading obscure tech blogs, teasing the office dog or getting bored with new social media apps.

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