April the Giraffe: 7 Lessons Your Brand Can Use to Make the Next Viral Hit on Social Media


April the Giraffe and the birth of her calf at the Animal Adventure Park in upstate New York, was an internet phenomenon. At any given moment, up to 200,000 people were watching the live stream at all hours of the day, in the build up to the big moment; the video was first switched on back in February.

Live video allows people to feel they are a part of the experience, and thousands of people were glued to their screens for weeks, watching and waiting with great anticipation. With the calf now born, here are 7 lessons that every brand can learn from the live stream of April the Giraffe.

1. Your everyday is other people's extraordinary

As we go about our daily routines, especially at work, we never really stop to think that some of the "ordinary" things we will seem fascinating to other people. To a zookeeper, for example, the birth of a giraffe, while special, will not be something they haven't seen before. Compare this to the average person, to whom the chance to view the live birth of a cute, baby giraffe is something that doesn't really ever happen. In addition to this, April was some two months overdue - very usual - which made viewing that much more compelling.

Key takeaway: What is your ordinary that others would find extraordinary?

2. FOMO - Fear of Missing Out

When it comes to the delivery and sharing of news via social media, there's a currency amongst users who like to be the first to know, to see an event happen live, and tell their friends - and definitely not be the last. The key attraction of "Giraffe Cam" was a fear of missing out. Fans were glued to the live stream or checked in multiple times a day at the very least, to check on April's progress.

Key takeaway: Generate a FOMO to keep fans glued to your content.

3. The power of authenticity

The phenomenom of April the Giraffe's live stream (and all of the money-making merchandise sold as a result) was not planned and executed by a gaggle of highly-paid marketers and advertisers. The idea was thought up and launched by a small staff or hourly workers at the Animal Adventure Park. While Toys R Us ultimately sponsored the feed, its largely organic spread and genuine authenticity in the story, was a strong part of what captivated and appealed to viewers.

Key takeaway: Never underestimate the marketing power of authenticity.

4. Work with partners to generate more reach

When April reached her full-term of 15 months of pregnancy, Toys R Us were quick to seize on the opportunity to sponsor the live stream - their logo a permanent fixture on top of the live feed from that moment forward.

"We quickly became mesmerized (some might even say obsessed!) by #Aprilthegiraffe and were thrilled to join the millions of people from around the world who had been watching the live video feed from the Animal Adventure Park," Amy von Walter, a spokesperson for Toys "R" Us, told Fortune. "Our team reached out to the Zoo and we were able to agree on a sponsorship immediately."

It was a win-win deal. April the Giraffe provided the retailer with a continuous marketing campaign and a huge captive audience. Meanwhile, Toys R Us shared the story far and wide on its own social channels, and created additional content to support the whole event.

Key takeaway: Invite or reach out for support from key strategic partners as a way to bolster your campaign.

5. Create a variety of content in support

April's live stream might primarily have centered on YouTube, but the park didn't just stop there, using the event as a way to boost engagement on other social channels. This included daily updates on Facebook and Instagram, including photos, videos, and Q&s.

Key takeaway: Generate more buzz via other social channels.

6. Don't forget a call to action

If you find yourself with a successful, ongoing campaign on your hands, keep in mind your overall marketing objective and ask people to take action. If it's just to build brand awareness, you're pretty much there, but if you have a product to sell, want to collect leads, or generate interest in something else, make sure to tell your now-engaged (and hopefully receptive) audience! In the case of April the Giraffe, Animal Adventure Park placed a link to their Giraffe Emoji app in the description, as well as a link to donate to the organisation’s GoFundMe page. 

Key takeaway: Keep a level head despite the excitement of a social media hit, and funnel fans towards helping you achieve your business goals.

7. Capitalise on success for continued growth

Once a successful campaign has come to an end, aim to keep the momentum going for as long as you can with new, spin-off ideas. Now April's calf is born, you can be sure that people will be just as invested in her progress - choosing its name, growth, how it's settling in at the park, etc. As a result of the success of bringing April’s story to the world, Jordan Patch, Animal Adventure Park owner, has admirable intentions, telling Blooloop:

“As for our strategy in the future, we are going to take a more global approach. We’re going worldwide. We’re going to produce online educational videos and make those an available resource for teachers and other people who would like to use them for educational value.”

Key takeaway: Think about how you can build on the success of a social media hit.

Over to you

Were you glued to watching April the Giraffe's live stream? Did the strategies above give you inspiration for your own content strategy? Let me know in the comments below!

Andrew Macarthy is a social media consultant and the author of the #1 Amazon Web Marketing Bestseller, 500 Social Media Marketing Tips.

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