When is the last time you heard the song “In the Arms of an Angel?”
If you love animals, chances are the ASPCA’s commercial featuring Sarah McLachlan’s famous song pulled at your heart strings. But did you start donating? Did you run out to the closest animal shelter to adopt a sad kitten or left behind puppy? Or did you just move on with your day after your fleeting sad feeling?
Before social media, nonprofit agencies, such as Humane Societies and Animal Rescue Leagues, would have to rely on traditional media and word of mouth to attract volunteers, fosters, and potential adopters. Thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, that has all changed.
Most likely are you are an animal lover. Who isn’t?! This means there is a good chance you follow at least one animal shelter on social media. Just off the top of your head, how many times can you count seeing a post like this pop up on your newsfeed?
Or how about this?
We’ve all seen the posts and the pleas, but not every post can be the same if an Animal Rescue really wants to make the most of social media.
One Reason, Three Ways
Social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have become the perfect platform for animal rescues to spread the word and gain support for their cause. The reason is simple- visibility.
As of early 2016, Facebook reports 1.6 billion users, Instagram boasts 400 million subscribers, and Twitter has attracted 320 million users (source). While there is no way a picture of Fido is going to be seen by every user ever to grace these websites, when used correctly, these sites really do allow for maximum visibility. But how?
If you work or volunteer in an animal rescue, you know that it isn’t all just about emptying the kennels. Of course you want the public to know about how many animals you have and who is available for adoption, but when these animals are finally placed in their forever homes, you want it to actually be forever. This means teaching people what is necessary when it comes to animal care. Whether it’s offering articles about the importance of vaccinations, providing information about spay/neuter clinics, listing where to find the best boarding options, or simply mentioning that your rescue is a resource of information for new and potential owners, educating the public is a big deal. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all great ways to let the public know that your rescue really does care, and providing status updates (pictures included!) is a great way to draw more attention to these topics.
It’s not easy being a nonprofit organization, but thankfully social media is a big voice that shouts for free. Big donors usually fund major parts of animal rescue leagues, but you can’t knock on their door every time there is a shortage of training treats or a special surgery needed for a new rescue. Thankfully, all those animal lovers online are the perfect audience if you really are in need. With social media, even though your target audience for adoptions, volunteers, and fosters might be in a certain radius, those willing to donate know no distance. All it takes is one good social media share for someone in Texas to contribute to knee surgery for Fluffy in Florida.
Last but definitely not least, social media becomes the perfect platform to call on your community to make a difference. Hosting a walk? Advertise it! Need more volunteers? Ask for them! Need a short term foster situation? Use social media to explain the situation. Chances are you have more followers and page likes than you actually have volunteers, which means there are people interested in your cause but possibly not able to step up all the time. You’ve just got to call them to action when you need it most.
Why Strategy Matters
You’ve got to walk a fine line when sharing with the community about animals in need of saving. Not every post can be urgent or heartbreaking or you will risk losing followers. Thankfully, The Humane Society issued a set of guidelines to help out their fellow animal rescues find forever homes via social media (see infographic below).
Still not sure if you are ready to catapult your animal rescue into the vast world of social media? That’s okay. I’ve tracked down some more tips, tricks, and best practices from the professionals.
- Chad from Social360 offers some great tips on what exactly to share on every social media site, from Pinterest to Google+, blogs, Instagram, and Twitter. He even offers advice on website management and email marketing. Check out his article here.
- Taylor Downs, a Digital Marketing Manager, wrote a great blog “4 Social Media Tips for Animal Shelters” that is short and sweet, but really focuses on how social media is important for all nonprofit organizations. Find that here.
- Lastly, The Huffington Post published a great article a couple years ago that gave some awesome examples on actual animal rescues that benefitted from adding social media networking to their toolbox to help save lives. Check that article out here.
Remember, it’s not a competition, but it is a mission. The end goal is to save as many animals lives as possible, and social media is a great tool to connect those animals in need of homes with people able to provide a safe haven and good life for furbabies everywhere.
Animal rescue volunteers and facilitators, social media managers, content creators and journalism students.