Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Going Viral

Social media is a funny thing. It’s also a very powerful thing. Just posting one photo or video or link opens the door to the potential of reaching millions upon millions of people around the globe. Let’s offer three examples from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Facebook page.

In December 2013, we came across a comic that plays off the 1992 tongue-in-cheek Christmas song by Elmo Shropshire, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” It shows a banged up, yet seemingly still grumpy grandma sitting in an armchair, reading her edition of the Daily Times newspaper with a wall mount of the guilty reindeer behind her. The December 19 post quickly went viral. More than 3,000 Facebook followers liked it while another 36,000 shared it. To date, it’s reached more than 1.9 million people.

Fast forward to January 2015. Stevie Beard posted a rather creative engagement photo taken by Joshua Rainey to the RMEF Facebook page. With a beaming yet victorious smile on her face, a high-powered rifle in her hands and wearing a white dress, denim jacket, cowboy boots and a scarf, she poses with her prey –an upside down fiancé Brady Hogevoll– hanging from the bucket of a front-end loader. In the foreground is a sign containing the simple phrase The Hunt is Over! 9/15/15.

Courtesy Joshua Rainey
The post went viral not once, but twice! It received 163,000 likes, more than 4,000 comments and followers shared it more than 31,000 times. In all, the photo reached more than 6.8 million people. One Facebook follower commented, “Excellent…good capture, rut must have been on. Clearly let his guard down and forgot everything else.” Stevie and Brody’s photo also spawned a flurry of other outdoor-related engagement photos from followers who posted their pictures in the comment section

As the photo continued to gain traction on social media, the story itself took on a life of its own among traditional media outlets on the Internet. It spread like wildfire from Oregon to Los Angeles to Chicago to New York on a multiplicity of TV, radio, magazine, blog and other online sites. It soared across the Atlantic Ocean where nearly all of England’s media outlets jumped on the bandwagon. Almost every single one of the online outlets, including the Cosmopolitan’s love and sex section back in the U.S., provided a link to the RMEF Facebook page where it all began. (By the way, Stevie successfully bagged her man and they tied the knot.)

Photos may make waves but videos can become viral tsunamis! In July 2015, we triggered such a movement. We came across a video created by a group called Archery Attack, located in Australia. It features a group of people divided up into two teams, toting bows with protective masks over their faces, and shooting arrows with large, padded tips. Set to music and brilliantly edited, the two sides take shots at each other in what can perhaps best be described as a cross between dodgeball and tag. Recognizing that a significant segment of RMEF members are bowhunters and may get a kick out of watching it, or possibly participating, we posted it to our Facebook page. 

Archery Attack
Our Facebook followers watched the video, commented on it and shared it again and again and again, causing it to take on a warp speed viral life of its own. Statistics showed the RMEF page reached 70-million people in just one week and picked up 20,000 new followers. We received Facebook messages, emails and voicemails from curious video watchers from across the United States, Australia, China, Pakistan, Canada, France, Brazil, Belgium, Central America, Hungary, South Africa and many places in between. They wanted to know how they could get involved and where they could go to play. We gladly directed all of them to Archery Attack. 

The numbers as of early February 2016 are astounding:
  • 3.5 million reactions, comments & shares
  • 42.4 million video views
  • 125.4 million people reached 

In mid-December 2015, we posted a video forwarded our way by Facebook follower Haley Nicole Gowen out of Montana. It’s rather short but comical in a sense. So far, it’s reached more than 9.1 million people.

Courtesy Haley Nicole Gowen
We have had many other videos, photos and links go viral but these four posts highlight a couple of things. First of all, RMEF's Facebook followers have vast and yet similar interests and, secondly, social media gives us the opportunity to spread our message to an ever-widening audience. And that’s a powerful thing!

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