The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the United States and the fifth-largest in the world. But even one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city of Atlanta has room for improvement. Chief marketing and experience officer Dan Dipiazzo was specifically looking to draw more local guests, encourage repeat visitation, and diversify patron demographics beyond elementary school groups and families. He solicited students from Denish Shah’s Social Media Intelligence class at the Robinson College of Business for help.
Split into groups, the students used social media listening platform Talkwalker to filter conversations regarding the Georgia Aquarium, analyze their sentiment and tone, and recommend operational improvements. Each team presented a comprehensive social media strategy to Dipiazzo and the aquarium’s social media staff at the end of the semester.
M.S. in Marketing student Devin Edwards found herself speaking most passionately about enticing a more diverse swath of guests. For starters, the aquarium’s marketing collateral should include images of people from a variety of ages, sexes, and ethnicities as well as a mix of couples and families versus single folks.
“Pictures of different kinds of people like a couple on a date or an older gentleman would help people realize the aquarium isn’t just for little kids,” Edwards said. “It would convey the message in a genuine way without coming across as super corporate.”
Then there are the locals who assume that after visiting the aquarium once, they have nothing new to see or experience. But the aquarium hosts special events like wellness workshops, Dragon Con Night, and after-hours parties with cocktails and live music. Edwards and her peers emphasized the importance of advertising those opportunities to Atlantans—and pointed out the aquarium’s digital channels as the ideal place to do it.
“The aquarium’s social media platforms weren’t being used as a promotional tool. They were mainly driving traffic to the ticketing page,” Edwards said. “Posts about upcoming scuba diving lessons or a new shark species would build excitement and energy, as opposed to hoping people randomly catch wind of those things.”
The students also categorized conversations conducted about the Georgia Aquarium and outlined major themes. One of them was animal cruelty. However, the Georgia Aquarium is a nonprofit dedicated to research and conservation. For example, the aquarium houses the Ocean Visions - UN Decade Collaborative Center for Ocean-Climate Solutions, which designs, tests, and delivers scalable and equitable ocean-based solutions to mitigate and reverse the effects of climate change—the only center of its kind in the country. As one of only three Centers for Species Survival in the United States, the Georgia Aquarium trains other zoos and aquariums to save endangered species. Other initiatives include the restoration of the coral reef’s heavily damaged ecosystem, a partnership with the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds to rehabilitate the dwindling African penguin population, and the treatment of stranded sea lion pups along the coast of California. The list goes on.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much the aquarium is doing to help the environment,” Edwards said. “Those efforts should be in the spotlight.”
The students left Dipiazzo with a live social media listening dashboard so the aquarium can not only implement their recommendations but also refine the strategy moving forward.
“We received outstanding analyses and recommendations from the students,” he said. “It’s always great to hear fresh ideas and gain new perspectives.”
Edwards graduated in early August and recently accepted a position as marketing coordinator for Real Estate Business Analytics (REBA), a business intelligence and data analytics company. The project with the Georgia Aquarium prepared her for the role.
“The social listening techniques I built in class have been super helpful as I finalize the REBA’s reputation management guide, which involves developing our online voice and tone,” she said. “It’s crazy to say I get to do that!”