community building

Inspiring community building : Smithsonian National Zoo spotlight, Washington D.C.

How to nurture the relationship with your fan community:@NationalZoo.

Let us have a peek at how @NationalZoo, The Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Washington D.C., is interacting with its fan community.

On January 25th, 2016,  I fell in love right away with Tian Tian, one of the Smithsonian National Zoo’s pandas, featured in a Twitter video released at the time of #blizzard2016.

Tian Tian’s antics in the snow during #blizzard2016 melted my heart on the spot, I have been helplessly hooked on this video ever since. Eager to know more about National Zoo, I had a look at their Twitter wall and it was only a matter of seconds before I signed up to @NationalZoo.

@NationalZoo has an amazing way of providing fresh, informative and fun content at the right time on social media from a unique perspective.

#blizzard2016: getting the best out of a massive experience

During #Blizzard2016, @NationalZoo seized the opportunity to beautifully portray the Zoo residents in the snow. The pictures of animals standing in the snow have an indisputable wow factor.

But there is more to it. Picturing cheetahs in the snow or elephants facing conditions that are not those of their natural habitat is also meant to spark a reaction from our side. It goes far beyond the cute animal picture. And that is where the Smithsonian Institute fulfils its mission of raising awareness about the animals in general.

The way animals are portrayed provides us with an interesting perspective because it reminds us that natural disasters do not only affect us as human beings and disrupt our daily lives; animals are affected too, what we easily tend to forget.

During #blizzard2016, National Zoo cleverly seized the opportunity to educate people through tweets about how animals actually deal with snow.

Each picture is oozing with the deep care and love keepers have for their dwellers; it connects you straight away with the Zoo family.

Due to blizzard, the National Zoo had to close doors for 4 days to do maintenance work. The community management team did nonetheless a great job at keeping visitors posted during this time period.


A great way of preventing frustration and maintaining the relationship with the audience. And not the only one.

The #PandaStory, a compelling insider look

With #PandaStory on Instagram, @NationalZoo is taking us behind the scenes where we are given access to what it takes to raise a baby panda. The Smithsonian Institute, whose mission is “to provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats “ fully fits the bill with #PandaStory. #Panda Story is both an entertaining and educational way of keeping visitors and fans up-to-date with the life and progress made by panda cubs. It is a powerful way to for @NationalZoo to get traffic and a great way of doing link building as third party sites like @houseofcubs also have their own feed about #PandaStory.
Right now, panda cub #BeiBei  is in the spotlight, stealing the heart of the entire Zoo community. Bei Bei, the Zoo’s shooting star is trending.

Special attention is brought to #BeiBei cub with hashtags bringing the whole fan community together  and allowing them to exchange on #BeiBei. With #PandaStory, a diary featuring major events in Bei Bei’s life, like its first encounter with snow, we share moments of his life; it is a great way of nurturing relationships with the Zoo’s residents.
Visitors are themselves involved in storytelling, posting their photos and comments on Bei Bei. It is entertaining and utterly addictive. Let’s face it: Bei Bei the panda cub has gone viral.

In its content policy, The Smithsonian Institute strongly encourages this kind of interaction. “The Smithsonian encourages you to interact with its site…The Smithsonian invites visitors to use its online content for personal, educational and other non-commercial purposes.”

Visitors are certainly the Zoo’s best ambassadors, maintaining a vibrant community buzzing with round-the-clock updates. This bond with the animals drives organic community building and this is what works best.

This insider perspective into the life of the Zoo residents is compelling, once you have been bitten by the bug, there is no escape. There is an urge to keep up with what is going on. And contribute to this great adventure. Smithsonian’s mission is to educate, and save species. In this respect, the conservation Institute regularly launches fundraising campaigns to support endangered species. Mid-January, at the occasion of Bei Bei’s debut, they kicked off a campaign to save pandas.

Again, a great opportunity to engage people, not only on social media but also offline, to actually get them out to the zoo and have fun for a good purpose. On January 16th, throngs of people flocked to the zoo on Bei Bei’s big day and happily supported the cause, sporting panda suits while goofing around and dancing in front of the camera.
Wow, I missed not being there. It is actually not the story of a zoo, but that of one big family. I felt there was a blank in the family picture. Next time, I want to be part of it. Badly.