Maropeng, the Visitor Centre for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site, was Flow Communications’ very first client in 2005.
Flow remained the attraction’s digital partner for more than 15 years – building websites, setting up and maintaining social media platforms, and creating compelling, well-written blog content.
The story of humankind’s origins is a key part of South Africa’s story and Maropeng, in many ways, is a custodian of that tale.
Over the years, Flow published hundreds of thoughtful, informative blog posts positioning Maropeng as a world-class tourist destination, and a champion of science and palaeoanthropology in South Africa.
Well-written pieces have highlighted the accomplished personalities that are part of the Maropeng team; they have tapped into contemporary conversations around transformation and race; and they have entrenched Maropeng’s standing in this incredibly niche scientific community.
And, particularly during the Covid-19 lockdown, they helped keep the brand alive, active and growing on social media while the visitor centres in the Cradle remained closed.
These blogs helped the website maintain its organic Google ranking at number one for searches for the term “Cradle of Humankind”.
Our blogging strategy comprised three key goals:
- To highlight Maropeng (and by extension the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site) as an iconic tourist destination in South Africa
- To position Maropeng as a champion of science in general, and palaeoanthropology in particular
- To seed rich, relevant content on the site in order to ensure that it remains the number one organic Google search result for search terms such as “Cradle of Humankind” and “Maropeng”
These goals remained fixed in our sights. What we updated often, however, were our tactics to reach these goals.
The blogs Flow has produced for Maropeng speak to two main content pillars: science and tourism. The way these were executed varied, from coverage of the latest research papers and fossil discoveries, to giving a Maropeng take on a timely issue. For instance, in June 2020, its Youth Month campaign shone a spotlight on young scientists working to uncover humanity’s origin story.
On International Museum Day, 18 May 2020, Maropeng conducted a Q&A with Maropeng’s then curator, Keneiloe Molopyane, on how museums in Africa contribute to the continent’s changing narrative.
As the Covid-19 lockdown continued, in July, Flow produced content featuring Maropeng’s guides, who talked about the first time they visited Maropeng. We also interviewed maintenance team members, who put the necessary measures in place to ensure visitors would enjoy a safe experience when the site eventually reopened.
All blogs and content created for Maropeng’s website also featured on social media channels, widening their reach and impact.
Coverage and reach
Maropeng’s coverage and reach expanded rapidly in 2020, despite the lockdown. For example, we showcased the work of young scientists in the Youth Month campaign. We sent out a form to dozens of young scientists we had identified, asking them to tell us about their professional experiences, to give them a platform and to inspire other young people to join this field.
We received about a dozen entries, which we turned into a blog post, then seeded these in social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, with links back to our blog. It was fascinating to us that each post performed differently, depending on the social media platform it was seeded on – for example, a post that was popular on Instagram might not have been as popular on Facebook. We were happy that, in this way, many different young people were profiled, rather than only one or two being the “heroes”.
This campaign was picked up and retweeted by individuals and organisations influential in the Maropeng space, such as Wits University, the University of Johannesburg and the Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, a global hub for the study of the origins of species, Professor Lee Berger and other leading academics in the field.
This coverage and reach ultimately fed into the excellent results achieved on Maropeng’s website, described below.
According to Google Analytics, popular blog posts from 1 May 2019 to 31 May 2020 include the following:
- Take a closer look at the Maropeng Boutique Hotel (4 017 views): https://www.maropeng.co.za/news/entry/take-a-closer-look-at-the-maropeng-boutique-hotel
- Telling time: how did our ancestors do it? (3 090 views): https://www.maropeng.co.za/news/entry/telling-time-how-did-our-ancestors-do-it
- Five fun things to do in the Cradle of Humankind in winter (2 494 views): https://www.maropeng.co.za/news/entry/five-fun-things-to-do-in-the-cradle-of-humankind-in-winter
- Fascinating facts about the Sterkfontein Caves (2 029 views): https://www.maropeng.co.za//news/entry/fascinating-facts-about-the-sterkfontein-caves
Most of the visits came from within South Africa, with the second-highest proportion of visits coming from the United States.
Maropeng remains the first organic search result returned on Google for the search term “Cradle of Humankind”, above Wikipedia and the Gauteng provincial government.
Creativity and innovation
What’s particularly innovative in Flow’s blogging work is how we leveraged the content created for the website into engaging social media content. This included separating the scientists and guides profiles into standalone social media posts.
We also ran #FossilFriday Twitter chats from the Maropeng account in May 2020, and arranged for the Maropeng Twitter account to co-host four editions of the weekly #TravelChatSA Twitter chat, which takes place every Wednesday and is very popular in South Africa’s travel and tourism community.