How did a sewer district develop a national following on Twitter?
Public agencies were still figuring out how social media might work for them when John Gonzalez launched the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Twitter account, @NEORSD, in 2010. Since then, he’s built up a solid following of utility customers who follow his posts not just for critical information, but for a steady stream of sewer humor. Gonzalez recently spoke to GT on how he developed the success of the online utility.
1. How do you balance humor and respectability on Twitter?
People can be sure that our Twitter content, our personality, is authentic. We are emotional creatures who crave relationships, who laugh at difficult subjects. We like to connect with like-minded people and look forward to conversations with people who disagree with us, and I think that’s where people come to believe we’re real. We don’t just generate this content with an AI behind it. The public service we provide touches people’s lives, cleans their water, manages their waterways, and they interact with our services whether they know it or not. The more they see that our content is relevant to them, the more likely they are to come to us when they have a problem, because they recognize that we are aware of the realities they face. It’s about meeting people where they are, seeing them for who they are, and recognizing that this commitment can be valuable. Sometimes it’s for fun, but once you get them to laugh at something you offer, the more likely they are to come back and see that there’s something much deeper in what you offer them.
2. What advice can you give to other agencies trying to establish a social presence?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to how a utility or how others in that sector can develop a presence, as you need to recognize what your resources are and how social media can help you advance your goals. Communication. I say know your management team and their expectations, and let them know how you plan to prepare for social media risks, and that you shouldn’t expect things to happen overnight. I also tell them not to assume that they can be present on all platforms at all times with the same level of investment.
Many utilities would be best served by striving to react in the moment and recognizing that responsiveness does indeed make a huge difference. You don’t need to have a pun with every tweet, you don’t need to write poetry on your account if you’re not used to it, but if you want to show your customers matter , responsiveness is a great place to start.
3. Do you use other social platforms?
We of course have a Facebook page. It’s not as active, but there’s an audience there, and we try to post career information or our affordability program because the audience on that page is much more likely to engage on this type of content. We have a LinkedIn account and we certainly post content there to keep our followers engaged. We’ve experimented with TikTok, and it’s the one we’re still trying to figure out. I’ll create content there and then cross-promote it on our Twitter; this is where we see the most success. The same content will not work on all channels. If you have a message that is relevant to all audiences, regardless of their demographics, you need to vary the way you deliver it. The type of feed we can create on Twitter, for example, won’t work on other platforms. They don’t have the same functionality or feel. It’s just about acknowledging that content and audience work together when it comes to determining how to publish content across different channels.
4. How do you keep your messages relevant and timely?
Especially on Twitter, the reading of the room is very valuable because there is such a stream of consciousness that people expect. If your content is timely and you have an audience that will engage with you, you will put yourself in a position to be relevant. Regarding our communication objectives in general, each year we have a plan of awareness, events, messages based on the seasons that could be relevant to us depending on the weather or interaction with customers. . What we’re seeing, though, is that while we can schedule content for particular months, we can’t necessarily get people to move away from their world to come in and be relevant in ours. The more aware we can be of the environment we’re working in, the more that ability to tailor the message to the audience at that time is really where we’re seeing the biggest return.