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National Geographic’s Founding Mission

National Geographic’s founders were on a mission to explore and protect the planet through storytelling. As an organization renowned for their striking photographs, Nat Geo had an upper hand compared to its more text heavy counterparts. Like many publishers though, they had to adapt to new distribution platforms and increased competition for consumer attention. Finding ways to consistently reach a digital audience was still a struggle. So how has a 130 year old nature photography publication, consistently ranked among the most recognized social media brands across all demographics?

In May, Nat Geo hired Jonathan Hunt as their new SVP of Audience Development & Digital Strategy. Hunt previously worked for Vox and Vice, two well-known brands among younger demographics. Over the next month, Nat Geo restructured its content teams and relaunched their Snapchat Discovery profile. Now, their Snapchat strategy focuses more on storytelling and audience input.

Adjusting for Snapchat

The company now puts out an average of 12 content pieces daily and has quadrupled its daily unique users since the relaunch. Their storytelling strategy and effective use of Snapchat’s design features, is extremely manageable even for the smallest marketing team. Since they increased their daily content output and switched to a cohesive storytelling style, they have gained over 3 million Snapchat Discovery subscribers.

Daily Content Democracy

national geographic snapchat feature dogsTheir content is formatted in four tiles with initial images to draw viewers. The clickthrough content provides additional context and information to tell the story behind the image. Three hours after publishing their daily content on Snapchat, the most clicked on tile becomes Nat Geo’s cover feature for the remainder of the day. Using this method, they draw from early audience consensus rather than assuming what material will be most popular.

A previously audience-selected cover feature? Puppies. Though not necessarily a hard hitting topic, Nat Geo values its users’ preferences and doesn’t take its brand too seriously. Though viewers clicked on the canine feature most, this presentation method has doubled the brand’s daily completion rates. This refers to the number of users who click through all of Nat Geo’s daily features (not just the puppies). Completion rate is an important engagement statistic on Snapchat.

The brand, as it always has, trusts its photographers and videographers to produce content however they see fit. For the most part, the team has free reign to explore and experiment with new technology to enhance and digital strategy is built from that. Trust the creative minds producing your content. Don’t fall into the trap of forcing your creative team to use 360-degree video unless it truly adds to the viewer’s experience.