Audubon Bird Watching A Social Media Success

After more than 100 years in existence, the National Audubon Society is proving that it’s still something to crow about. The nonprofit conservation group recently wrapped up a wildly successful social media campaign aimed at getting a new generation flocking to watch birds.

Birding the Net was an interactive social media game on the Internet that invited players to spot and “collect” birds on hundreds of websites over the course of one month.

image via Shutterstock

“One of our big missions is to inspire and engage with habitat conservationists, to provide education and awareness,” Jessica Green, vice president of engagement at the National Audubon Society, said in a phone interview with EarthTechling.

That mission began more than century ago, in 1905, when the Audubon Society was founded. It was a radical idea at the time; instead of killing birds and using their feathers for decorative accessories like hats, which was common practice at the time, the organization – named for the painter and ornithologist John James Audubon – challenged people to enjoy watching birds in nature. Over the years, the organization has grown into a network of nearly 500 local chapters across North America.

But within the last few decades, bird watching has had some tough competition from other activities. Television, video games and the Internet have trumped many outdoor activities, including birding. To help change that, Audubon recently came up with another radical idea. Get younger generations excited about birds by bringing them into a new community, the Internet.

So, Birding the Net was born, thought up by creative agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and timed to capitalize on 20th Century Fox’s debut of The Big Year movie featuring Owen Wilson and Steve Martin, who are competing to find the rarest birds in North America. Green said with the release of the movie, birds were sure to be on the minds of the public. And the game was designed specifically to target that awareness to 20 to 50 year olds.

“We had three goals with Birding the Net,” Green said. “We wanted to engage a new generation with Audubon. We wanted to build a connection with that audience about our mission and we wanted to raise the visibility of Audubon.”

According to Green, the campaign did all of that. Birding the Net wrapped up in early November and final metrics show that during the month there were over 90 million website impressions.

“I think it was bigger than The Big Year,” Green said. “We were able to bring in a lot of interest and generosity.”

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.