Role - Digital Strategist, Feb 2019
Tools - Social Media
1. Increase Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s reputation as being a place of aquatic beauty and fascination
The ability of Ripley’s Aquarium Canada to be able to prove that they foster a beautiful and fascinating “aquatic world” on social media, helps put on display their uniqueness among other exhibits and activities that are gaining attention on social media. These efforts can then lead to a more credible reputation as a beautiful and worthy place to visit. Through social media management, this objective is imperative to the company's success on social media, because there is limited time to catch the attention of social media users. There has to be a part of their social media efforts that can grab the immediate attention of social media users before their attention moves on to another post.
2. Increase Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s educational impact around aquatic world conservation
Educating visitors about the aquatic world to lead to further conservation is imperative to Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s success on social media. There needs to be something that lets people know that they are special compared to others on social media. As important as it is for them to gain initial attention, it is just as important for them to maintain that attention, engagement, interest, and loyalty on social media to ideally lead to converting audience interest into profit through their social media efforts. Therefore, Ripley’s Aquarium Canada has to demonstrate that they are special not just because of their face value, but because of the difference that they make for their aquatic
community by being transparent about their company practices and the future of conserving the aquatic world.
3. Maintain and increase demographics of all ages
Being known as a place for all ages through their social media presence is another very important objective that is imperative to the organization’s success on social media. This is because social media use is clearly rising within multiple age groups. Therefore, to increase their success on social media, they have to ensure that their social media maintains good engagement with as many social media users within as many age groups as possible. Ripley’s Aquarium Canada is also apart of Canada’s tourist industry which has a very large range of age demographics. Therefore, it is also very important that this company maintains their age-friendly brand image on social media to maintain their credible brand name in the Canadian tourism industry.
* This SWOT analysis is based heavily on the last couple of months (January-February, 2019) *
Followers and page likes:
- FaceBook Approximately: 95 317 page likes, 93, 951 followers
- Twitter Approximately: 15.6k followers, 12.5k tweets, 582 following
- Instagram Approximately: 24.4k followers, 517 posts, 0 following
- Easy email sign up, public reviews are visible, "about" and "event" sections are sufficiently filled out, and on average responds to messages within a day
- Exemplifies professional responses to comment concerns
- Views on videos
- Only 2 active ads currently, not over-promoting
- Promoted posts are significantly higher quality and well produced compared to daily posts
FaceBook and Twitter:
- Posting consistency (every day) and high posting frequency (3-5 times a day approximately)
- Has a mix of images and videos
- Caption length and structure consistency
- Consistent hashtags used for photos, interesting facts, and featured fan photos
- Quality visuals and consistent aesthetic
- Not posting multiple times a day
- More consistent comments and likes compared to FaceBook and Twitter
- Specialized expertise and knowledge about the aquatic world
- #Sealikeshare campaign that encourages more user-generated content (Dec-Feb, 2019)
- Needed contact and location information is filled out clearly
- Use of aquatic puns (humour) and use of aquatic emojis (friendly for all ages)
- Consistent look across all three platforms (profile picture, cover photo, usernames)
- Instagram feed is not attached or easily linked
- People cannot post on their page
- Only two promoted posts, possibly not promoting enough
- Very low audience engagement compared to FaceBook and Instagram
- Little to no evidence of retweeting
FaceBook and Twitter:
- High posting frequency (3-5 times a day approximately)
- Low and quite sporadic engagement (comment/share/likes) in comparison to their follower counts
- Structure of captions are consistent but might get boring
- Duplicate posts/captions/photos used quite a bit between platforms
- Not many videos
- A quite low posting consistency and frequency
- Low amount of comments
- Generally, low usage of hashtags and direct tags to other accounts and pages
- Not very active in engaging with the audience (commenting and liking back)
- Currently has fairly positive media coverage around their conservation efforts and educational programs
- Not many other big aquariums in/around Ontario, Canada
- Take advantage of the new trend of social media aesthetics and destination fascination
- Increase in post creativity (For example, come up with more creative post ideas like their Super Bowl inspired video of their turtle race)
- Produce and post more videos to gain more views
- Utilize more hashtags and direct tags
- Create and offer more opportunities for user-generated content for all platforms and future creative needs of the company
- Take advantage of the specialties and differences in engagement patterns of each platform (such as adjusting posting frequency, tone, and length of captions according to platform needs)
- Draw more cross-platform attraction, especially to their home owned website
- Possible changes to social media platform demographics
- Animal cruelty and vegan activism on social media (animal cruelty controversies and beliefs around aquarium practices)
- Accounts are all public, therefore, the possibility of other accounts stealing or strategizing off of their social media presence
- Constant rise of new tourist attractions in Canada and Toronto, therefore, an increase in social media competition within the industry
According to Chloe West’s article on SproutSocial for 2019 social media demographics of Americans, which is arguably quite comparable to Canadian social media trends, the higher demographics for FaceBook currently include males and females between ages 18 to 65 who live within more urban and suburban locations. In other words, FaceBook has a very wide range of users. From analyzing Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s FaceBook page, I would not be surprised if their social media management team targets these demographics, specifically including parents.
