It isn't one of the largest federal agencies. Its Twitter following pales next to many other Cabinet departments.
But the Department of Interior's Twitter (@Interior) account — replete with stunning visuals, straightforward hashtags, and snappy captions — is nevertheless steadily building a devoted following.
With 191,000 followers, DOI trails far behind Education, Justice, HHS and the Defense, State and Energy departments. Yet its steady diet of breathtaking photographs of oceanic overlooks and sylvan sunsets on public lands regularly generates hundreds of retweets — and, not infrequently, thousands of them.
The Interior Department's account recently scored a coveted spot on Time magazine's 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2014 — the only federal agency to make the list.
And, according to Twitalyzer, a research analytics firm that tracks Twitter influence, Interior outpaces all but one other Cabinet agency — the newsier Department of Defense — in its 'impact' on followers.
Unlike other federal agencies whose Twitter voices have been uneven or sparked controversy, Interior has managed to keep the focus on the agency's vast assets – which includes the national park system – and its mission.
"We're highlighting amazing and beautiful national and federal public land across the Interior family, whether it's Yellowstone or Yosemite," says DOI Director of Digital Strategy Tim Fullerton.
The department, of course, has an advantage that no other agency can come close to — an inventory of some of the most scenic properties in the world.
Andrew Einhorn, president of media monitoring and analysis firm Synoptos, knows just how much this helps.
"Interior uses a lot of images these days, and images have legs on social. They travel farther," he says. "People like to see things, not necessarily read things."
Interior also appears to be striking just the right chord with its voice. It's rarely boring and bureaucratic.
"We want people to feel like the Interior account is run by a person," Fullerton explained. "A lot of times, government accounts are written very formally, but we try to write in a more conversational style."
Einhorn thinks Interior meets its goal.
"Interior has more engagement directly with their audience than many other agencies," he said. "For a private citizen, the layer of bureaucracy starts to melt away, and the agency becomes approachable. It's like two people are having a conversation. One sits at a government agency and one doesn't, but they're enjoying the same things."
The occasional funny photo also appears — a rabbit, a snake, and a chipmunk cross race across a highway ramp, or a fox does a handstand – but they're not there simply to grab attention, says Fullerton.
"Our account should provide a variety of content, mirroring our public lands, which are varied in wildlife and landscape," he explains.
The key to @Interior's traction, says John Della Volpe, the founder and CEO of social media consulting firm SocialSphere, is its authenticity.
"A lot of agencies use Twitter handles to show that they are cool and hip and such to the younger generation," said John Della Volpe, the founder and CEO of social media consulting firm SocialSphere. "It's important not to try too hard. It needs to be authentic, real."