Commonwealth Edison: The Use of Social Media in Disaster Response

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After a massive storm hit the northern Illinois service area of electric utility Commonwealth Edison on July 11, 2011, more than 900,000 customers were left without power during a hot, humid summer. ComEd crews and reinforcements from more than a dozen other states worked for days afterward to restore service. Meanwhile, the company's months-old social media strategy faced its first major test. The eChannels social media team, part of ComEd's customer operations division, worked around the clock to respond to posts from customers on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. At a time when the company faced public debate and criticism over its plan to raise electricity rates, in part to invest in smart-grid upgrades, engaging directly through social media was a way to strengthen relationships with customers and the general public, consistent with an important corporate goal: “Keep the lights on and information flowing.”

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