First, all of their post captions are clear and significantly easy to read, and accompanied with visual aids. Due to FaceBook having a lot of users within many groups of demographics, it makes sense that they are making a good effort to ensure their content is accessible and intriguing to their wide range of users by mixing visuals with easy to read captions. Even suggested in a Hootsuite article written by Paige Cooper, more visually engaging content, specifically videos, engage people longer. Secondly, Ripley’s Aquarium Canada is located
downtown Toronto, an urban city, and their FaceBook content heavily reflects this aspect to their company. Ripley’s Aquarium Canada is for sure in the industry of tourist attractions. However, instead of their FaceBook posts being focused on attracting international tourists, they seem to keep their posts focused on promoting and bringing awareness to their events, programs, and opportunities within their Toronto location. Lastly, they post on FaceBook a lot about their very age inclusive programs and events. Therefore, it seems reasonable to believe that within their adult target audience, they pay special effort in targeting more specifically to parents, because they can then attract the attention of both the adult and youth age demographics at the same time.
From looking at Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s Twitter account, it seems as if their target audiences are very similar to their FaceBook target audiences. From the images, videos, and captions posted to their Twitter, if you cross-reference their FaceBook page, almost the exact same posts are posted to their FaceBook page simultaneously. The only major differences that I can tell between these two accounts, are their Twitter captions are sometimes slightly shorter in length and they tend to tweet a lot more frequent reminders within shorter periods of time. However, from noticing these slight differences and taking into account the articles I mentioned previously as well as Hootsuite’s article on Twitter statistics, it seems likely that their Twitter audience is a little bit more focused within the teens to young adults. According to Cooper, a significant amount of Twitter users also pay attention to the news on Twitter. Therefore, it seems like a justifiable assumption to assume that a lot of Twitter users are interested in quick and up to date information, which is exactly what Ripley’s Twitter account caters towards when they tweet their frequent program and event reminders.
Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s Instagram account has a very cohesive aesthetic of visuals, highlights their programs and events significantly less than on their other platforms, and focuses a lot on sharing visual beauty and interesting facts about the aquatic world. Therefore, it seems likely that their target audience includes males and females in their teens to under 30s, who also tend to be more visually engaged and active within social media platforms, as supported by Todd Clarke’s Hootsuite article.
It is widely known that Instagram specializes in photo and video sharing. According to many people, including Seth Anthony who wrote an article with Social Media Week, younger social media audiences actually tend to be more drawn to creative and engaging visuals than older audiences are, which makes Instagram the perfect platform to engage with their younger target audiences. Being a young adult myself who is constantly on social media with my friends, I can also confidently attest to this. The value that my friends and I put into portraying ourselves through social media in a visually engaging and appealing way continues to rise. As Instagram is becoming more increasingly filled with commercial efforts, we now also place a lot of value on
the way companies present themselves on social media as well. Therefore, it seems like Ripley’s Aquarium Canada makes a good effort in ensuring that their Instagram feed maintains a cohesive and aesthetic look to create a visually appealing brand image for these target audiences.
