The National Geographic Society is a “global non-profit organisation committed to exploring and protecting our planet.” Founded back in 1888, the National Geographic Society and its long-running self-titled magazine, National Geographic, continue to this day to pursue the mission “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world’s cultural, historical, and natural resources.” Now, in the digital age, National Geographic has a huge presence on social media to help educate a new generation.
National Geographic’s Social Media Presence
National Geographic’s (NatGeo) social media strategy contains “three key pillars: transforming the iconic yellow border into a ‘portal,’ shifting conversations with audiences from a monologue to a dialogue, and meeting users’ wants and needs.” These pillars uphold their large social media presence, spanning from classic platforms like Facebook and Twitter to visual platforms like Instagram and TikTok that cater to the younger generation.
Nat Geo’s social following as of August 2021:
Facebook: National Geographic 46.8m likes; National Geographic UK 64m likes; National Geographic Magazine 21m likes; National Geographic Adventure 10m likes; National Geographic Kids 2.7m likes; National Geographic TV 64m likes; National Geographic Traveller UK 154k likes; National Geographic Books 1.6m likes.
Facebook local variations: Revista National Geographic en español 10m likes; National Geographic Magazine Poland 272k likes; Historia National Geographic 1.9m likes; National Geographic Traveller Poland 234k likes.
Instagram: @natgeo 175m followers; @natgeouk 43k followers; @natgeoyourshot 5.7m followers; @natgeointhefield 13.3m followers; @natgeotravel 43.9m followers; @natgeoadventure 9m followers; @natgeotraveluk 78k followers; @natgeowild 12.3m followers; @natgeotv 4.7m followers; @natgeoexpeditions 1.4m followers; @insidenatgeo 586k followers; and more.
Instagram local variations: @natgeoindia 980k followers; @natgeomagazineru 546k followers; @natgeomagarab 1.8m followers; @natgeofr 146k followers; @natgeobrasil 674k followers; @natgeoindonesia 780k followers; @natgeoau 45.6k followers; @natgeofarsi 191k followers; and more.
Twitter: @NatGeo 26m followers; @natgeowild 1m followers; @NatGeoMag 493k followers; @NatGeoTV 2.2m followers; @NatGeoTravel 7.7m followers; @NatGeoTravelUK 51.6k followers; @NatGeoPhotos 5m followers; @InsideNatGeo 65k followers; @NatGeoPR 75.2k followers; @NatGeoMuseum 34k followers.
Twitter local variations: @NatGeoNL 21k followers; @NatGeoTVBrasil 282k followers; @natgeoafrica 50k followers; @NatGeoEspana 233k followers; @NatGeo_Asia 21.3k followers; @natgeotvturkiye 720k followers; @NatGeoFR 52.3k followers.
LinkedIn: National Geographic 3.3m followers; National Geographic Learning 12.9k followers; National Geographic Learning ELT 12.6k followers; National Geographic Traveller (UK) 4.7k followers; and more.
TikTok: @natgeo 382k followers / 1.8m likes.
As you can see, National Geographic has a strong presence on several social media platforms, reaching slightly different audiences, for different purposes, on each.
What does National Geographic get right on social media?
One of the greatest accomplishments of National Geographic’s online presence is their embrace of change and digitisation. As a company formed in 1888, they could easily be wrapped up in tradition and outdated methods. The reality is quite the opposite; Nat Geo stays true to itself while also building an online presence that is up to date, innovative, and strategic.
The iconic yellow border seen on the National Geographic magazine covers is now a symbolic “portal to the world, showcasing all of the wonder and beauty that it has to offer,” according to Nat Geo’s Facebook page. This rejuvenation of their timeless branding for the digital age was a bold move that ultimately has paid off. Nat Geo’s branding is unique to them and instantly recognisable across the globe, something most of us dream of achieving with social media marketing.
Utilising each platform’s unique offerings
Alongside embracing digital, Nat Geo truly utilises each social media platform’s unique offerings to their advantage. Nat Geo use each platform to their advantage, from sharing articles and important information on more text-based platforms to incredible photography/video on visual platforms.
Instagram is an incredibly visual platform, with a particular focus on high-quality photography and video. Instagram is also quite community and sharing-focused, through the widespread use of hashtags and resharing (with credit). Nat Geo get a lot of worth out of Instagram with their multiple profiles, tailored to specific purposes: sharing Nat Geo photography, sharing other users’ photos, promoting Nat Geo documentaries/shows, and more.
Perhaps Nat Geo’s most impressive feat on Instagram is the community they have curated to join people together with photography. The @natgeoyourshot Instagram account (now with 5.7m followers) has been frequently updated resharing amazing photographs taken by people all over the world. Using the hashtag #YourShotPhotographer, users can share their nature/wildlife photographs on Instagram for Nat Geo to interact with and share. This is known as user-generated content (UGC), content created by users and shared by businesses with permission, and is a great way for brands to get their audience and community involved on social media.
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Nat Geo is active on Facebook, through a global page as well as various profiles for their business branches and localising for language/region. Facebook is where, alongside video and image content, Nat Geo share important articles and campaigns. Similar to their LinkedIn presence, Nat Geo utilises Facebook for sharing significant news and updates, from travel to science to the environment.
Travel and history content is big on TikTok, and Nat Geo capitalise on this with fascinating videos taken from across the globe. While entertaining, these videos are also educational, and frequently teach little-known facts about history, nature, and animals. Additionally, they post behind-the-scenes insights into how Nat Geo photographers/videographers do their work, including how they manage to get their incredible shots of animals (without getting eaten). Nat Geo’s TikTok videos frequently reach over 1 million views (which is often regarded as viral status), proving that their content is working in the entertainment and educational departments.
Walking the walk
The National Geographic Society is committed to changing the world for the better. Not only do they ‘talk the talk,’ they action their words and embody change by running countless campaigns and projects to benefit wildlife/animals, the environment, science, and more. Nat Geo TV, found on most TV providers as well as on streaming services Hulu and Disney+, features compelling documentaries in each of Nat Geo’s areas of expertise and influence. Promoting this traditional medium through social media, as well as partnering with streaming services, helps to get Nat Geo’s important work in front of the younger, online-focused generation.
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This article was originally published in 2021, but was updated for relevance in 2023.