There are simple ways to create some buzz, increase your followers and encourage more engagement on your social media channels, and they shouldn't take huge amounts of preparation. 

While it's true that some social media campaigns do take months of planning (read the story about this cheesy tweet, which took 45 days to craft), it's also good to think on your feet and try find easy wins where possible.

When I heard that shark conservationist and blogger David Shiffman, aka @WhySharksMatter on Twitter, would be visiting the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, I asked him if he'd be keen to do a live-tweeted Q&A with the aquarium during his visit. He was game, and after prepping a few basic questions, I headed over there last Thursday to kick things off.

David and I sat at the aquarium's café, and just using our phones, we started the Q&A. It must have looked strange to any passersby: here we were, sitting opposite each other in silence, staring at our phones! Meanwhile, online, hundreds of people around South Africa and in the United States (and elsewhere in the world) were watching the discussion take place:

This simple 45-minute exercise had a huge impact on the aquarium's social media account. David has some 16 500 followers on Twitter, and although the time difference wasn't ideal for those in the US, like-minded individuals who are interested in marine conservation and shark research did see the activity on David's timeline, and helped spread the word. It gave the aquarium further global exposure, and positioned it as a thought leader in the area of shark conservation.

This messaging is particularly important for aquariums, where people are not often aware of the good work being done behind the scenes (for instance, the Two Oceans Aquarium is one of the few institutions on the planet that release sharks back into the ocean, and last year conducted the world's first live-tweeted shark release).

Between David, his fellow science blogger Sarah Keartes, who joined him on his visit, and the aquarium's own account, the conversation reached more than 300 000 Twitter accounts, and increased the aquarium's daily mentions tenfold. There were over a million impressions made on people's Twitter accounts altogether.

Sincere thanks to David for his willingness to participate, and thanks to everyone who joined the conversation or spread the message.

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