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Social media video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo can be critical tools for nonprofits looking to encourage engagement regarding their mission and brand. This is no different for zoos, aquariums, and museums (ZAMs). In fact, with the double bottom line of spreading a mission and “pushing the gate,” these videos aim to serve a dual function. With the rise of Pinterest and a Facebook shifting its focus to prioritize engaging content, it seems as though we may be at a turning point with the way that we use social media. In other words, ZAMS may find themselves producing more and more organic and/or creative, timely videos than they have in the past. We may be in the midst of this trend. Just check out the creative online initiatives that ZAMs took up for the 2011 holiday season.
In order to keep a pulse on YouTube views and subscribers in the ZAM community, I have compiled the “most viewed” videos from several institutions, which I chose by popular vote and visitation. While there are several similarities among the list in terms of type of videos with significant viewership, there is no magic formula for a popular video. I have compiled viewership information from twenty leading zoos, aquariums and museums. Here are the ZAMs that I monitored, in order of their number of subscribers (with links to respective YouTube channels):
- Museum of Modern Art– 17,684 subscribers
- American Museum of Natural History -13,605 subscribers
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – 4,613 subscribers
- San Diego Zoo -3,513 subscribers
- Cincinnati Zoo – 3,154 subscribers
- Monterey Bay Aquarium -2,689 subscribers
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – 1,866 subscribers
- Wildlife Conservation Society -1,808 subscribers
- Georgia Aquarium – 1,494 subscribers
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – 1,136 subscribers
- Columbus Zoo – 1,029 subscribers
- Saint Louis Zoo – 560 subscribers
- Shedd Aquarium – 539 subscribers
- The Henry Ford Museum – 423 subscribers
- National Aquarium– 348 subscribers
- Museum of Science and Industry – 244 subscribers
- Newport Aquarium, Cincinnati – 234 subscribers
- Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – 150 subscribers
- Pheonix Zoo – 125 subscribers
- Oklahoma City Zoo – 94 subscribers
Method: How did I decide this list? Recently, 10best.com held an open, online voting competition which allowed web users to vote for their top-ten favorite zoos, aquariums, and museums. I included #1 – #5 from the list of zoo, aquarium, and museum winners. Because this competition can be easily rigged by stakeholders, I also included a few of the most visited US museums that are recognized globally (MET, MoMA, ect), and I also added the San Diego Zoo and WCS in order to represent the highest-visitation zoos. I only recorded the top two most-viewed videos for each institution to prevent one organization from dominating this list and to provide a more inclusive overview. A thing to keep in mind while viewing these videos: while YouTube views provide an indication of the spread and share of a message/video, an institution’s subscribers (or, self-identified folks signing up to be kept in the loop on that organization’s video happenings), indicate a higher level of evangelism than views alone. In other words, subscribers (above) are a better score-keeper for folks looking to “rank” these organizations.The following article features YouTube videos from the organizations on this list based upon this methodology- It is not inclusive of all ZAMs and does not necessarily represent the ZAMs with the most views.
Of these institutions, chosen by popular vote and visitation, here is a countdown the YouTube videos that had the most views as of Sunday, March 4th, 2012:
20. Tour the Georgia Aquarium (110,855 views)
Promotional video for the Georgia Aquarium
19.Primordial Soup with Julia Child at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (119,627 views)
“Julia Child cooks up a batch of primordial soup and explains how these simple ingredients produce amino acids – the building blocks of life. This video played in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Life in The Universe gallery from 1976 until the gallery closed.”
18. Stadivari Violin, “The Antonius,” Played by Eric Grossman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (127,659 views)
This video features Eric Grossman performing the chaconne from JS Bach’s Partita no. 2 in D minor on a violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1717.
17. A Day at Shedd Aquarium (146,026 views)
Promotional and informational video regarding a trip to the Aquarium. “Charting your course to a fabulous day at Shedd can be smooth sailing! We want to make it easy for you to plan your visit. From ticket prices to directions to daily dive times, visit www.sheddaquarium.org to connect you to all the information you need to come face-to-fins with the fun stuff.”
16. Fantasea at Shedd Aquarium (164,404 views)
Official trailer for “Fantasea” which premiered in October of 2009 at Shedd Aquarium. “Dolphins soar, belugas dance, and penguins parade in Fantasea, the new aquatic show at Shedd”
15. Cute Baby Sea Otters at Monterey Bay (223,852 views)
This video of baby sea otters at Monterey Bay Aquarium discusses the Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program.
14. Seahorses Mating from the National Aquarium (233,026 views)
“Did you know it’s the male seahorse that becomes pregnant and delivers the baby seahorses? See how the female transfers the eggs to the male!” This risqué video was created as a Valentines Day promotion for special couple’s packages in 2011.
