While most of us enjoyed Australia Day with a barbecue in the back yard or attending a community event two locals were flying to Los Angeles to rub shoulders with some Aussie icons of the stage and screen.
Matt Radnidge and Kevin Fallon are being recognised by Tourism Australia for the best overall Aussie post on social media in 2016. The footage of a butterfly a koala by landing on its nose during a photo shoot went so viral it has now been seen by more than 40 million people around the world.
For their efforts Mr Radnidge and Mr Fallon get to attend a G’Day USA Australia Day function in LA with celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Keith Urban and Chris Hemsworth who appears in a new Tourism Australia campaign about Australia not just being a place you see but a place you feel.
In December Tourism Australia and Qantas invited the Australian tourism industry to submit their best social posts from 2016 for the opportunity to win return trips for two, to see their content featured on the big screen at the G’Day LA Gala dinner. A panel of judges looked for photos and videos that best showcased Australia as a memorable and desirable holiday destination.
The butterfly video did that so well it attracted more than 38 million combined views on Symbio and UNILAD’s social media channels, plus 2.3 million views and over 74,000 likes/reactions on Tourism Australia’s Facebook page. That was followed by major media players such as Fox News, BBC Worldwide, Good Morning America and CNN pick the post up and broadcasting it to many more millions around the world.
Mr Fallon said afterwards visitation at the family run wildlife park at Helensburgh increased 66 per cent from any previous October, and 35 per cent over any other month in the park’s 45 year history. He said Symbio is smashing all records.
“Overall, the park has seen a 96 per cent increase in visitation since 2014-15,” he said.
Mr Radnidge said Tourism Australia had a massive following on social media internationally itself as well so to be recognised by it in such a way was a fantastic achievement.
“Since Kev has been here it has been about being a lot smarter in how we communicate and get the word out there on what we do,” he said.
Mr Fallon said the massively viral videos, such as the butterfly photobombing Willow, the international audience made up around 70 per cent of views. For more generic posts the Sydney audience made up 40 per cent.
“I just showcase the work that these guys do..and their connection with animals..and how well they are cared for,” he said.
Symbio sees the exposure to major Australian celebrities in the United States and the coverage the G’Day USA dinner gets in North America as another opportunity to promote the work it is doing with endangered wildlife as well as the region.
Mr Radnidge and Mr Fallon said they will certainly be telling all the celebrities they meet in LA about Symbio and Wollongong and inviting them to come and see if for themselves.
The reason they know how important that is follows a visit by Kelly Clarkson to Symbio. When she made a post @kelly_clarkson about her close encounter with native animals it was seen by fans around the world.
Mr Fallon said celebrities were major influencers and made incredible ambassadors even with one social media endorsement.
“Even Reese Witherspoon posted about the koala butterfly video,” he said.
Mr Radnidge said to be in the same room as such famous Australians as well as international celebrities such as John Travolta in LA was going to be almost surreal.
“You almost can’t fathom you are going to be there. Not a lot of people get that opportunity,” he said.
Mr Radnidge thinks Symbio’s social media success is a combination of many things coming together.
“There are a lot of zoos and wildlife parks around the world. There are a lot of people who take photos and there are a lot of people who take photos of animals but what separates the successful ones..is hard to define. It is a chemistry and I think it comes from our people being very real in what they do and how they have a passion for what they do,” he said.
Mr Fallon said the posts were always kept light and fun in showing the way the zoo-keepers were helping the animals and protecting endangered species. He said there was a fine line between showing just enough or too much on social media and it had to be kept authentic and believable to go viral. If people don’t believe you they won’t keep clicking on such content.
The Symbio team all discuss what is acceptable and not and whether it sends the right message before they film anything. That is because the interests and wellbeing of the animals is always paramount.
“The fact that Kev respects that is the reason we get these really beautiful videos,” Mr Radnidge said.
- Kelly Clarkson visits Symbio Wildlife Park
- Symbio Wildlife Park wins G'Day USA social media post of the year
- Symbio a social media sensation with videos and photos attracting billions of views
- Butterfly drops into koala joey photoshoot in adorable Symbio Wildlife Park video
- Symbio koala Imogen is flies the Wollongong and Australian flag in Paris
- Farmyard animals return to Symbio in a groundbreaking self-sustainable facility
Australia Day at Symbio zoo
The magic moments never stop at Symbio Wildlife Park and Australia Day is proved no exception.
When zoo-keeper Tami Wilson took Willow the koala down to wish the kangaroos a happy Australia Day, the last thing she expected was that Willow would find another new friend.
Videographer Kevin Fallon said the two instantly formed a bond and started nuzzling each other as if to say “G’day Mate”.