City West Water

CASE STUDY: Revealing customer insights to develop a social media strategy for City West Water.

Ellis Jones  •  Friday June 29, 2018
Communications  •  Energy & environment


City West Water is a Victorian Government owned water company, responsible for providing drinking water, sewerage, trade waste and recycled water services to over 430,000 residential and business customers in Melbourne’s CBD, inner and western suburbs.


Why, how and when would customers want to engage with a water company online? This was the broad question City West Water wanted to explore as a precursor to interrogating how its social media channels could be used to best effect in activating brand, engaging customers, supporting services: to better meet its customer’s expectations and needs.


To reveal deep insights into City West Water’s customers and communities – to understand them as people and to define the interactions and content they will value from their water company – Ellis Jones developed a three phased research approach combining desktop and ethnographic methodologies.

With a qualitative focus, research goals were to explore best practice among similar organisations, as well as to find insights into customer needs and, where aligned with City West Water’s objectives, to provide recommendations as to how these can be better served using social media.


Ellis Jones researchers undertook desktop research and an analysis of City West Water’s current social media performance, and that of its competitors. The research explored audience engagement and sentiment towards organisation led content – to reveal best practice. It also studied the type of content that incited the most engagement, be that negative or positive, delivering content ratio guides based on interaction and activity types (e.g Interaction: Marketing, Activity: Campaigns).

Consumer research

A mixed methodology consumer research approach, with a selection of City West Water consumers combined digital ethnography with focus groups to explore habits, wants and needs within context. The selected participants undertook a five day diarying exercises, with specific prompts and activities to explore the perceptions as water consumrs and their use of social media platforms. It asked them to consider how a company such as City West Water could better use social media to benefit to them.


The combined analysis of discovery, digital ethnography and focus group findings enabled our research to lead to strategic recommendations for City West Water’s future social media presence.

Recommendations included:

  • Strategic channel applications for purpose and audience
  • Tactics to improve relevance, engagement and overall effectiveness of social media channels
  • Resource and capability requirements for success


Research into audience interaction and engagement with social media platforms revealed deep insights into City West Water’s customers and communities.

In effectively analysing consumer behaviours and thoughts, Ellis Jones was able to reconceive what water means to City West Water customers – and therefore to uncover new opportunities for engagement.

Insights were turned into direction and allowed for a strategic response to be developed, one that considers the curation and delivery of relevant, useable and timely content for its users, via the best choice of channels. It also considered the resourcing needed to encourage two-way interactions that serve City West Water’s, and their customer’s, mutual needs.

City West Water is now equipped with a strategic insights that to inform development planning of social media as a content, engagement and service channel. One that is uniquely targeted at servicing the needs and wants of its customers.

Talk to us about consumer research and social media strategy.

Photo by Frank Mckenna