Opportunities and challenges: social media as an outage management tool


By: SGN Staff


John Simmins and Christina Haddad

Electric Power Research Institute


Utilities are recognizing the value of social media and how it helps them improve their engagement with customers. The use of social media for outage management comes with a range of new opportunities as well as some challenges. A recent workshop in New York hosted by Consolidated Edison and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) with eight other utilities located in the northeast U.S. provided numerous insights when using social media as a communications outlet.


A key learning was that it is important to have trained social media personnel to respond to customers to keep the messaging consistent, and enable the utility to take a proactive role by notifying customers what to expect when a storm approaches. This also helps the utility to be prepared to address negative comments, identify internal staffing and resource needs early, and knowing their audience by developing niche group communications around certain topics as required.


Some challenges facing the utility industry in regards to social media and outage management include verifying the accuracy of data and information, consolidating the outage and damage data collected and then integrating social media data into a visualization platform. Preliminary research has found that the majority of utility Facebook and Twitter accounts are used for education and outreach purposes. Nearly a quarter of utility companies currently use Twitter for outage management and emergency purposes. EPRI will be conducting two additional workshops (Dallas in July and San Francisco in August) and a summary report of the key findings from all three sessions will be released this fall.