OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has set its sights on owning the internet, at least with its social media posts. The accounts have gotten so popular that they have gotten responses from across the globe, while cleverly promoting conservation.
Sarah Southerland has been the social media coordinator for the department for the past two years and since she signed on, she has seen the department’s four social media sites explode.
“We decided to rewrite the voice that we’d been using,” said Southerland, who said they switched from a more government style speech to conversational talk.
When Southerland, a UCO graduate, started the wildlife department has around 8,000 Twitter followers. Now, the page has more than 152,000 followers, almost 100,000 more than Governor Kevin Stitt. All four of the department’s social media sites combine for more than 500,000 followers.
One post about a cougar sighting garnered 16 million views, crashing the department’s cougar sighting report website.
” Somebody filled out a cougar sighting report and wrote ‘your mom’,” said Southerland, who shared the report on Twitter.
Southerland grew up in the internet era and said she had social media pages when she was young, so she’s familiar with what’s popular online. But she said her wit came from growing up in a funny household.
“My family is very funny people. I’m actually the least funny of all of them,” said Southerland.
Southerland said the pages are a team effort, collaborating with fellow staffers like Darrin Hill, Smokey Solis, and Todd Craighead. The team will bounce ideas off each other. It was Hill’s idea to post a meme of a mountain lion in the cold with a catchy comment in January of 2022 that became the first viral Twitter post.
“I was watching News 4 and noticed that everybody in the United States had a cold snap going on and I thought we’re on a global network here, let’s talk to everyone,” said Hill.
Though the posts have been comical, they have all had the same purpose.
“We want people to be able to see themselves as part of the conservation mission within Oklahoma or within their own area or within the world,” said Southerland. “There’s a lot of opportunity there to introduce people to what it means to be from Oklahoma, what it means to love the outdoors in Oklahoma.”