By Faith Heaton Jolley, Utah Dept. of Natural Resources
“A viral moment can happen by accident, but building a viral audience requires strategy.”
That was one of the first things Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Social Media Coordinator Sarah Southerland told the audience during her presentation on the opening day of the 2022 Association for Conservation Information conference in Nashville.
And Southerland certainly knows about going viral. She shared a few examples of some of the Department’s viral tweets from earlier this year — including one asking people not to bring cougars inside that racked up over 31 million clicks — which showcase their new, playful approach to Twitter.
Southerland’s presentation was as funny as it was informative, with the self-described “Gen Z-er who grew up on the internet and experiences the context of the world through the internet” sharing a few stories of her early days of trolling people online through fake social media personas.
Here are two takeaways from some of the social media tips she shared:
Build a voice
“People sometimes ask us, ‘Why the silliness behind our voice?’” Southerland said. “It establishes that they are talking to a person. It also reaches more people, including some new audiences, which helps us get our educational message across more effectively.”
She also emphasized the importance of matching your voice and tone to the individual social media platforms and the way that audience uses that particular platform. It is also crucial to create content to match the algorithm for each separate platform (rather than reusing the same content on all of your social media platforms).
“Your content is great,” she said. “So make it work for you by framing it in a fun and funny way. Algorithms move content, so match the social media algorithms.”
Social media should be fun
“So be entertaining,” she said. “Look at your own Twitter use. What do you like on Twitter? What do other people like? What makes you laugh? Relax your vocabulary and grammar and get into your humanity.”
Southerland urged wildlife agency communicators to start small by making wildlife puns. And then to keep exploring and trying new, fun ways to get their messaging across.
“Be responsive and reply and interact with people,” she said. “Interaction and keeping it human are very important.”