Monday, October 31, 2011

SU Alum Builds Twitter Community for National Geographic Photos

View this article on the Information Space Blog here...

[caption id="NatGeoPhotos" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Follow @NatGeoPhotos for updates"][/caption]

When I think of National Geographic, I think of a magazine that took up a couple shelves worth of space at my elementary school library and was only ever looked by a group a boys looking (and giggling) at the frequently featured photos of naked indigenous people. In my life, National Geographic stopped playing any kind of contributing role when I graduated from elementary school and stopped having “free time” in the library. Recently though, I’ve found NatGeo has played an increasingly more relevant and interesting role in my day-to-day life. More specifically, the  @NatGeoPhotos twitter account has not only garnered my interest but continues to captivate it.

Orange Nation: An Alum at National Geographic

You can imagine my excitement when I learned that the @NatGeoPhotos account was run by a Syracuse University alum. Graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a Masters Degree in Arts Journalism, Janna Dotschkal is now the mastermind and voice behind the National Geographic Photo account on twitter. She received her undergraduate degree at  Baylor University, where she pursued and completed a Bachelors degree in Philosophy. After graduating, she knew she wanted to get into videography and photography at some level; that’s when she came to Syracuse.

After graduating from Newhouse with her masters, Dotschkal went out into the world looking for what most recent graduates go looking for- a steady job. She found herself cold calling a staff photo editor at National Georgraphic, having heard about an internship in the photo department. Unfortunately, the internship was dropped and the position never filled. So, she quickly began working at a non-profit. It was only a few months later that NatGeo came knocking at her door.

Building a Photography Community on Twitter

She was hired on a four and a half month contract to help with photo editing for their annual photo contest, but the contest’s start was delayed by two weeks. This left Dotschkal with a fair amount of free time. Instead of wasting the two weeks, she began to think about how to garner interest and bring very high quality photographers to the contest. She started poking around Twitter, first on her own account where she had some success rubbing elbows and engaging with some awesome photographers. But, she didn’t have the brand recognition of NatGeo on her personal account and she knew it was hurting her.

Dotschkal wrote up a proposal loosely outlining a social media strategy to bring more entries and talented photographers to the competition. It was approved and she was granted access to run the NatGeoPhotos account. She started off with a small group of followers who looked to the account as a good source for the occasional cool photo of the day; she has now built it into a community of 94,096 followers where conversations happen about the content and discussions are lead by Dotschkal. From book give-aways, to producing relevant content, to carefully selecting retweets, theNatGeoPhotos account and Janna are a delight to follow. She jumped gates and made her own path at NatGeo; the resulting 94K followers are a testament to the job she has done transforming and building a community.

Contact Isaac via email  or on Twitter @Ibudmen.