Just over a year ago, the April the Giraffe live stream took over the internet. This 15-year-old pregnant giraffe from an upstate New York zoo became a viral sensation, keeping millions of people in suspense for two months and racking up a mind-blowing 14 million live views on the day her baby boy Tajiri was finally born.
The 66-day live stream saga broke YouTube live viewership records, gathering over 232 million live views, adding up to 7.6 billion minutes of live watch-time. And just a few weeks ago, it was announced that April is pregnant once again, expecting to deliver her new calf (and live stream!) in spring of 2019!
You may be wondering: why are we talking about a giraffe? Well, April is not just a giraffe! The success of her live stream is actually a great opportunity to learn some valuable lessons about live video marketing. We like to compare April the Giraffe’s live stream to the Royal Wedding: both are a delicious mix of anticipation, speculation, and a whole lot of opportunity for some unexpected marketing magic.
A quick rundown of April the Giraffe live stream success
- Before February of 2017, April’s own Animal Adventure Park only occasionally went live with their inhabitants exclusively on their Facebook page. The quality of these streams was less than ideal, but hundreds of people tuned in anyway.
- April was expected to deliver in mid-February. Knowing the baby may come any day, the zoo decided to go live more regularly and stream on more platforms. They set up their Giraffe Cam to live stream to YouTube. As it turned out, April kept the baby in her belly for another two months(!), which ultimately allowed time for all this anticipation to build up.
- By the end of February, Animal Adventure Park was looking for a new sponsor for their live stream. This is when Toys “R” Us jumped in, yielding one of the most perfect examples of native advertising (the toy company’s mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, fit naturally into the situation and didn’t really feel like an ad). With the help of PR professionals at Shane Strategies, Toys “R” Us were able to take their marketing game to the next level. Toys “R” Us reported that after launching a special April-themed video and social media posts, they were able to reach more than 23 million people, while the social engagement on the Toys “R” Us channels increased by more than 2,000%! Not to mention their giraffe toy sales…
April the Giraffe live stream sponsored by Toys”R”Us – a match made in marketing heaven. After the baby was born, the logo on the bottom of the video changed to Babies”R”Us (also a great marketing move)
- More and more people began to tune into April the Giraffe’s live stream, hoping to be the ones to see the animal birth live. The expecting mom started getting a lot of media attention as the whole world waited on edge. The hype continued to grow with giraffe “baby showers”, parodies, and intense Twitter chatter using the hashtag #Giraffewatch.
- Animal Adventure Park decided to use all this attention to further promote one of their most important messages: giraffes are an endangered species and they could use our help. The zoo was able to raise $170K on GoFundMe, with a large portion of those proceeds going to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. They were also able to collect a record-breaking 4,400 donations in YouTube Superchat. Additional profits came from selling April-themed merchandise and offering paid text alerts to be the first to learn the baby’s gender. Again, a large part of the profits went to charity, so people were pretty eager to give to a good cause.
- In addition, the live stream was able to attract more visitors to the park and to the tiny town of Harpursville, NY, boosting the local economy. Local businesses quickly hopped aboard the April train, creating all kinds of special lodging packages and selling April-themed souvenirs.
- April the Giraffe finally gave birth on April 15th, 2017. On that magical day, YouTube alone reported 14 million live views and 1.2 million concurrent viewers! A healthy baby boy was born, but he still needed a name. This is when Animal Adventure Park launched a baby naming contest, where one could cast a paid vote.
Image courtesy of YouTube Blog
How to create a successful live viral video: 7 lessons from April the Giraffe live stream
1) Find an authentic cause that lots of people can support
The beauty of the April the Giraffe live stream is its authentic and inclusive nature. Everybody likes animals: they are cute, calming, and fun. It’s difficult to be divided on the topic of a pregnant giraffe, therefore, it brings people together. Animal Adventure Park was also able to raise awareness and promote its conservation efforts through the live stream: 1/3 of all raised funds went to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. People love contributing to a good cause, so what’s yours?
2) Exploit sense of urgency and generate FOMO
Successful live streaming rides a lot on urgent, topical matters. The imminence and unpredictability of April’s resolve made people watch the live stream for hours on end. Those watching were hoping they will get to see the birth live (comes with “I saw it live!” bragging rights). No one wants to miss out (hence the Fear Of Mission Out, or “FOMO”) and be the last to know, especially if hours of watch time have already been invested.