13. Pallas Cats at the Prospect Park Zoo (246,351 views)
“They may look like the fattest felines you’ve ever seen, but the Prospect Park Zoo’s new pair of Pallas cats, Nicholas and Alexandra, aren’t full on lasagna—they’re built for the chilly climate of central Asia.”
12. Freshwater Otter Plays the Piano at Monterey Bay Aquarium (254,925 views)
“Dua, an Asian small-clawed otter at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, plays the piano as a behind-the-scenes enrichment. This activity was created to give Dua something interesting to do and extend his feeding time, while showing off his species dexterity.”
11. Tim Burton MOMA Spot (270,928 views)
Promotion for the Tim Burton exhibit on view at MoMA November 22, 2009-April 26, 2010
10. Beco’s Tub Toy at the Columbus Zoo (276,898 views)
“So what kind of toy do you give a 600 pound baby elephant? How about a 2-foot round blue plastic ball? Enrichment items such as Boomer balls are commonplace in zoos today. These toys and activities add variety and exercise to the animals lives and help to encourage their natural behaviors. As for Beco and his Boomer Ball that enrichment has double benefits it also helps mom Phoebe get a break from looking after 600 pounds of bouncing baby elephant energy.”
9. Jell-O Enrichment for Squirrel Monkeys at the Bronx Zoo (332,503 views)
“In the Bronx Zoos Monkey House, squirrel monkeys receive a holiday treat unlike anything they’ve seen-or felt-before. Keepers offer them Jell-O with blueberries, a jiggly concoction that immediately stimulates their foraging instincts.”
8. Kookaburra Calls at the Cincinnati Zoo (416,869 views)
“The Kookaburra has one of the most identifiable calls of all birds. The Cincinnati Zoo has one trained for its Wings of Wonder bird show, to call on cue.”
7. Otter Pups Swim Lesson at the Columbus Zoo (667,013 views)
“Otter pups arent born with any innate knowledge of how to swim or handle themselves in the water. And since otters depend on water to survive, mom has to teach her babies how to be as home in the water as they are on land. In March, Audrey, the Zoos North American river otter female, gave birth to three healthy male pups. At around 30 days old, the pups are strong enough to begin their swimming lessons although sometimes, theyre not the most enthusiastic students much like kids everywhere.”
6. Voice Piece for Soprano & Wish Tree at MoMA. Summer 2010 by Yoko Ono (802,659 views)
A video of Yoko Ono performing in conjunction with the exhibition Contemporary Art from the Collection at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition was on view through May 9, 2011.
5. Cheetah Sets Record at Cincinnati Zoo (812,604 views)
“Many have asked why our cheetah only averaged 36.5 mph. This was a run based on time, not top speed. A sprinter can be faster than another but if he stumbles and doesn’t finish it doesn’t matter. There is a cheetah in South Africa, Zaza who will be doing the same thing in October to try to beat Sarah. The cheetahs are starting from zero, not full speed because that’s how the previous time of 6.19 seconds was set. The previous rules also stated that the record was based on 3 runs, so even though we are sure Sarah can run faster we don’t get a redo. People have also commented on the lure not being far enough ahead, if the lure gets to far away the cheetah will stop, not wasting energy on something it can’t catch.”
4. Baby Hippo Ballet at the San Diego Zoo (888,474 views)
This video is simple, organic, short, and has an outstanding number of views. The popularity of this view may illustrate that simplicity (without too many bells and whistles) can go a long way.
3. Baby Elephant Born at the San Diego Safari Park (923,340 views)
On March 11, 2007 17-year-old African elephant Litsemba gave birth at the Safari Park. This video shows the little guy and features commentary from staff experts.
2. Science Bulletin: Whales Give Dolphins a Lift from the American Museum of Natural History (1,559,880 views)
This video is also from the American Museum of Natural History. “Many species interact in the wild, most often as predator and prey. But recent encounters between humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins reveal a playful side to interspecies interaction. In two different locations in Hawaii, scientists watched as dolphins “rode” the heads of whales: the whales lifted the dolphins up and out of the water, and then the dolphins slid back down.”
1. The Known Universe by the American Museum of Natural History (9,856,645 views)
This video by the American Museum of Natural History takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. This film was created by the Museum as part of an exhibition, The film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition: Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan
Most Viewed YouTube Videos from US Zoos, Aquariums and Museums: #21 through #40
21. Moving the U-505 Submarine. Museum of Science and Industry– 107, 841 views. Over several days, the team guided the U-505 submarine 1,000 feet to its new home. From the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago
22. September 11 FAA Closure of US Airspace. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – 99,037 views. This animation was created by NASA using FAA air traffic control data from September 11, 2001. It shows the rapid grounding of air traffic across the US, and redirection of incoming international traffic, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
23. Sharks Invade Georgia Aquarium. Georgia Aquarium – 86,544 views. A video celebrating the Aquarium’s new sand tiger sharks.
