A couple of weeks back, Professor Anthony Rotolo and I both received an email invitation to visit the Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnett Park to speak with a team from the Friends of the Zoo (their administrative arm) about increasing the Zoo’s social media presence. This is a pretty common occurrence, and we were happy to oblige. But when they mentioned we would be getting a behind-the-scenes tour with the animals we both knew this was going to be an awesome opportunity.
I wasn’t even aware that the Syracuse Zoo had a social media presence when we were invited, but I quickly became aware that they have both a Twitter and Facebook presence that are doing quite well on their own, and are currently run by the Zoo’s Director of Public Relations, Lorell Walter. We met with Lorell yesterday, along Friends of the Zoo president Janet Agostini and Marketing Director Maria Simmons. They were all very interested in how social media could help increase awareness of programs at the zoo, including research, conservation efforts, education and events, and share more of what goes on at the zoo with the community at large.
Anthony and I both agreed early on that the Zoo is a prime property for social media. People absolutely love animals, and they really love photos and videos of animals…and peeks behind the scenes, even better. We were absolutely overflowing with ideas on how the Zoo could use social media to meet its goals, and knew this could be a great partnership.
The bottom line is we are going to work with the zoo on their social media beginning next semester. The Syracuse Zoo will be one of the first clients of the new center currently being created in the iSchool which will focus on social media, data visualization and data science. Students in Professor Rotolo’s Advanced Topics in Information Innovation class (IST 620) will have the opportunity to work with the zoo, or one of several other high profile local institutions already locked down, on designing and implementing their social media strategy. I’m thinking we might need to draw straws for who gets to work on the zoo project, but the other clients are awesome as well.
Getting to pet a penguin is pretty cool. What’s even cooler is forming partnerships with local organizations that will give our students real world problems to work on and advance their educational growth. That’s just how we roll at the iSchool!