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OK Dept. of Wildlife Conservation goes viral, grows online community

Posted at 6:02 AM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 12:53:00-04

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma’s Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Twitter account is putting the spotlight on the Sooner State by gaining fans across the country.

You’ve probably seen some of the tweets showing up in your timeline. They have a dose of sarcasm, pop culture references and a fun tone.

2 News reached out to OWDC to talk about their viral tweets and how they’re using this strategy to promote Oklahoma’s wildlife.

Sarah Southerland, a member of the social media team, said the growing interest in the Twitter account is due to teamwork and a lot of experimenting.

Southerland started with the Oklahoma City Thunder. She did a wide range of work for the professional basketball team, including production and podcasting.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt compelled to see what else was out there and ended up joining the ODWC. Her official role is communication and education specialist for its social media team.

Southerland spent the first six months on the job learning about the fish and wildlife across the state. She said it helped her understand the impact of the agency’s communication with others, especially through social media.

“That’s a really big job. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes into it,” Southerland explained. “You can’t really write a personality around someone that you don’t know.”

Shortly after she started the agency decided to redirect its brand on social media. An audit found people connected with them on Facebook and Instagram, but she joked Twitter was their “problem child.”

The team started a Twitter journey with a lot of jokes and testing the waters with their followers. Over time, they saw “hundreds and thousands of interactions” that led to what the account is now.

Fans expanded to include people from other states and around the world after an agency’s post went viral during a cold snap in January.

Southerland credits a lot of the exposure to their engagement. The team responded quickly to people who found the tweet funny and interacted. She said people love it when brands actively interact with their audience.

“A good tweet or someone good at Twitter will crack a joke,” she explained. “But if you want to go viral or even take advantage of that, people need to feel like there’s somebody on the other side of the conversation.”

The strategy seemed to work. The agency saw higher engagement during events like the Super Bowl and saw a boost of engagement with recent educational tweets.

So, who’s writing the funny posts?

Southerland said the account is a team effort since everyone on the team is “really funny” and has “wildly different personalities.” Everyone on the social media team can contribute to the tweets. It even became “a game” of sorts.

The team’s inspiration is simple: it’s from their everyday life. They use pop culture of what they’re watching and doing to create the posts.

“This brand of humor, in particular, is so accessible that it’s almost inclusive,” said Southerland.

She acknowledged Twitter can be harder since it’s not “a photo or video-sharing app,” and the social media team takes what they can get. Southerland said it does help that their old and new followers love it when a government agency doesn’t “follow the rules” in how they engage online.

The agency used this to their advantage when they introduced a new logo and referenced a classic film plot to encourage people to sign up for summer youth camp.

Southerland can’t predict the future, but she does know the ODWC is continuing what they do best: focusing on inclusion and its mission –educating and introducing people to Oklahoma’s diverse wildlife.

To learn more about the ODWC and wildlife native to Oklahoma, click here.

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