April the Giraffe – Social Media Star

 In Make or Break, Marketing

If you haven’t heard of April the giraffe, then you’re living under a rock.

For the better part of April (the month), YouTube eyes were on April (the giraffe) as the world waited for the birth of her fifth calf. I know in my household there were a few people subscribed to her text alerts and conducting regular check-ins on her live stream. But what I found most interesting was the marketing that was thrown together to try and make the most of the unexpectedly wild global interest in April the giraffe – particularly when the due date of the calf went a month o/t.

Animal Adventure Park (NY) turned the excitement surrounding the birth of an adorable, awkwardly shaped creature into a successful media and crowdfunding campaign that has netted over $140,000 US in contributions so far. By contrast, the Denver zoo quietly welcomed the birth of Dobby the giraffe just a month before. So how did the hype get turned into dollars?

Branded YouTube

One of the most legitimizing aspects of the whole April the giraffe endeavour is the Toys R Us/Babies R Us watermark on her YouTube channel (occasionally swapped out with the giraffe feed sponsor’s logo). It is not known if Toys R Us signed on for a fixed term sponsorship (i.e. 30/60/90 days) or a flat fee (i.e. $Y until the birth), but the unpredictability of an animal sponsorship perfectly illustrates the importance of accounting for cost (or time) overrun.

If giraffe pregnancies can go 1-2 months past the expected due date, then that’s potentially 1-2 months of extra budget or resources (like social media managers) that need to be contingency planned. While large companies may not bat an eyelash at such potential budget extensions, it is also important to calculate the return on the investment (i.e. to reach the feed’s 20 million viewers and half a million subscribers).

Lesson: Always be aware of the specifics of your sponsorship situation. If Toys R Us promised to pay $Y for every day the YouTube channel was up until the birth, and the pregnancy goes two months past the “campaign” date, then that’s two months of extra budget!

Second lesson: Stay on top of your descriptions. At last viewing on April 18, the YouTube channel’s descriptions have not been updated to reflect the birth of the calf (a boy, apparently nearing 6’ tall and 150 lbs from what I’ve read elsewhere). One thing I noticed since starting to check in on the April feed was the evolution of the channel’s descriptions – at first starting out very unpolished, and then starting to improve with better information and writing style. While this aspect of social media management may not get as much attention, it is critical to have keyword rich descriptions and tags that are written in a compelling and professional manner. Ultimately, this can impact the goal of getting people inspired enough to donate money. So, don’t let the waning excitement of a new baby giraffe prevent you from providing fans (and potential donors) with accurate, updated information!

Crowdfunding

The GoFundMe campaign for April, Oliver (the papa), and their calf has already tripled its $50k goal thanks to all the buzz and excitement around the pregnancy and birth. What this part of the April movement has done well is to provide a very clear description of how the funds will be used. It transparently explains that the organization is for-profit and therefore contributions are not tax deductible, for example.

Lesson: Be abundantly clear. While the page’s description is pretty good, it doesn’t clearly explain key questions visitors will surely have (like if the calf will be moved, if the funds are for the baby/the giraffe family/the zoo). Instead, this gets picked up in the comment thread below – and that just starts up a whole lot of brouhaha. Also important, this content was not updated to reflect the birth of the calf.

For more about crowdfunding, check out this case study.

Naming Contest

A second initiative put forth by the zoo is a naming contest that is a little bit confusing. In stark contrast to the GoFundMe page, this page’s content has errors and is written less clearly/compellingly (in both design and content). Personally, I feel less trusting to donate money (and enter credit card information) on this page versus the secure, reputable GoFundMe page.

Lesson: Always work in a cohesive tone and style when writing of campaign materials, focusing on a central call-to-action. If the key action is now the naming contest rather than the GoFundMe, update all platforms to reflect this change. Too many possible actions confuse the user, particularly when the outcome is different (i.e. the money from the naming contest is being used in other ways). Simplicity always converts better.

Media

While zoos and animal rights issues can be a source of conflict and cause protest, the positive outcome to such situations is to use these campaigns for education. Promoting information about giraffes by doing media interviews, posting to social media, or sharing content on platforms stands to help draw awareness.

Lesson: It can be next to impossible to contain trolls or box in negative commentary, but by trying to provide educational content and transparent communications a cause or organization can mitigate bad PR.

Check in on April the giraffe and her baby boy here:

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