As well, Instagram users are becoming a lot more aware of the use of brand advertising and promotions now. Just from scrolling through one Instagram account, you can notice the difference between the engagement on posts that are trying to promote something compared to posts that are more organic. Moreover, it also seems like Ripley’s Aquarium Canada is taking into consideration this awareness among their target audience. This helps further rationalize their reasons behind not posting as much about their events and promotions on their Instagram, rather focuses more on the visual beauty and uniqueness of their aquatic world.
Social Media Strategies
Strategy 1: Post appealing images and videos at Ripley’s Aquarium Canada on Instagram to gain interest and appeal with #FeaturedFishFridays, #TuesdayTidbit, and #FeaturedFanPhoto
- By posting appealing images and videos at Ripley’s Aquarium Canada on their Instagram account, they are able to target the correct audience effectively in a way that highlights their Aquarium as a place of aquatic beauty and fascination
- Including specific hashtags to complement the photos and videos that they post can improve their reputation as a beautiful and fascinating place, because the recurring hashtags let people know that there are always new beautiful things to be fascinated by every week
Strategy 2: Consistently post interesting and fun facts about the aquatic world to Instagram, FaceBook, and Twitter
- Posting interesting and fun facts about the aquatic world to all of their social media channels helps educate audiences about the aquatic world in a subtle way
- By consistently posting these subtle interesting and fun facts about the aquatic world, people are more likely to become more emotionally attached to the aquatic world that they are experiencing through Ripley’s Aquarium Canada
- By building this form of educational and emotional interest to the aquatic world, this helps inspire people to help support the conservation of Ripley’s Aquarium Canada and other aquatic communities
Strategy 3: Write clear, inclusive, and welcoming captions throughout Instagram, FaceBook, and Twitter
- By maintaining a consistent, clear, inclusive, and welcoming voice across all of their social media platforms, this allows more ability for their social media presence to attract a wider range of interests, ages, and communication skills sets
- Writing clear, inclusive, and welcoming captions across all of their social media platforms can also help maintain and build up their credible reputation as being a place safe for all ages, rather than using types of communication that could possibly seem inappropriate for certain groups of people
Paid, Earned, Owned and Shared Content Analysis
Paid - Currently, there are only two ads running on FaceBook for Ripley’s Aquarium Canada. By including one of their catchphrases “SEA.LIKE.SHARE” and direct links to book tickets on these posts, along with some images and videos, these paid ads are engaging but clearly intended to raise awareness, interest, and ticket sales. Therefore, this paid content seems to be trying to reach the clicked, interacted, and purchased sectors of the engagement food chain right away, as learned in class. As well as, as I have been scrolling through my Instagram stories the past few days, I have also noticed that there are some paid ads running on their Instagram too. Lastly, I also noticed that they have sponsored articles online that are promoting their unique aquatic world and conservation efforts. For example, there are a couple of articles written by Toronto Life and Daily Hive that are perfect examples of some of their more subtle paid content.
Earned - I noticed that Ripley’s Aquarium Canada does get featured in some news articles, like Narcity, outlining their unique atmosphere and events. Therefore, they have some earned content as they are continuously providing bloggers and news outlets many things to talk about and share with their own audiences. Especially with Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s #FanFeaturedPhoto, which encourages people to tag them in their photos to be featured on their social media platforms, I noticed that Ripley’s Aquarium is constantly being tagged and included in many hashtags across FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram. In other words, they are also receiving quite a fair share of earned content through their visitors who are posting and talking about their experiences on their own personal social media platforms.
Owned - The content that Ripley’s Aquarium Canada owns, includes their Instagram, FaceBook, Twitter, and website, which includes many of their own photos, videos, stories, program and event information, and interesting facts. For example, on their Instagram account, they post many stories highlighting their events, programs, staff, and conservation efforts. Their website also includes other forms of owned content such as their newsletters, Deep Sea Diary Blog, brochures, information and overview documents, media and promotion videos and b-roll clips, as well as available photo files for potential filmography and photography projects.
