A good start in Social for the Philadelphia Zoo

Beautiful doors within the McNeil Avian Center

My girlfriend has been trying to get me to take her to the zoo for a long time. We went on Sunday, July 22 to the Philadelphia Zoo and enjoyed a great time. The another reason I personally wanted to go was that I have an excellent social media idea for zoos (and museums, other institutions of such nature).

The Philadelphia Zoo is already, in a way, executing my vision.

Call to Action

QR codes have “long been” a topic of great debate in social media circles. I am of the opinion that QR codes are quiet useful and smart when placed properly. Having giant QR codes on billboards of busy highways aren’t exactly dollars well spent (or safe). Having them in a place where your audience is engaged and ready to access media via a mobile device…is spot on. 

In front of every animal exhibit there is a small sign with the creature’s picture, origin, and interesting factoid. For some of these animals there were avenues to access richer content through the use of a QR code.

Philly Zoo QR Code Plaque

Sometimes it was a for a video of the animals being introduced to their new homes or additional information on how to help preserve endangered species.

Enhancing the Experience

One thing the two of us noticed were the surprising number of young people (30 and under) exploring the zoo that day. Many of them did have little children en tow (creating a stroller slalom) but plenty of couples were there sans toddlers. If this demographic is there they should be invited to share zoo activities in ways they are already equipped to: smartphones!

Record audio of the newborn lion cubs that live on the property; film the penguins exploring their new habitat; upload a photo gallery of the birds from the Avian Center. Create content that is only available from within your institution’s campus- the trick is to generate compelling enough material that will attract plugged in animal lovers. Of course, once these files are on cellphones they will potentially be viewed and shared by those outside of a zoo, museum, etc, but that’s the best free Word of Mouth Marketing you can achieve these days.

Keeping Up with the Herd

I was very happy to see that our hometown zoo had taken to the wonders of smartphones. Still, I feel there room for growth. The Philadelphia Zoo does have an app that is advertised to all guests upon arrival: why not house all content within the app? What I mean by this is to have all additional copy, photos, videos, and audio built into the app so to increase speed and rate of consumption. People will view additional media if its provided in a fashion that is both compelling and concise.

‘Speed is king’, isn’t only applicable for the animal kingdom.


Have you been to a public institution that is implementing social media to it’s fullest ability? Are they making all their patrons aware of their efforts?