To make going live viral, find a topic that is both unpredictable and urgent.
3) Have a strong social media presence
The more people see your live stream the better. Going live on YouTube in addition to Facebook made a huge difference for the April the Giraffe live stream. She also first appeared on Instagram around February 2017, expanding her audience to active Instagram users. So go live on as many platforms as possible. In case you’re wondering how to go live simultaneously on multiple platforms with even just one camera, be sure to check out our all-in-one live production studio Pearl Mini. This encoder allows you to stream to any number of social media platforms.
And don’t forget to create a special hashtag to go along with your video! #GiraffeWatch
4) Have a call to action
Once you’ve figured out your cause, let your followers know what you want them to do about it. This could be a call to buy something, or it could be a call to donate. In addition to raising funds on donations, April’s live stream was also able to increase the number of visitors to Animal Adventure Park. If you have a real-life event that you want to promote — be sure to invite your audience.
5) Look for partners
April the Giraffe’s live stream partnership is a kind of marketing miracle: Geoffrey the Giraffe of Toys “R” Us and April the Giraffe is a match made in heaven. Obviously, not every partnership will be this perfect, but don’t let that stop you from looking for sponsorship and partnership opportunities. You never know — someone may even reach out to you. Be open.
6) Go live regularly
During the pregnancy, April the Giraffe live stream wasn’t on every single day, nor did she stream 24/7: the zoo only went live when they believed April might be going into labor. Nevertheless, April the Giraffe live stream brought joy to loyal viewers at least once a week. Going live regularly builds a healthy anticipation, a habit, almost. It also lets your viewers know you are serious about live streaming.
7) Don’t stop! Keep capitalizing on your growth
You thought it was over once April had her baby? Oh no! Naming contests, new merchandise, baby Tajiri starts his own Twitter account!… People actually propose next to April all the time! April kept building on the crazy momentum thinking of new ways to monetize/partner up. Use the momentum and always be on the lookout for new and exciting ways to monetize your live content. Think of ways your live stream may tie in with other products and services.
How to live stream your own giraffe’s birth
Option 1 – Basic
If your giraffe shelter is on a tight budget, but you still want to stream a quality picture onto either YouTube or Facebook, then you might want to consider getting one PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) camera and a simple encoder, such as a Webcaster X2.
Connect the Webcaster X2 to the camera and to the internet, and stream away to either YouTube or Facebook Live. You could actually go completely mobile if you have a strong Wi-Fi connection and a power bank. Check out this article to learn how to go mobile with Webcaster X2.
Option 2 – Advanced
If your zoo has the funds to invest in live streaming, then you have an opportunity to create some truly amazing Giraffe TV. An encoder like Pearl-2 makes it possible to create multiple layouts, do picture-in-picture layouts, and capture HD footage from up to 6 cameras.
Here are some of the things April could improve on for next live stream if she had hardware like Pearl-2:
- Stream to multiple platforms simultaneously: April’s YouTube, Facebook Live, and Periscope channels would all have the same high quality picture. Right now the April the Giraffe live stream only goes to YouTube.
- Go live in HD (or even 4K!), making the quality much better than it is now.
- Have a picture-in-picture layout of our Giraffe and the worried team of her caretakers (more engagement!).
- Switch between multiple views from all the (discreetly) installed PTZ cameras, capturing all the action.
- Record the footage in HD and use it to create marketing collateral.
April, if you are reading this – please pass on the message!
Epiphan Video actually installed one of our PTZ LUMiO 12x cameras along with a Pearl-2 encoder at the Palo Alto Junior Zoo. The resulting live stream followed the daily activities of bats and at times was quite exciting.
That’s how a simple idea like live streaming an animal done at the right place and time can turn into a viral sensation. The April the Giraffe live stream is still on every day on YouTube, and she is expected to have her 5th child in Spring of 2019.
Will April over-carry again? How many live views do you think the next live birth stream will get? Have you thought of your own way to go viral live?
We can’t wait for the live stream of her next baby being born. April, we wish you health and patience, and thank you for the amazing lessons about live video marketing.