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Social Media Marketing Example #14: National Geographic

Lisa Braziel.
By: Lisa Braziel  |   May 27, 2009  |   View Comments

I'll be the first to say that I love baby animals. Whether they are playing in TV, cuddling with their moms in a magazine photo or doing funny tricks on "I Can Has Cheezburger", I'm a sucker for those tiny furry bundles of joy. Like most people, this is just one of the reasons that I love National Geographic. With all of their TV shows, beautiful magazine spreads and online information, I thought they might be an interesting addition to our series: 26 Social Media Marketing Examples in Detail.

Let's check out how National Geographic is optimizing social media:

Facebook

I was immediately impressed by National Geographic's robust Facebook Fan page, touting an impressive 470,555 fans.  National Geographic wisely updates the page's status one to three times a week and provides a lot of engaging content in the Facebook tabs, met by lots of interaction by their fans.  With most brand to fan interaction happening on the wall, thousands of fans have "Liked" content or commented positively even when branded content is shared straight from nationalgeographic.com.  Taking a closer look, it appears that National Geographic isn't just sharing this content, but actively promoting fan activity and interaction.  For instance, instead of sharing a survey that lives on their site, they posted the link to the wall and commented, "Post your score and challenge your friends". Tailoring this content in this way is a great way to welcome and jump start involvement. 

Additionally, what I found most interesting are the several ways that National Geographic is optimizing the ability to use the fan page tabs.  With the new page design, many brands are still figuring out how to use these tabs and this page had several uses we can all learn from. Here are some ways they are using them:

  • In the "Boxes" tab, there are badges linking to a photo contest, the National Geographic TV schedule,  the official Flickr group, podcasts and links to their Facebook "Causes" app. Because of the variety of content under this tab, National Geographic should utilize the page’s status updates and Twitter account to occasionally remind users about particular pieces of content housed there. 
  • Also a nice touch is the "Special Offers" tab, as it reveals exclusive-to-Facebook coupons for magazine subscriptions.  This gives fans an added bonus to joining and staying current with the page.
  • The "Green Effect" Tab offers links and information about National Geographic's $20,000 giveaway, in which users submit their ideas for a sustainability project. If the user's idea is chosen,  he/she receives the money to initiate the project. Although there is a content-rich Facebook event page (with more than 4,000 fans marked as "attending"), I was surprised to see minimal promotion of the contest on the Fan page's main "Wall" tab and no tools to help users/participants promote the contest. 
  • I was really interested by the page's "Reviews" tab, under which users rank and review National Geographic. So far, 49 users have shared their thoughts on National Geographic (and for the most part, they're pretty positive reviews).

MySpace

The National Geographic MySpace profile focuses on the National Geographic Channel video content by housing videos on MySpace videos. National Geographic keeps this page fresh by consistently adding new videos for their 7,500 friends, however it is difficult to organize this content within the functionality of a profile page.  Although there was valuable content in the form of links, videos, and widgets - overall, this page desperately needs a redesign and interaction must be an apparent strategy on the page.  Right now the profile is trying to function as a branded page and the result makes it seem disjointed and difficult to navigate.  See the screenshot below to see the design difficulty users face if choosing to add National Geographic as a friend.

YouTube

National Geographic has really loaded their YouTube page with lots of great content - but most importantly they have organized the content by category so users can easily choose which playlists they'd like to subscribe to.  This helps users find content according to their interest and has resulted in rankings on some of YouTube's "Most Popular" lists.  With the opportunity to engage over 150k subscribers, I'd like them to take their channel to the next level and figure out an interesting way to interact with this huge group of followers. It is very likely that these enthusiasts will be ready for action, and they likely have much to tell about the animals in their life or their personal experiences in the outdoors. 

Twitter

The National Geographic Twitter page has a clear purpose of sharing new photos and new content with its 7,780 (and counting) followers. Unfortunately, the page is a little dry, with tweets that don't really compel users to check out the pictures or content.  I think tweaking the tweets to be more conversational as well as engaging from time to time by utilizing @'s or RT's - this would show that the page is active and more compelling to new followers.

Flickr

Despite being advertised by only one apparent link to the National Geographic Flickr group (tucked in the Facebook Fan page), the group contains 1,577 members who have contributed 17,439 items to the group pool. This is a great way for National Geographic to involve its fan base by encouraging fresh, user-generated content.  The only flaw I found in the execution was the badges they provided on the page to promote the group.  The following screenshot is one of the badges members can grab, and it doesn't capture the "Nat Geo" brand that I know and love, or shows that the group is official.

Blogging

The National Geographic blog, "Inside NGC Blog" is buried deep in the TV section of the National Geographic Web site and is updated one to two times a week with content related to various National Geographic Channel TV shows. Unfortunately, this blog reads more like a newspaper review instead of a blog with personality and engaging content.  With very little interaction with its users, it could definitely benefit by sharing videos and pictures and asking for interaction from its readers. Intrestingly, popular shows like the Dog Whisperer also have blogs within the subdomain - and receive double digit comments.  This may reveal that creating niche blogs around specific interests may resound better with National Geographic audiences. 

Widgets

National Geographic has numerous widgets that it offers for its fans (I counted 9 on its site).  These include a news widget, puzzle widget, and multiple photo widgets that are all easy to share within multiple networks and personal blogs.  Most of these can be found within the main site, but some are also found within the MySpace page as well. They effectively provide users with a way to interact and have fun with the brand.  With such a substantial fan base, these should be promoted on areas of the site with more visbility or in place of advertising in order to increase the chances of these being installed.  

 

 

Overall, National Geographic has established a really sound social media presence. As I’ve noted before, a many of their social media platforms would be bolstered by developing more content that is exclusive and tailored for social media.  Throughout this research I also found that National Geographic isn't showcasing its efforts within social media by linking them to each other and promoting them on visible areas of the National Geographic Web site. Having these efforts co-promote each other allows them to receive greater traffic and new interactions. 

Besides adding a connectivity element, what else could National Geographic be doing in social media? Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments.
 


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Comments

4 thoughts on “Social Media Marketing Example #14: National Geographic

  1. Neil / Wonderful Machine

    Thanks for the post. I think it's interesting to see how established brands are taking advantage of social media. We're a quickly-rising brand, and always trying to make useful content on these sites. What's most difficult is creating a presence that's more than just press releases. Although, it's nice to have a venue for information that's not exactly the right fit for our official website. Sort of rewards the folks who want to find out more about us, too, in addition to attracting new visitors.

    Best,
    Neil
    https://twitter.com/wonderflmachine

  2. Social Bookmarking Submission

    Hi Lisa Braziel,

    I have seen most using their brain to post on blog, but you seems to be using research as tool to writing post. This shows your commitment towards topic. Excellent is even incapable of describing your efforts.

  3. Eric Deveuriere

    I find National Geo brand is getting old and not really moving. They have a limit audience, they would need a young fresh image in a social network full of fun. Facebook isn t! MySPace is pathetic.

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