24. The Harvesters. Metropolitan Museum of Art – 83,823 views. Metropolitan Museum staff members discuss The Harvesters (19.164) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder with producer Christopher Noey.
25. See what wonders await you at the National Aquarium. National Aquarium – 78,518 views. Promotional video of the Aquarium experience.
26. Ford Model T Assembly Line. The Henry Ford Museum – 64,472 views. Opens with shields and running boards being positioned and secured, followed by views of Highland Park workers on the assembly line assembling the Ford Model T. Includes crane lowering chassis to body, securing the fenders, installing the radiator, placing the hood, installing and filling the gas tank, assembling the dash, and attaching wheels and tires. Close-ups of engine, transmission, starting button, and generator. In closing, a Model T is driven on a deeply rutted road.
27. Jellyfish Gallery Video Preview. Newport Aquarium, Cincinnati – 38,861 views. The Jellyfish Gallery contains eight tanks containing hundreds of these amazing creatures, as well as new, fun interactive elements and state-of-the-art displays.
28. The Hope Diamond. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – 34,584 views. “45.52 carats – The Hope Diamond–the world’s largest deep blue diamond–is more than a billion years old. It formed deep within the Earth and was carried by a volcanic eruption to the surface in what is now India. In 1958, Harry Winston donated the Hope Diamond to the Museum, and it now belongs to the people of the United States.”
29. Quadricycle. The Henry Ford Museum – 28,108 views. A video of a man riding a quadricycle in Greenfield Village.
30. MEanderthal. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – 22,511 views “Try morphing yourself backward in time with MEanderthal, the Smithsonian Institution’s first-ever mobile app. You might be surprised when you see your face transformed into the face of an early human.”
31. Month at the Museum Finalist: Kate McGroarty. Museum of Science and Industry– 18,545 views. This was Kate’s original audition video for the museum’s first, famous Month at The Museum initiative.
32. Tree Kangaroo Feeding. Saint Louis Zoo -18,132 views. In this soundless video, “Zookeepers use target training with Matschie’s tree kangaroos Kasbeth and her 1 ½ year old son Teptep. The ‘roos are given treats when they touch their nose to the object on the end of the target. Training is enrichment for the animals and gives the keepers the opportunity to observe each animal closely.”
33. Tree Kangeroo Joey. Saint Louis Zoo – 16,684 views. “A little Zoo present has popped up just in time to give a pounce of holiday cheer! “Nokopo” (pronounced NOH-koh-poh), a female Matschie’s tree kangaroo joey, has begun poking her head out from within her mother’s pouch at their habitat in Emerson Children’s Zoo at the Saint Louis Zoo in December, 2010.”
34. Lego Master Builder at Work. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – 14,713 views. Speed video. of builders creating a castle for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis traveling exhibit – Lego Castle Adventures. The museum’s second most popular video is similar.
35. A King is Born. Newport Aquarium, Cincinnati – 13,303 views. “After the announcement of three new Gentoo chicks last month, Newport Aquarium revealed another hatching: a King penguin chick was hatched at the Aquarium. Making it noteworthy, this King chick is a second-generation Newport Aquarium penguin. Its parents were both born at the Aquarium four years ago.”
36. Polar Slide. Phoenix Zoo – 4,938 views. ” 200 Feet of Excitement. The Phoenix Zoo and Summit Adventure Systems bring you simulated snow technology created by Neveplast in Italy. The surface is used by professional skiers and snowboarders in Europe to train in the off-season. We are the first zoo in the world to have this technology and we’re very excited about it! The Polar Slide is fun for all ages! It’ll have you and your kids smiling the entire way down the 200 foot track!”
37. Bear. Oklahoma City Zoo – 3,428 views. Promotional video to visit the bears at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
38. Lion. Oklahoma City Zoo – 3,385 views. Promotional video to visit lions at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
39. Journey Tribute Band. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – 2,343 views. ” Frontiers, the nation’s top Journey Tribute Band, helped us kick off our rockin’ summer at the opening of Rock Stars, Cars, and Guitars!”
40. Meerkat PSA. Phoenix Zoo -1,846 views. “A little Zoo present has popped up just in time to give a pounce of holiday cheer! “Nokopo” (pronounced NOH-koh-poh), a female Matschie’s tree kangaroo joey, has begun poking her head out from within her mother’s pouch at their habitat in Emerson Children’s Zoo at the Saint Louis Zoo in December, 2010. ”
About the author
MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore