What the Atlanta Zoo Can Teach You About Google+


My cousin works in the design department at the Atlanta Zoo.  Last March, she started up and now manages the zoo’s Google+ page.  The page now has over 180,000 followers.  Yes, in eight months, the Atlanta Zoo got over 180,000 followers on their Google+ page.   Granted, they have cute pictures of animals to post.  But animal photos alone do not explain this success.

So I asked her how she did it and she gave me some rocking tips, which I’ll share in a moment.

But first, a caveat:  I’ve been slow to come around to Google+.  There are only so many social networks my brain can take, and Google+ came late to the party.  So I figured Google+ had better be pretty damn awesome to drag my time away from other social networks.  It is.  And linked to the Google search engine, you can bet being on Google+ creates some serious SEO advantages.


Here are the quick takeaways:

  • Hangouts: This is possibly one of the coolest features of Google+.  Hangouts are video conference calls, much like Skype.  But unlike Skype, at the end of the Hangout, Google uploads the video to YouTube and produces a video that you can then repost, reuse, recycle.  Check it out:
  • If content is king, social is queen: Like any other social media, success comes from both talking to people and listening to them.  It also means being out and about online.  For example, the zoo has been following Steven Colbert’s Google+ page and making bear jokes.  Their dream is to get some sort of cross promotion going with him.  But in the meantime, people see the jokes, and go to check out the zoo’s page.
  • You can get your message across:  Google+ gives you more space to write because posts can be expanded if you need to explain more.
  • Have a strategy: The zoo’s Google+ page is oriented toward education about their conservation and research work, and its followers are global.  By contrast, the zoo’s Facebook page focuses more on local mom’s, promoting zoo events.

And now for a few technical tips:

  1. Photos shine on Google+, but landscape format works best.
  2. Use hashtags to promote your own topics and to find people who might be interested in those topics.
  3. The zoo has gotten a strong response from the Google+ album feature.  Then again, they’ve got awesome photos to promote.
  4. Hangouts: Check the hangout rules, test your audio, and  do utilize the Google+ events feature to promote it.  Yes, you can create a special page just for your hangout!
  5. Check out the ripples feature, which enables you to see where your influences are.

The secret sauce:

One thing my cousin didn’t mention (likely because she didn’t realize it) was that her posts are funny and authentic.  We talk about authenticity a lot in social media, but it’s a nebulous concept.  The best I can do is give an example.

While she was showing me the page, a post with a photo came to her that she needed to repost.  Her reaction when she opened it up was to laugh and declare, “That’s one big baby tapir!”  And the title of the post she came up with: One Big Baby Tapir.

Okay, maybe that’s still nebulous.  Just be yourself!


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