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December 28, 2014 / Stephanie Vermillion

“Safari Live” Builds Brand Ambassadors for National Geographic: A Case Study

Safari Live Builds Brand Ambassadors for National Geographic: As a (late) holiday present to myself, I’m combining two of my favorite things for this week’s post: PR and Africa.

Yep. You heard me right. While it may seem like a disparate and extremely general topic, the two really came together for me during the holidays as I went on a safari game drive with thousands of strangers worldwide – all from the comfort of my couch.

Let me explain.

As part of its Big Cats Week, National Geographic is featuring daily live safari drives from Kruger Park in South Africa through January 2015. To encourage audience engagement, viewers can tweet their questions about the safari using the #safarilive hashtag. But the interactions have gone well beyond questions.

Now, one month in, there’s a solid community of viewers who tweet with each other – not just the drivers – every day. They tweet about the animals. They joke about the weather. They share upcoming dinner plans and recipes – just like they would if they were sitting in the safari car together.

Through this initiative, National Geographic shows that building those niche communities is an incredibly important – and effective – social tactic. Here’s why.

Help your customers (or viewers) find like-minded individuals.

Instead of “getting,” brands should focus on “giving.” If you help your loyal customers (or viewers) find other people they’re similar to, you’re offering significant value.

In this case, National Geographic is enhancing its viewers’ mornings by not only offering a free virtual ticket to South Africa, but providing a space for viewers to talk with other safari enthusiasts and build relationships that – from the look of it – will go well beyond the series. I mean really, you don’t tweet about your holiday dinner plans with just anyone!

Build brand ambassadors.

When you give people a reason to love your brand – perhaps a free daily safari? – they’ll gradually turn into ambassadors for your brand. (And caution: It could happen quickly if you’re like my safari-loving family!)

They’ll talk about what you do or offer to their friends. They’ll stay loyal to your brand. And, as National Geographic is finding out, they’ll share your brand message widely on social media – especially if there’s a hashtag to join the conversation.

Reach your overarching goals.

Is National Geographic posting live safaris just for the sake of doing it? Of course not. There’s a strategy behind the concept, and it’s working beautifully.

National Geographic’s “Safari Live” is part of its overall Big Cats Initiative, which is “a long-term commitment by the National Geographic Society to stop poaching, save habitats, and sound the call that big steps are needed to save big cats around the world.”

It’s raising awareness for the initiative and reaching the target audience of those who would likely donate and support the cause – passionate safari goers.

The more these “Safari Live” viewers tweet and engage with the #safarilive stream, the more they’ll start relating to National Geographic. And, the more they start relating to National Geographic, the more they’ll want to get involved – which helps National Geographic reach its overarching Big Cat goal.

When done well, building niche, online communities is a valuable tactic. To be effective, you have to uncover what niche space you, as a brand, can own, then brainstorm engaging ways you can connect members of that community through content marketing.

For National Geographic, it’s a safari series. For communications agency Arment Dietrich, it’s engaging blog content (Spin Sucks) with hundreds of comments regularly. For Harley Davidson, it’s the Harley Owners Group (HOG), which is a community of Harley Davidson loyalists nationwide who get exclusive news, test drives and more.

Be it B2B firms or B2C companies, every brand fits into a specific niche. As the PR pro, it’s up to you to find – and capitalize on  that community.

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