World-Trenchless-Logo-for-PrintEditor’s Note: A cornerstone of World Trenchless Day is raising public awareness for trenchless technologies, and one of the easiest ways to spread the message is on social media. In this last installment, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority – better known as DC Water – highlights its embracement of social media from the top leadership down to encourage public discourse.

Ten years ago, social media was an optional add-on to communication strategies for many organizations. At the time, organizations did not understand how to use these platforms or how these tools could help meet their communication goals.  It was rare to have a budget, strategy, and team focused on engaging customers on digital and social platforms. That perception has changed quickly over the last decade, as social media has become part of everyday life for consumers.

DC Water understands and embraces this change as the enterprise strives for a strong social media presence. The challenge of breaking through the constant noise and conversations on social media, being creative enough to hold the public’s attention and gaining a loyal following, requires a unique strategy and commitment. DC Water has already made big strides in the social media world.

DC Water currently encourages digital public discourse by creating original content — unique to its vision and mission — intended to be shared on various social media platforms. The core engagement platforms consist of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and, most recently, Snapchat. The content shared on each outlet is different, but the messages are the same.

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What makes DC Water’s social media strategy efficient and effective is that senior leadership has embraced the strategy, and that is what sets them apart from other utilities. George Hawkins, CEO and general manager, not only understands the importance of communicating with the public on social media, but makes it a priority to be a part of the conversation. Hawkins (@GeorgeHawkinsDC on Twitter) responds to Twitter comments, retweets and has even made a presence on the recently launched Snapchat platform. While there are many ways to educate the community about key messages, social media allows organizations to be the most innovative in doing so. It is about knowing the trends and being creative enough to make the social conversation relevant to an ever evolving social media community.

Social media is about having fun and DC Water frequently finds ways to discuss trending topics and finding a creative ways to join the topic. DC Water keeps its users engaged with fun facts like this image that appeared in a National French Fry Day tweet. The Tweet read, “Did you know soaking potatoes for 3-5 hours in water is the first step to yummy fries? #NationalFrenchFryDay”

Social media is about having fun and DC Water frequently finds ways to discuss trending topics and finding a creative ways to join the topic. DC Water keeps its users engaged with fun facts like this image that appeared in a National French Fry Day tweet. The Tweet read, “Did you know soaking potatoes for 3-5 hours in water is the first step to yummy fries? #NationalFrenchFryDay”



DC Water’s most active social platform, @DCWater on Twitter, serves as the 24-hour direct line of communication with the public. Customers have demonstrated a strong vocal presence and are confident when tweeting @DCWater that they will receive a timely response. DC Water’s 13,000-plus followers have no problem expressing concerns, appreciation, frustration or engaging with original content. This social media connection is exactly what should be encouraged.

This utility does not shy away from the customer who is expressing frustration, but instead responds, addresses concerns, and hopefully restores faith in DC Water. Another bonus of this engagement is real-time intel. Often, customers are the first to alert DC Water to an emerging issue. This 24-hour direct line to the public allows an added way to address problems quickly as they occur. It is clear that the DC Water Twitter followers have consistent and ongoing communication with DC Water, and DC Water strives to create a positive tone and a personality on Twitter that allows residents to feel comfortable reaching out.

On a particularly hot week, DC Water encouraged residents to stay cool and hydrated by posting this photo of general manager George Hawkins getting soaked. The post read, “Our GM @GeorgeHawkinsDC knows how to stay cool!! Do you?! Have some fun and stay hydrated #beattheheat #dc”

On a particularly hot week, DC Water encouraged residents to stay cool and hydrated by posting this photo of general manager George Hawkins getting soaked. The post read, “Our GM @GeorgeHawkinsDC knows how to stay cool!! Do you?! Have some fun and stay hydrated #beattheheat #dc”



While Twitter is currently the top engagement platform the collective engagement of its other social media tools (Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat), have a sound strategy for continuous growth. DC Water’s strategic plan is to ensure that the individual content is appropriate for each of the different mediums.

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Snapchat for example, is an inside view into the world of DC Water. Whether sharing the dedication of its employees or providing an inside look into a construction project, this live video feed offers the community an in-depth look at the tangible benefits of their dollars and the inner workings of the organization.

The organization has even planned to launch Geofilters to allow the public to be a part of awareness messages through their own Snapchat stories. DC Water also plans to use Facebook Live, a new live streaming video platform paired with real-time comments offered by Facebook, further continuing to break down the barriers that hinder trust through transparency, while opening and encouraging conversation.

While creativity and strategy are the foundation of strong social media outreach, understanding how to read the analytics behind the tools is key to seeing if the strategies have been effective. There are a variety of tools used to measure social media’s engagement, and DC Water’s relies on a few in particular.

The core measurement tools are Sprout Social and Twitter Analytics, both used to measure response time, audience growth, and engagement metrics. The data on the back end provides insight that indisputably educates the communications team of how content is performing and where improvements can be made.

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Social media allows every individual to be a journalist, a critic, a blogger and a photographer. Technology has brought the world closer, and has made what was once impossible the expectation. People are less likely to understand being put on hold during a phone call as they wait to speak to someone about a crisis, issue or customer service complaint. Instead, people expect a timely response to their Twitter posts.

The world expects brands and organizations to have a human feel and to be relatable. Individuals have more control over what media, advertisements, and news they allow to interrupt their day. If they are annoyed by content, a simple press of the unfollow button is all that is needed to never see that brand’s content again. This new wave of increased access is challenging the way brands can become a part of customers’ lives, and DC Water is embracing that challenge.
Franchesca Thompson is Digital Communication Manager at DC Water.

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