Shared - Ripley’s Aquarium Canada does not seem to have much-shared content on their Instagram, as they do not follow any other accounts and most of their posts are user-generated and owned content as previously mentioned. However, on their FaceBook and Twitter accounts, they do occasionally share other content in subtle ways. Rather than sharing posts from other social media sites directly, they sometimes will post with tags and hashtags drawing traffic to other platforms that they have some connection to, such as GoTrasit, Kids Help Phone, and Canadian Association of Science Centres. Another example of Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s shared content is NBC’s Earth Odyssey with Dylan Dreyer. They sometimes post short clips of upcoming episodes of Earth Odyssey on FaceBook to help draw traffic to NBC’s content due to its close relation to Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s content.
Gaps - Depending on their financial position for media communications, their limited paid content might be justified. However, their shared content definitely seems to be coming in short compared to their earned and owned content. It is understandable that they might want to limit how much attention and traffic they draw to other companies and organizations. Although, I believe there is still an opportunity in sharing a bit more content on their social media platforms like Earth Odyssey. This type of shared content could help provide more external resources for their audience to help expand and enhance their interest in aquatic and animal conservation.
Social Media Management Recommendations
1. Engage more with their audience
- I believe that Ripley’s Aquarium Canada could possibly increase their social media engagement with their audience by simply commenting back to those who comment on their posts, liking people’s comments, and even engaging on posts that have tagged and hashtagged them
- Even mentioned in Dominique Jackson’s SproutSocial article, one very well marketed company named Peel does so well on social media because of their well-managed audience response rate
- Pointed out by Jackson, the act of recognizing your audience on social media is a major strategy that can be the difference between converting a follower into a customer
- Personally speaking, as a social media follower of many companies, if companies are actively responding and liking comments, I am usually very quick to take notice and become more active towards them purely because of their reciprocated engagement
2. Post more short and engaging videos
- From analyzing Ripley’s Aquarium Canada’s social media platforms, their videos seemed to gain higher engagement compared to their non-video content, however, they post videos quite infrequently
- Suggested by Jesse Mawhinney, the writer of "45 Visual Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know in 2019", videos tend to be a leading strategy for content engagement compared to non-video content
- With YouTube being another leading platform today, people are now a lot more accustomed to videos and watching dynamic visuals
- This is not to say that still visuals are not effective, however, I believe there is a big opportunity to take advantage of within the video sharing culture on all three platforms
3. Create more opportunities for user-generated content
- Similar to their #Sea.Share.Like campaign, I believe there is a really big opportunity for them to engage with their audience a lot more, while also drawing in more user-generated content for their social media accounts
- The more user-generated content that is used, the more that people are going to hear about Ripley’s Aquarium Canada due to being posted across multiple platforms aside from just the company’s accounts
- Adding their hashtags to their social media biography sections could help make their user-generated content opportunities more noticeable and clear to users immediately as they visit their social media accounts
- If Ripley’s Aquarium Canada starts to open more opportunities for user-generated content, this could allow for more creativity on their part to continue spreading educational and conservation-related information in new and creative ways
Anderson, S. (n.d.). You can go to an underwater paint night at Ripley's Aquarium this spring. Retrieved from https://www.narcity.com/ca/on/toronto/things-to-do-in-to/you-can-go-to-an-underwater-paint-night-at-ripleys-aquarium-this-spring
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Daily Hive. (2019, Mar 3). Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto is shining a light on ocean conservation. Retrieved from https://dailyhive.com/toronto/ripleys-aquarium-toronto-ocean-conservation
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Ripley Aquariums. (n.d.). About us. Retrieved from https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/contact/about/
Toronto Life. (n.d.). Why the aquarium is Toronto’s most underrated Instagram paradise. Retrieved from https://torontolife.com/culture/todo/aquarium-torontos-instagram-paradise/
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