Okay Dept. of Wildlife Conservation goes viral and grows online community


TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Twitter account highlights the Sooner State gaining fans across the country.

You’ve probably seen some of the tweets appear 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 are using this strategy to promote Oklahoma wildlife.

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

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

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

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

“It’s a very big job. There are a lot of responsibilities attached to it,” Southerland explained. “You can’t really write a personality around someone you don’t know.”

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

The team started a Twitter journey with lots 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 have expanded to include people from other states and around the world after an agency’s post went viral during a cold spell in January.

Southerland credits much of the exposure to their commitment. The team responded quickly to people who found the tweet funny and interacted. She said people love when brands actively engage with their audience.

“A good tweet or someone good on Twitter will make a joke,” she explained. “But if you want to go viral or even profit from it, people have to feel like there’s someone on the other side of the conversation.”

The strategy seemed to work. The agency has seen higher engagement at events like the Super Bowl and has seen a boost in engagement with recent educational tweets.

So, who writes the funny posts?

Southerland said the account is a team effort since everyone on the team is “really funny” and has “very different personalities”. All members of the social media team can contribute tweets. It even became “a game” in a way.

The team’s inspiration is simple: it comes from their daily lives. They use the pop culture of what they watch and do to create the posts.

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

She acknowledged that Twitter can be more difficult as it’s not “a photo or video sharing app”, and the social media team takes what they can get. Southerland said it helps their old and new followers love that a government agency isn’t “following the rules” in how they engage online.

The agency used this to its advantage when it introduced a new logo and referenced a classic movie plot to encourage people to sign up for the youth summer camp.

Southerland can’t predict the future, but she knows the ODWC is pursuing what it does best: focusing on inclusion and its mission: to educate and introduce people to Oklahoma’s diverse wildlife.

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

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