If internet culture had a currency, it would almost certainly be images of animals. Nothing stops social media users in their tracks faster than cuddly creatures.

And that’s just fine with Audubon Nature Institute, the New Orleans-based not-for-profit that operates 10 museums and parks dedicated to nature, including Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.

But how do you share the love online when your internal advocates are wary of participating?

You empower them using Bambu by Sprout Social.

Audubon did just that, and within three months achieved a 233% increase in social shares across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn among its staff.

Welcome to the Jungle

Audubon shifted its social strategy over the past year, according to Senior Director of Marketing Katie Smith.

“Previously we had someone who was doing social media as a part-time job,” she said. “It was a platform to talk about upcoming events—more of a sales tool. Now, we’re focusing on storytelling—highlighting our animal care and conservation work. We’re bringing people behind the scenes and getting them connected to the work we’re doing.”

Harnessing internal experts is an excellent way to engage social audiences and expand online reach, but Audubon found its employees were reticent.

“We had a pretty intimidating social media policy,” Smith said. “People weren’t necessarily comfortable posting about us on social because they didn’t know whether they were allowed. So we really had no internal advocacy on social.”

That state of affairs was less than ideal, especially as it’s become increasingly important for zoos and aquariums to engage the public regarding animal well-being.

“It’s really important for the public to understand the conservation work that accredited zoos and aquariums do along with all the care that goes on behind what people see every day when they visit,” Smith said. “Showing that connection between the animal care staff and the animals is something that is more authentic than a paid advertisement. And it’s even better when you have someone else sharing that story. It’s not just coming from us, it’s coming from people who actually work here.”

Audubon had learned firsthand what happens when social is left on the backburner.

“We’ve had a few different experiences where social media made a major impact on us,” Smith said. “A major factor was we were not participating in the social media conversation. I don’t think anyone on our staff felt empowered to get involved. Our leadership has realized the power of social media.”

Social Media Safari

Audubon needed an easy-to-use tool that would encourage employees to speak up on social. Bambu offered the opportunity to amplify internal voices and improve communications, all while presenting employees with curated, ready-to-share social media posts. From a single platform, organizations are able to distribute content to all employees, ensure all social messages stay on brand and gain insight into what content resonates most with employees and their individual social networks.

“We’re a non-profit and limited on staff, so I did a lot of research trying to figure out the best way to encourage employee advocacy on social,” Smith said. “I looked at a few different products and did some demos and Bambu was the most user-friendly of the various platforms.”

Audubon signed on with Bambu in November 2017 with the objective of ensuring a minimum of 50% of employees became active users. As of April 2018, the organization has significantly surpassed its goal with an active user count of 86%.

“It’s been exciting to see the variety of people in our organization using the platform,” Smith said. “It’s not just the marketing team, it’s people in a variety of careers that I wouldn’t have necessarily guessed would be using it as frequently. We’re also using it as an internal communications tool. We have a lot of people that don’t sit at their desks, such as zookeepers and our horticulture team. They rely on their mobile phones, so the mobile app is really beneficial.”

By making it easier to join the social conversation, Audubon is seeing its employees more confidently enter the online sphere.

I’m noticing more and more people feeling empowered to go on social and respond to questions from the public.
Katie Smith
Senior Director of Marketing

Smith is also noticing cross-promotion among the employees of different parks and museums.

“Our zoo and aquarium are separated by space and staff,” Smith said. “So the aquarium staff might not be as in tune with what the zoo is doing. But I’ve noticed a lot of aquarium team members sharing news from the zoo and vice versa, which is really interesting to me. Bambu makes employees feel more connected to what’s going on at each facility.”

Nature’s Bounty

Measuring social media ROI differs from organization to organization, dependent on specific goals. For Audubon, online sentiment is the ultimate KPI, and Bambu helps it reinforce positive perception among the public.

“Whether it’s for our excellence in animal care or presenting us as good stewards of the community, that’s what we’re looking for,” Smith said.

And as social media platforms continue to refine their algorithms, it’s increasingly important to ensure visibility through good old-fashioned organic reach. When you consider the fact that employees have 10 times more connections than brands, the benefits are clear to see. Messages reach 561% further when shared by employees instead of brands, and are re-shared 24 times more frequently.

Paid reach has declined dramatically. But organic reach has increased quite a bit, and that correlates with Bambu covering our social presence on the organic end.
Katie Smith
Senior Director of Marketing

Between January and April 2018, Audubon’s potential reach on social media increased 218% thanks to Bambu.

In conjunction with social advertising, over the course of approximately five months, Bambu helped Audubon achieve a:

  • 13.7% increase in total social followers
  • 72.4% increase in total social impressions
  • 73.4% increase in total social engagements

Internal surveys thus far have shown employees are pleased with Bambu, and the numbers support its value.

“The goal of this platform was to make sure we’re letting employees know they are empowered to be brand advocates,” Smith said. “And that’s the main result I’ve seen; there’s a culture change there.”

With a newly inspired workforce ready to advocate on social, the sky’s the limit for Audubon Nature Institute and its cute critters. Internet culture rejoices.