Interview with a Zoo… Marketing Director

Mr. Timm Baldwin is currently the Director of Marketing and Digital Media at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. He originally got his start at Frostburg State University as a Mass Communications major, then moved to work for WMAR-TV as the on-air promotion manager for 11 years. Baldwin did a brief 3 years at ESPN and with the internet startup MsgWorx before moving to the Maryland Zoo in 2011. He started at the Zoo as the Assistant Director of Creative Services and New Media before being promoted to his current position in 2013.

 

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 Q: How did you get started in digital media?

I started in broadcast television and in mass communication. Social media and websites weren’t being used; it was more of cameras and video. I spent 12 years at MAR (an ABC affiliate) and my role was television promotions. I would put together the promotional videos for investigative journalists and short form weather, that sort. Then right before I started working at the Zoo, I did a short stint working at an internet video company, which had local and national clients. When I started at the Zoo, I was doing primarily content creation. About six years ago now, I started working on communicating via digital platforms. I’ve always been in the field of communications, but it’s evolved as the social world has.

Q: Do you have a preferred social media platform personally?
I prefer Instagram. It’s primarily images and videos, and I’m a very visual person. Instagram is a social media channel that is fairly positive, compared to Facebook, which is politically charged, and Twitter, which is news-oriented.

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Q: What have you found is the biggest difficulty of social and digital media?

The biggest difficulty has been keeping pace with the change of landscape. It’s all about learning what works with the changes in social media that happen often now. Not everyone was savvy, but now there is a saturation. Everyone is involved and using social media in some way. It’s difficult to keep content new and engaging and to keep pace with the content. It means we have to increase the volume of content, which used to be unheard of, posting two, three times a day. We have 3 people at the Zoo in our Marketing Department who work on emails, on-ground signage, internal designs.


Q: What has been the biggest success for you at the Zoo?

When I started out, I had a lot of freedom to rebrand. I primarily do content and website and email marketing. I was originally hired to oversee marketing and make the brand more approachable. The Zoo used to be very institutional, more about the organization first. Now it’s more audience focused; I updated the logo, did lots of visual branding and messaging. As a nonprofit, there are roadblocks as to what exactly you can do. But now, we’re engaging with people at a higher rate than attendance would allow. The Zoo has a capacity of 450,000, and we’re engaging with about 100,000-200,000, which is about 25-45% of the people who actually visit the Zoo.

Q: Which social media platform have you found works the best for the Maryland Zoo to reach out to your target audience? Why?
Our target audience is primarily women between 25 and 45, usually married, usually with at least one child who’s between the ages of 2 and 10. Sometimes it’s an economic component, to focus on families who can afford to go to the zoo. Facebook is the bread and butter of social media. It’s primarily a female audience that’s really engaged on Facebook that gets the greatest bang for our content creation time. 81% of followers are female.

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Q: If you were able to design a new social media app specifically for the Maryland Zoo or for zoos generally, what would it be called and what would it do?
It would have to be a visual experience and create an emotional connection. I would create something photo-driven. People come to the Zoo and want to leave with an experience, so it would be great to have an app that allows someone to create personal content. Something like take a picture with an animal. We have a penguin encounter that’s a 20-30 minute tour and ends with a picture. Almost everyone on the tour ends up taking the picture because it’s something to take away and post later.


Q: Do you have any advice if a company were to start to build their own social media brand?

Be authentic. The things that resonate the most is when you create the tone and reality that someone can relate to. Be true to who you are. It’s important to be transparent and inclusive, be honest. It may not always be positive but it’ll make you more relatable and that’s what people want.

 

 

 

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