How National Geographic Became The #1 Brand In Social Media



Adam Quinn (VP of Digital) shares insights and perspectives on how National Geographic maintains their position as one of the most relevant and inspiring brands in social media.


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National Geographic is currently leading the global conversation about the things that matter. Over the last six month alone, National Geographic has tackled topics like climate change, the colonization of mars, and elevated the voice of young women and their pursuit of careers in STEM.

At Social Media Week Chicago, Adam Quinn (VP Digital, National Geographic) took the stage to discuss how NatGeo has become one of the most popular and influential brands on social media.

From reverence to relevance

National Geographic is also a forward-thinking multi-media company, with purpose at its core. They return 27% of their proceeds to the non-profit National Geographic Society, that funds the research, science, conservation, and exploration, which in turn creates the content for the brand.

Social media is giving the brand a platform to build a relationship with the audience, and National Geographic’s social presence is staggering. They are the #1 brand on social media with over 350 million fans/followers globally across all platforms.

  • Nearly 170mm followers on Facebook
  • Over 28 million followers on Twitter
  • More than 6 million subscribers on YouTube and over 2.2B video views
  • Nearly 15mm Snapchat followers
  • Over 1mm Pinterest followers

Unlike other leading brands like CNN and Upworthy, National Geographic scale has only increased their organic engagement. They average 20,374 engagement for their social posts, while the next brand reaches about 14K.

Social is the future of storytelling

As the #1 brand on Instagram, National Geographic uses their photographers as the main storytellers for the brand and they are always looking to incorporate the latest updates to platforms like Instagram Stories to find new ways for them to tell stories around the world. They have even partnered with other brands like Intel to create sponsored content specifically for Instagram Stories. National Geographic doesn’t just send a photographer on assignment to capture some photos, they will create specific series’ for the photographer and distribute it across all of their channels like wild_life with Bertie Gregory. These experiments have led the brand to develop social shows that audiences will see more of this year.

This conference is about the future of storytelling. We firmly believe that social media is going to lead the way toward the future storytelling.”

Each platform is dedicated towards a specific audience. For Snapchat, National Geographic is aware that the current 18-21 years might not be aware of the channel or magazine, but they might have watched NatGeo Kids. So their content is geared towards that generation and provides lighthearted educational content on their brand’s Snapchat Discover page.

Becoming the biggest brand on Instagram

Adam then brought out world-renowned photographer, Aaron Huey. Aaron, along with a few other photographers, pioneered the brand’s use of platforms like Instagram. Behind-the-scenes photos and live coverage of assignments were never really shown in the magazine, on the channel, or other social platforms before Huey and others began posting content on Instagram.

In fact, according to Huey, they weren’t even allowed to say where they were going on assignment. Now photographers are using tools like Instagram Stories to share their day-to-day work. Huey was also the first to post every single day during an assignment of the Himalayas.

Huey then introduced attendees to Hawkeye Huey, Aaron’s 7-year-old son. When Aaron posted a photo of Hawkeye taking photos on National Geographic’s Instagram, their audience requested to see the young photographer’s photos and in one day, Hawkeye’s Instagram account was created and had gained over 15K followers. During their upcoming project, Our America. They will be traveling across the country and documenting their adventure on Instagram and Instagram Stories.

With an unwavering commitment to the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world, National Geographic is not only the leading brand in social media, it’s also the most innovative.

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