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#CuteAnimalTweetOff: An Insider’s Look at the Best Twitter Battle Ever

#CuteAnimalTweetOff: An Insider’s Look at the Best Twitter Battle Ever

Get ready for our webinar, Dive into Metadata with the National Aquarium, by going behind the scenes of the #CuteAnimalTweetOff with the social media managers for the National Aquarium, the Maryland Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo!

How does one baby seal spark a phenomenon that brightens Twitter feeds around the world?

Well just look at this little guy. He’s destined for greatness.

When Sarah Hill, a Twitter user from Norfolk, VA, saw this photo of the National Zoo’s new gray seal pup, she tagged the Virginia Aquarium, challenging them to share an even cuter photo…

And thus, the #CuteAnimalTweetOff, the cutest Twitter battle of all time, began.

Zoos and aquariums across the country started chiming in, including some of our Libris clients.

The National Aquarium shared this sweet sloth photo:

The Maryland Zoo tweeted a tiny lemur:

And in the afternoon, the Los Angeles Zoo tweeted a sloth photo, with a caption that could not be more perfect:

“Charlie the Linné’s two-toed sloth is a much-loved resident here at the L.A. Zoo,” says Katherine Spada, Social Media Manager for the LA Zoo. “Because that post was tweeted a few hours into the #CuteAnimalTweetOff, the caption seemed like it would make for a funny joke, since sloths are notoriously as slow-moving as they are adorable.”

And while Charlie the sloth may be slow, Spada says finding the right image quickly in her team’s Libris account was key to joining the #CuteAnimalTweetOff while it was still trending.

“Having quick access to a thoughtfully-organized catalogue of our staff photographers’ high-quality shots of the animals in our care is key to the success of a whirlwind trending topic like #CuteAnimalTweetOff,” she explains. “Because this conversation sprung up organically, without time to plan posts in advance, it was great to be able to pick out the most suitable photos at a moment’s notice.”

Dozens of zoos and aquariums shared images throughout the day, to the world’s collective delight. The phenomenon went viral and was picked up by several major news outlets.

“The #CuteAnimalTweetOff is a classic example of a simple, but effective use of a hashtag,” says Nabila Chami, Social Media Manager for the National Aquarium in Baltimore. “It developed very organically and happened a time when people were looking for a good story to share.”

When we asked Chami and her peers at the Los Angeles Zoo and the Maryland Zoo to share their thoughts on the #CuteAnimalTweetOff, they all agreed – a close-knit community was key to the tweet off’s success.

“The group of social media folks for zoos, aquariums and museums are actually very well-connected,” says Chami. “We are always learning from each other and lifting up the programs/initiatives of others! It’s like a big family that only meets ‘IRL’ once or twice a year.”

Sinclair Miller, Marketing & Digital Media Manager for the Maryland Zoo, adds that while the tweet off was a “competition,” they were all playing for the same team.

“The other Zoo’s and Aquariums we interacted with on the day of the cute off all have similar missions because they are part of the community of institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” Miller explains. “Since we are all already familiar with one another and know we share the same values it was easy to have fun with the ‘competition’ knowing we are all working towards the same goal of saving species.”

In fact, sharing cute animal photos isn’t just fun, it also helps these organizations hit big picture goals.

“For a brand like ours, the social capital of a cute baby animal is very important! Believe it or not, sharing cute animals helps us keep the attention of our social community when we’re trying to get some of our more serious messages across,” Chami explains.

“As a member institution of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, our mission is to advance conservation and care of species and their habitats, and participating in national and global social media events like the #CuteAnimalTweetOff can be a great way of bringing people into that conversation,” adds Spada.

Miller says the Maryland Zoo team kept the #CuteAnimalTweetOff’s potential impact in mind as they chose photos to share. In the end, this fun Twitter battle was about more than cute baby animal photos.

“One of the themes that ran through many of the animals we posted were that they are endangered species,” Miller explains. “Our hope was that if people became aware that some of the most adorable creatures possible are threatened with extinction through this tweet off, it would be using the cute force for good and inspire people to become active advocates for animal conservation with us.”

Cover photo courtesy of the National Aquarium.

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