Why All Animal Shelters Should be on Social Media

When is the last time you heard the song “In the Arms of an Angel?”

drtv-2006-sarah-mclachlan

quickmeme.com

 

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?

Miami Dogs FB

Or this?

BDRR tweet

Or how about this?

Peggy Insta

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?

Education

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.

Peggy Adams FB

Donations

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.

BDRR FB

Action

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).

Infographic

Additional Resources

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Last Thought

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.

Baby-Hugging-Cat

giphy.com

 

Target Audience:

Animal rescue volunteers and facilitators, social media managers, content creators and journalism students.

Sources:

http://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/

http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/shelters-use-social-media-strategy-find-homes-pets/205262

https://www.facebook.com/bigdogranchrescue/

https://www.facebook.com/PeggyAdamsARL/

https://www.facebook.com/urgentdogsofmiami/

http://www.instagram.com/bigdogranchrescue

https://www.instagram.com/peggyadamsrl

https://twitter.com/BDRRescue

 

How to be a successful reporter on Twitter

I would like to introduce you to Whitney Burbank, journalist for WPBF 25 News, ABC affiliate for Palm Beach County, Florida. Originally from Boston, she has been breaking local news stories in West Palm Beach since 2014, covering everything from politics to special interest stories.

Whitney is very active on social media, specifically Twitter. Not only does she connect with fans and share local events, but most importantly she stays on top of breaking news with constant coverage that an audience can trust.

Just this week Jupiter High School suffered a bomb threat that caused a school evacuation. While parents continued to receive mixed messages from Palm Beach Sherriff’s office and the school board as to whether or not they could pick up their kids, Whitney continued to send status updates out via Twitter, from the civic center where students had been locked in.

WB Twitter 1

Photo: Twitter

 

As you can see, Whitney uses text, photos, and videos through Twitter to share information. She often tags WPBF 25 News in her posts so that any readers who may not follow her directly are still able to see ongoing stories in the community. This is a great way for her to not only continuously report on her own, but to get the word out to the entire WPBF audience, who of course share and retweet the stories that mean the most to them.

While hashtags are most effectively used on Twitter, Whitney is very selective in when and how she incorporates them into her tweets. Occasionally she does use her Twitter account to tweet about something other than news, such as fun in the office, or a weekend hobby she may be participating in, but in those times she usually uses hashtags as a way of differentiating her voice from informative for the public to playful and social. When Whitney chooses to use hashtags in tweets that are reporting local or national news, she uses them as a way that will allow others to find information. A great example is the Tweet below using #BREAKING to show the most up to date information about an incident involving several TriRail passengers in a crash, and another using #COREYJONES to add to a trending national news story.

WB Twitter 2

Photo: Twitter

 

WB Twitter 3

Photo : Twitter

Since Whitney is not the only reporter sending stories to the station, she also retweets important stories and tweets made by her colleagues at WPBF 25 News, but most importantly, she replies to her audience and uses Twitter to engage with followers, whether on a serious note or in a friendly manner.

WB Twitter 4

Photo: Twitter

WB Twitter 5

Photo: Twitter

 

Whitney Burbank is no doubt actively using Twitter to enhance her journalism career. While she can also be found on Instagram and Facebook, Twitter is by far her best platform to reach out to her audience, engage with public happenings, and make a difference when reporting stories.

 

Target Audience-  Palm Beach County residents, journalism students, social media students, other reporters taking on social media.

A Catchy Headline, An Engaging Tweet

WPTV Tweet.png

 

Above is a tweet posted from WPTV, a local news station in West Palm Beach. The tweet links back to the news station’s website where the short article is posted. Though the story is actually from Hurricane, Utah, this tweet definitely grabbed my attention because of the subject matter. Having lived in Florida for the past four years, I have come to accept that off-centered news usually originates from the Sunshine State. While the family that pressed the remains of their grandfather into bullets and had a celebration at a shooting range is actually from the West Coast, it is this type of uncommon behavior that I expect from Floridians.

The story posted to WPTV was short and sweet, skipping on thorough interviews or expanded information on how common this act of remembrance is for Utah, or any other state for that matter. While I would have preferred a bit more substance, I do think the headline, and the tweet, was definitely attention grabbing. Invoking curiosity and emotion, this tweet definitely accomplished it’s goal. The must-know information was presented, leaving the rest of the story to cover less important facts and background on the family, just as the inverted pyramid of journalism suggests it should. I think this technique is very common, as this story, even short and to the point, still followed that method of writing.

While I have never written news articles or taken journalism classes, I know that the headline is the most important part of any story. Until Twitter expands their character count, the headline becomes the post for most social media shared news articles. With social media it is not only getting a person to read the article, they must click the link, and sometimes even another link beyond that first page. The idea is to keep a person clicking, reading, and engaging. Without a catchy headline a story won’t get the shares, likes, or comments that the writer is aiming to receive.

 

Source- https://twitter.com/WPTV/status/686201036709715968

Target Audience- MMC6725 classmates and professor

Social Media Share- Twitter