National Geographic has existed for over 120 years, initially starting as a society of individuals interested in science, exploration, and adventure. The brand then developed into a media powerhouse, with the first edition of its magazine launching in 1888. Over the years, National Geographic (or NatGeo as it’s shortened to nowadays) has become synonymous with powerful storytelling, incredible photography, and compelling messages.

And now in the digital age, NatGeo has expanded its media empire even further, boasting over 140 million followers across all its social media accounts. The brand has also morphed into a dominating online video publisher on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where it routinely pulls in millions of views each. Why is the science-based media company doing so well on its social video platforms, and how might other brands learn from its video strategy? We’ll take a look at those questions in the rest of this article.

NatGeo Knows Its Way Around Instagram

When it comes to all the video platforms National Geographic frequently posts on, Instagram is the science brand’s modus operandi. Since the brand is well-known for its unbeatable photography of animals and nature, it should come as no surprise NatGeo is doing well on Instagram, arguably the top social media platform for sharing photos and short-form moving pictures.

The majority of NatGeo’s 140 million social reach is from Instagram; 74.2 million fans, or 53% of the brand’s total following, prefer to engage with the brand’s video content on the photo- and video-sharing app. The next-highest following National Geographic boasts is from Facebook, which makes up 31% of the brand’s total social reach. National Geographic’s success on Instagram is most likely in large part due to its animal videos, with many of its most-watched videos on the brand’s Instagram account clips of creatures ranging from a curious kitty to a narrow-headed softshell turtle. This Instavid of a mother koala with her two babies from February 2017 boasts almost 5.9 million total views!

Video by @joelsartore | A behind the scenes look at Joel capturing images of a mother koala named Augustine with her young ones Gus and Rupert (one is her own offspring and one is adopted) at the @AustraliaZoo Wildlife Hospital. Everyday, this wildlife hospital receives up to 100 emergency calls and treats up to 30 different species of animals. On average, about 70 koalas come in for care each month. The dedicated veterinarians, nurses and volunteers work here around the clock to provide treatment for sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals of all kinds. They also conduct research in order to learn more about koala diseases, migration and wildlife health management. To see how this family portrait turned out, check out @joelsartore! . . #photoark #koalas #babyanimals #behindthescenes #animalconservation

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Facebook, YouTube Give National Geographic a Boost in Views

Even if National Geographic has about 20% fewer fans on Facebook, the social platform provides the brand a huge amount of views each month. Facebook, of course, is Instagram’s owner, but the social networking site’s long-time popularity and massive base of active monthly users undoubtedly contribute to NatGeo’s views and engagement. In December 2016, Facebook generated 42% of the publisher’s total video views. In January, Facebook users bumped that percentage all the way up to 57%. 

Overall, National Geographic claims the best views-to-video-count ratio on Facebook, where 1.4 billion views were generated from just over 1000 clips. This also means the average views per video is 1.4 million. No matter which platform NatGeo fans choose to watch content on (Instagram or Facebook), the brand obviously pays close attention to and provides the exact style, length, and format of content each user base wants, capitalizing on each platform’s strengths individually.

YouTube also has something to contribute to National Geographic’s video success. The Google-owned video site is where the brand has uploaded the majority of its videos, over 9800 to date. These clips have pulled in roughly 1.9 billion total video views, and some of NatGeo’s most popular YouTube videos date from years ago, proving its content is truly evergreen. Its most-watched clip of all time, for example, shows a cobra fighting a mongoose; the video has pulled in almost 86 million total video views since its upload back in 2010.

Whether or not brands are in the same industry as National Geographic, they can learn a key takeaway from the brand’s video strategy. Essentially, providing content which works best for individual video platforms will ensure brands are reaching the audiences they want to, and also provide viewers with the content they want to watch. As this cycle continues, brand loyalty is built, viewers stay happy, and in the end, everyone wins.