Texas Power Company Launches Facebook Game for Local Hispanic Consumers

First Choice Power is a Texas electric provider combining social media and Spanish-language marketing in its inaugural Facebook game, the Energía Goleadora Fan Contest.

The Facebook game teaches players ways to save energy, in English or Spanish, and was launched in conjunction with several other Hispanic-oriented businesses, including the Univisón TV network, the Famsa appliance store and soccer team FC Dallas. The person with the highest score in the game — who’s also a Texas resident in First Choice’s service area — wins the grand prize trip to Miami to see an Univisión awards show.

First Choice’s Facebook Page launched in March, followed by the game in April. So far more than 100 people have played, the company tells us. The game is also being promoted in a mini-reality show on Univisión featuring four families who try to save energy. The idea is to market to the 40% of First Choice’s customer base that is Hispanic and bilingual, Andrés Reyes, director of Hispanic marketing tells us.

“We don’t look at Hispanics by language, we look at the Hispanic market by culture. For us it is very critical to have channels where we are communicating in both English and Spanish to establish a dialogue with this consumer,” Reyes explains. “There’s an over indexation of Hispanics on Facebook, we foresee this as continuing to grow.”

First Choice started its conversation with customers on social media with Twitter in December, and currently has 350 followers, and it also maintains a blog and a photo account Flickr, in addition to the Facebook Page with about 200 fans. Some social media response is in Spanish, Reyes said, but most of this conversation is taking place in English. This is to be expected. As we reported in Inside Facebook Gold, only 1.5 million people in the U.S. use Facebook in Spanish.

Playing Energía Goleadora is pretty self-explanatory and includes the usual features, such as a leaderboard and several opportunities to invite Facebook friends to play. Players of the game can select to play in English or Spanish as they go around a virtual house discovering ways to save on the house’s energy bill, such as changing light bulbs for example. Each time you discover a way to save energy you earn points.

So what do people talk to their electric company about on Facebook or Twitter?

“A whole range of responses, from non-profit partners thanking us for grants, customers ask questions about accounts or complain about something they didn’t understand about their bill,” Marketing Manager Catherine Carlton tells us. “Our goal is to educate customers about the market and find out what they want from an energy company to make it more user friendly.”

We haven’t seen utility companies pushing initiatives like this before. However, searching on Facebook yields dozens of results for power companies. Most are small with just hundreds of fans, but First Choice tells us that a power company takes its marketing to social media for the same reasons as do other companies, which is to be where their customers are. Instead of calling a 1-800 number or searching for information on the web site, customers can simply send First Choice a message on Twitter or post to the Facebook Wall in order to get answers or make complaints, Carlton says.The added bonus of First Choice’s social media presence is that it’s bilingual, the company does receive some messages in Spanish. It is set to make information like tips on going green available in Spanish on Facebook in the near future.

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