Skift Take

The Interior Department's first smart move was leveraging its own photo resources to build a social presence. It's now engaging the public on important department issues while generating excitement about the parks that were once at risk of being forgotten.

The U.S. Government isn’t the first group most people think of when they consider incredible travel content. The Department of the Interior is quickly changing that.

The U.S. Department of the Interior manages national parks, wildlife refugees, and public lands. The department dug into its wealth of gorgeous landscape photos when it launched its first social media account — a Facebook profile — in August 2010.

Tim Fullerton, director of digital strategy at DOI, explains that discovering the power of the photos made it easier to branch out to other platforms.

Most of the recent praise speaks to the awesomeness of the department’s Instagram account, but its digital savvy goes beyond the mobile app to include an active Twitter account, a stocked YouTube page, and informative Facebook profile.

To keep the momentum rolling, DOI launched a summer campaign to attract photos of people hiking, fishing, biking, and camping on American public lands. The program, Summer in America’s Great Outdoors, brought in more than 1,200 photos — many of which were voluntarily taken by the department’s own 77,000 employees.

The staff’s active participation in the campaign highlights how the Interior’s work is more than a job, but a passion, for many employees.

Social Media’s Impact

Fullerton says it’s still difficult to measure social media’s impact on visitations, but that the number of followers for each account is growing rapidly.

The department’s domestic and international reach grows with every follower, and from a marketing perspective, the department considers its social media efforts a wild success.

The department’s Facebook account added nearly 8,000 followers in six months and its Instagram gained nearly 94,000 followers in one year.

A Clear Social Strategy

DOI aims to attract visitors from around the world as well as spread awareness of the amazing parks, many of which are located within 100 miles of Americans’ hometowns.

“We have a mix of the promoting public lands and policy issues and getting people excited. Each channel is used a little different, but all have the same goal,” explains Fullerton.

DOI launched its Instagram account just over a year ago in June 2012. There are now more than 700 images posted, which each attract thousands of “Likes” from almost 94,000 followers.

DOI’s social media team follows a simple strategy for the platform: One photo in the morning and one in the afternoon.

U.S. Department of the Interior launched its Twitter account @Interior in September 2009.

According to the social intelligence platform SkiftSocial, the account sends out an average of 5.2 tweets a day. The tweets go beyond static posts to engage followers. In the past two weeks, 47 percent of all tweets – or 34 of 73 tweets –  were retweets and replies.

The most common tweets are images of public lands managed by the DOI, using the handles of individual parks. Others include political announcements, links to YouTube videos, and retweets of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Every week, DOI posts a three-minute wrap-up on recent work and news on YouTube. The department then shares the videos via Twitter and Facebook.

On Facebook, the DOI sends an average of 1.5 posts or replies a day. This platform gives the department the most freedom to provide background on national parks and public issues. Fullerton says fans on Facebook are the most likely to share policy-related content and the department will often pair press releases with a related photo.

DOI also posts a daily photo to Tumblr. More than 29,000 people have the photo sent directly to their inbox every morning.

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Tags: instagram, national parks, social media, usa

Photo credit: A young girl and her father hike through Santa Cruz Island in California. U.S. Department of the InteriorPatrick and Abby Marek have a blast on Santa Cruz Island, CA (within Channel Islands NP) / Flickr

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