The following is excepted from a post by Anthony Shop, Chief Strategy Officer & Co-Founder at Social Driver. Shop wrote that like most people, he had never heard of Carole Baskin or Big Cat Rescue until “Netflix’s Tiger King became the escape I needed from the global COVID-19 pandemic. And while most of my friends are obsessed with whether this so-called “Mother Theresa of Cats” fed her husband to the tigers (I will let Carole defend herself on that one), I was fascinated by how her nonprofit organization used digital and social media to expand its reach, raise money, attract visitors, and lobby Congress well before most of us had ever heard of it. In fact, I found myself wondering, “Is Carole Baskin actually a marketing genius?”

“Let’s start with a bit of background. The nonprofit Big Cat Rescue is “an accredited sanctuary dedicated to providing a permanent home for rescued big cats.” Under the leadership of Carole Baskin, it has grown from a humble 4,208 visitors in 1998 to more than 30,000 visitors last year. The jump in physical visitors alone is impressive, but tells only part of the story. Over this time, BCR has amassed an enviable digital presence:

  • 504 million cumulative YouTube views
  • 1.16 million YouTube subscribers
  • 2.6 million Facebook followers
  • 2.3 million website visitors
  • 330,000 Twitter followers
  • 79,000 email subscribers
  • 40,000 print newsletter subscribers

“Looking at these numbers would make many nonprofit leaders lick their lips. So, how did a little-known animal sanctuary in the Sunshine State capture the attention of so many? Here are some digital strategy lessons we can learn from Big Cat Rescue.

“Be first to join the pack

“Big Cat Rescue began staking out its digital territory before many of its competitors had even ventured outside their own dens. Cat videos were always among the viral hits on the Internet, so it’s no surprise that big cats also drive people wild. One of BCR’s early forays into reaching way more people than could ever visit its Tampa headquarters was joining YouTube on August 15, 2006. To give some context, this is before Google bought YouTube and before the American Red Cross even had a channel. Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms followed. BCR was an early adopter—not only signing up for the platforms but also experimenting with their different features—and it has paid off.

“Did you know you can upload a video to your Facebook cover photo? Your marketing director didn’t. Carole Baskin did.

“Does your favorite nonprofit have a TikTok strategy? Carole Baskin and her tigers do—1.5 million likes and counting.”

You can read the full article here.

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