As a father to two extremely energetic children under the age of two, we are frequent visitors to the Minnesota Zoo. In fact, we ponied up for a membership a number of years ago. It’s a great way for us to get out of the house on a cold, winter’s day and head to a more “tropical” environment indoors at the zoo. The kids wear themselves out while learning a thing or two about the animals. It’s perfect for our family.
But, not every state’s so lucky. Many don’t have the tremendous resource we have here in Minnesota. And, part of its success is the public support it enjoys. And now, a piece of that work, of course, involves digital communication strategies.
Surprisingly, the Minnesota Zoo is very active online. Strong Facebook and Twitter communities as well as YouTube and FlickR accounts to house the plethora of videos and photos and Zoo collects make this organization one of the more active in the Twin Cities. They also recently started a blog which chronicles Zoo development, animal baby births and other zoo events.
How does the Zoo do it? MN PRSA colleague, Sara Benson plays a key role, leading the Zoo’s digital efforts online. In this short video, Sara talks about how the organization is enabling fans to tell its story and how the Zoo handles negative feedback and comments online.
What can you and the brands/organizations you represent learn from the Minnesota Zoo?
* Don’t underestimate the compelling nature of photos. Photos consistently drive the most engagement on social networks like Facebook. But, think bigger than that. As an organization that depends on donations for a portion of its budget, the Zoo needs to connect with the public-at-large, private donors and local organizations. What better way to do that than photos of baby animals and exotic animals at the Zoo. Remember, a compelling photo is worth 1,000 words.
* Let your fans help build and define your brand. Since photos are such a powerful way the Zoo tells its story, they recently decided to start a FlickR account so those photos could be shared across the Web. But, they also knew they wouldn’t benefit by just posting their own photos. Hundreds of fans visit the Zoo each day snapping tons of photos of their kids and the animals. Why not ask them to help populate this photo repository? That’s exactly what they did. So far, the Zoo has 42 members and 493 photos. I expect as spring heats up, and they more actively promote this network, those numbers may skyrocket. And really, what better way to rally and engage your fan base? Remember, these are photos fans can use in blog posts, Web sites and Facebook, so they can show up all over the social Web (and photos the Zoo could potentially use in marketing/communications materials down the road).
* Use video to give your fans a “sneak peek.” A new baby gibbon was born earlier in January. The Zoo chose to give fans a “sneak peek” into the first weeks of the gibbon’s life by showing a feeding and giving a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes in raising one of these animals. People found this content interesting–21,000-plus visits by fans in less than two weeks! But, it’s that exclusivity people crave. Play to that and you’ll reward your fans.