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Racine Zoo

Lily Sopczak, 3, of Racine, pets a goat Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, at the Racine Zoo’s Barnyard Safari exhibit. STEPHANIE JONES/

RACINE — If you drove through Waterford or Kenosha this summer, you may have seen billboards advertising the Racine Zoo. On Facebook, you may have noticed a stream of zoo posts, with animal videos and information about animals’ birthdays.

Over the past six months, the zoo has ramped up its marketing and now has almost 2,000 zoo members.

Before the start of 2007, the Racine Zoo was free to anyone, and there wasn’t as much of an incentive for visitors to pay for memberships. There also was little reason to spend money on marketing because there wasn’t much return, said Jay Christie, the zoo’s president and chief operating officer.

Following the change to paid admission, Christie said marketing was still lax for a while.

But this year, as a way to ramp up the zoo’s marketing efforts, the zoo hired a new marketing director and even put up billboards.

“The competition for family’s recreation dollars is robust,” Christie said. “Marketing is so important.”

When Gianna O’Keefe, the zoo’s marketing director, started in February, the zoo had fewer than 100 followers on Twitter and about 4,000 likes on Facebook, O’Keefe said.

Now, six months later, the zoo has nearly 500 Twitter followers and nearly 6,800 Facebook likes.

It’s hard to say what attendance and memberships can be attributed to the social media activity, but Christie said the zoo is definitely going to keep its marketing efforts going.

Two years ago, the number of members was at 1,200.

As of Saturday, the number of memberships was at 1,950, according to O’Keefe.

In the zoo business, Christie said weather contributes significantly to attendance.

July’s nice weather has brought attendance that was above estimates, Christie said, but the unseasonably cool spring kept many visitors away earlier in the year.

When people have memberships, it provides a more reliable source of income, he said.

Annual membership options at zoo

$50: one adult and one guest membership 

$60: Family Zoo pass, two adults and four children 

$100: Family Plus Zoo pass, four adults and eight children

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