Follow Friday: Zoo New England

Cute animal overload!

What really is the Internet good for if you’re not looking at picture of cute animals? Look no further than Zoo New England, the operation behind Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham. Between its Instagram and Facebook, they won’t disappoint. Here, we spoke with Zoo New England’s senior marketing manager Elizabeth Stefan to discuss social media strategy, the ‘most shared’ animals, and her favorite heartwarming story.

Follow Friday, At a Glance
Connect with Zoo New England on social media:

facebook Franklin Park Zoo
facebook Stone Zoo
twitter Twitter
instagram Instagram

How many people run Zoo New England’s various social media accounts? How do you manage all of them?

Zoo New England’s Marketing Department is comprised of Brooke Wardrop, Director of Marketing & Communications; Elizabeth Stefan, Senior Marketing Manager; Caitlin McCartan, Webmaster; and Rachel Arias, Marketing Coordinator.

I lead social media strategy with approval and input from Brooke. I maintain the Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts, and work closely with Rachel on our Facebook pages. Caitlin’s video editing skills have been a huge asset as we work to integrate more video components into our social strategy.

What are the goals for the zoo on social media, and where does your content come from? Zoo employees, photographers?

Through our social media channels, we aim to inspire and educate current and future Zoo fans, encourage people to discover and treasure our amazing planet, and show gratitude to our supporters. I strive to create an engaging and approachable atmosphere via our pages. Whether a follower has a question regarding our animal collection, area volunteer opportunities, or wildlife in their own backyard, we want to serve as a reliable resource for their inquiries.

We are fortunate to not only have an endless source of adorable animal content, but also an active events schedule. From Star Wars Day to Brew at the Zoo, Science and Conservation Day, ZooLights, there is an event for every age-level and interest, and we promote them all through our social media channels. Because we are home to a living collection, each visit to the Zoo is different. Thanks to the generosity of several local photographers, and our talented staff, we are able to illustrate this variety through stunning photography.

In three words, describe the voice and tone of Zoo New England’s social media.

Friendly, educational, adorable.

Which social media account is the strongest channel? In other words, if you had to pick, which one is the must-follow?

All of our channels provide something different, but for the one-stop-shop, I would recommend following our Twitter account. It includes a mix of information from both Zoos, conversations with our audience, fun facts, shared Instagram posts, conservation tips, and much more.

Which animals at are the “most shared” on social media?

While each type of animal—mammal, reptile, or bird—has its own particular fan club, cats, and particularly young cats, are by far the most popular!

Are some more camera-shy than others? Any red carpet divas?

A true child of the digital age, Kambiri, a four-year-old western lowland gorilla at Franklin Park Zoo, is a ham for the camera. On the more camera-shy side, we have our new kiwis at Franklin Park Zoo. Nocturnal and shy by nature, it takes a patient eye to spot them within their exhibit.

What’s the weirdest, most surprising, or most outspoken feedback you’ve gotten via social media?

Each winter and spring we receive well-meaning requests from young Romeos who wish to enlist the help of our collection in their prom and marriage proposals. Most of the requests involve the animals either holding or wearing signs, and while we are always touched by their thoughtfulness, we can’t accommodate these requests. We use the opportunity to educate them about the animals and, if the staff is available, see if we can help in another way. For example, in December we assisted a man who proposed to his girlfriend at Stone Zoo’s ZooLights, by pretending their private tour was nothing out of the ordinary.

Since you’ve been with the Zoo, what has been your personal favorite story to share on social media?

Since his arrival last November, Blue, a cougar kitten, has stolen many hearts—mine included. In early November, Blue made the journey from central Idaho to his new home in Massachusetts. The male kitten, at approximately four weeks old, was found near Salmon, Idaho and taken to a local veterinary clinic. The next day, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game returned the kitten to the location where he was found in the hopes that his mother was nearby. Following this attempt to reunite Blue with his mother, he was once again found alone and he was once again returned to the veterinary clinic. At that time, Idaho Department of Fish and Game determined that the kitten could not be returned back to the wild and that a permanent home would need to be found. Zoo New England answered that call.

His story has become one of my favorite to share because it involves many components, including the educational opportunity to remind people not to interfere with wildlife; the chance to showcase our staff’s hard work; examples of our strong partnerships outside the zoo; and, of course, an endless opportunity for adorable photos. In fact, a Zoo guest recently shared that her daughter loves Blue so much that she requested that he adorn her 9th birthday cake. Stories like this are a joyful reminder of the impact that we’re having on future generations.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.