The Huffington Post has posted a profile on 27-year-old Kate Frasca, a Con Edison public affairs manager who has been using the @ConEdison Twitter account to keep Con Edison customers informed of the power company’s response to hurricane Sandy.
It’s a perfect case study of the value created with previously terse organizations are empowered to communicate more fluidly with people. Before Sandy, Frasca had never tweeted from the @ConEdison account. In the aftermath of Sandy, @ConEdison’s follower count has grown nearly 30-times, from 800 to just over 23,000.
What’s the secret to amassing such an audience? Frasca provides a clue: “…we’re really just trying to put everyone at ease and trying to bring some information to them. Everyone is so scared and they just want to know what’s going on.”
Con Edison’s position is that of many government organizations. It has official information that no one else has, but many people desperately want. Previously, it likely relied on news organizations to get the word out. This hasn’t always been a reliable strategy, as many news outlets have strong incentives to draw attention to themselves and away from their competitors. This means they might be more inclined to push sensational stories rather than simple communiques about the status of Con Edison’s disaster response. Indeed, some media outlets benefit from making their audiences more scared.
Con Edison is simply motivated to keep people informed. It turns out that Twitter is a remarkably powerful way for them to go direct and not rely on the media to relay their simple messages to the public.
Con Edison spokeswoman, Sara Banda is quoted saying that social media “allows companies like us to be part of the media. We can get information out directly to our customers, and that’s a great thing.”
Yes, it is a great thing. The media landscape improves as more organizations like Con Edison use social media to communicate briefly, frequently, and directly to their customers.