How National Park Service is using social media to reach minorities

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This past year NPR published an article about how the National Park Service (NPS) was making a strong effort to reach minority groups. The NPS has been having trouble engaging with minority groups for years. Even though minorities make up 40% of the U.S. population, they only make up 20% of the NPS visitors.

One of the issues that the NPS faces is that people from minority groups didn’t grow up going to the parks, so they aren’t bringing their children. It is a big fear for the NPS, because minority populations are growing rapidly, which could lead to low park attendance in the future. The NPS has traditionally marketed attending the parks as an independent experience, and that isn’t very appealing to collectivist minority groups. They want to have experiences with their whole family around.

Some of the other problems minority groups reported were being busy with work, not having the money to pay park attendance, and not knowing much about the parks. Last year the NPS started the ‘Find Your Park’ social media campaign to target a diverse audience and to create awareness. Since beginning the campaign, they have seen record attendance at the parks. Since social media channels such as Instagram and Twitter are more popular among minorities, this was a good strategy to reach more people.

Even though the NPS has begun engaging with people through social media, there are still a lot more opportunities for them to reach minority populations by using emerging media. Perhaps they could approach prominent minority emerging media influencers (bloggers, YouTubers, etc.), and have them spend a day at a nearby park and then share the experience they have with their followers. Or maybe they should could seek out a celebrity endorsement through social media that would appeal to minority groups. ‘Find Your Park’ has been a great start, and I hope to see the NPS build on that momentum!

How do you think the NPS can improve its presence on social media to engage minority groups?

Here is a screen shot of some of the photos from #findyourpark!

Screen shot 2016-08-28 at 9.06.15 AM

 

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Author: hannahbakeryoung

I am an IMC grad student at West Virginia University.

6 thoughts on “How National Park Service is using social media to reach minorities”

  1. You mention an important issue regarding emerging media and its convergence with national parks’ promotion. I heard this report on NPR as well. I’ve notice myself a lack of diversity and this needs to change. Recently, I visited Alaska’s Denali National Park and indeed, I saw mostly White Americans visiting and working there. National Parks Trust website says that they have created “environmental education programs” targeting minorities, but I think they could use better social media use to increase representation. Here’s the link: https://www.parktrust.org/npt-news-archive/national-parks-try-to-appeal-to-minorities

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    1. It is really interesting that they have been trying to reach minorities for years, but they have been pretty unsuccessful. I think you’re right in saying that emerging media is the best option for them. Even just reaching young adults in general will help to secure the future of the parks. They are taking the right steps, but there are definitely more aspects of emerging media they can take advantage of!

      Hannah

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  2. What’s interesting about the overall point that you raise up here is that I feel like it could be to the National Park’s relationship with young people. I took a brief scan of different social media accounts for the NPS and some of the large National Parks and it looks like the parks are trying to make a good effort to be active on social media. I think it does help that they had a lot of social media activity around the NPS’ 100th birthday. I particularly enjoyed this tweet from the NPS https://twitter.com/NatlParkService/status/769185958080184320

    Going to your question at the end of the post, I think there are two things that the NPS can do to boost engagement with minorities. I think using influencers, like you mentioned could be a good way to boost their reach. I’ve seen brands bring in a number of influencers (usually bloggers) all in at once to engage with them, or you could have influencers come on their own and have an natural experience. Secondly, I think the NPS and the individual parks could start occasionally speaking directly to the minority audiences. This could be done by using a particular hashtag, or individual parks could speak about how their unique history resonates with minorities. What I think I’m getting at is that on social media parks are speaking very broadly, and don’t focus on specific audiences (such as minorities).

    What I think will be important for parks is to make sure whatever approach they take to boost engagement through emerging media channels translates to visitors.

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    1. Thank you for your response! The last thing you mentioned about speaking directly to minorities is interesting. It is so important to address people in a personal way to reach them. The NPS has actually done a bit of this by having a #findyourpark hashtag in Spanish. They are particularly concerned that many parks in areas highly populated by Latinos are still being visited by mostly older white people. The park attendance doesn’t reflect the population of the surrounding communities. You’re right that it can be addressed by personalizing more campaigns to the minorities they are trying to reach!

      Hannah

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  3. Hannah, This New York Times piece from 2015 discusses the problems the National Parks have reaching minorities that live near the parks (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/opinion/sunday/diversify-our-national-parks.html?_r=0). I think a major step in attracting minorities to the parks will be increasing the number of minorities employed by the National Park Service. The parks should also reach out to local schools to build interest in attending parks. If the Park Service can capture the attention and imagination of students, the students may encourage their families to visit the parks.

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    1. The NPS has been trying to diversify internally, because as you said there isn’t a lot of diversity within the NPS. Reaching children is also an important aspect of increasing minority attendance. If the NPS can peak interest in children while they are young, as they grow up they will hopefully continue to visit and bring their families for years to come! The NPS needs to create more of a community around the parks that holds visitors attention and keeps them coming back!

      Hannah

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