Local Illinois Utility Wins Awards for Social Media Savvy

The utility engages its 40,000 Facebook followers and 18,000 Twitter subscribers with updates on everything from power outages and grid improvements to touching stories about a lineman who donates bikes to poor children.

by Tony Reid, Herald & Review, IL / January 6, 2017

(TNS) -- DECATUR – Ameren Illinois, switched on to all the ways it can communicate with its customers, is now the recipient of an award honoring its media savvy.

The utility won the “Best Overall Social Media Presence” title in a competition hosted by the Midwest Energy Association, a trade group. This is the first time a social media award has been presented and Ameren Illinois bested 12 other rivals to win; the utility also got an honorable mention in the “Best Customer Communication & Service via Social Media” category.

“Ameren Illinois is committed to being a leader in customer satisfaction,” said Richard Mark, the utility's president. “...Social media is a vital communications channel to engage and educate our customers and stakeholders.”

The utility engages its 40,000 Facebook followers and 18,000 Twitter subscribers with updates on everything from power outages and grid improvements to touching stories about a lineman who donates bikes to poor children.

But communication is a two-way street, and inviting the public to comment on what you're doing opens the door to some surprising responses. For example, Ameren Illinois recently posted a warning on Facebook about not using extension cords with space heaters to cut down the risk of fires.

This prompted a follower called Joe Holbrook to write: “...You can't fix stupid, and ignorant (sic) is rampant, so let natural selection work and cull the herd.”

In another posting, the utility advised its customers that a good energy efficiency tip was to take advantage of sunny days by opening curtains on south-facing windows.

But customer Kelly Langford came back with a reply that offered a different take on how Ameren Illinois could save people money: “It would be easier if they would quit ripping ppl off.!” she posted.

The utility says it's natural people want to vent and it takes a fairly relaxed attitude to posts unless someone crosses a line with insults or offensiveness.

Ameren Illinois spokeswoman, Kelly Hendrickson, has the job of managing the utility's social media pages and says giving customers a chance to vent is not a bad thing. “Kind of the way we see it, they are out there talking about us anyway, so let's be a part of the conversation,” she added.

©2017 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.