By Jamie Garabedian, community relations manager, Northeast Animal Shelter
As animal welfare organizations, we all use social media for obvious reasons — be it posting cute photos of adoptable pets, or sharing happy endings. While it’s important to use these tools to promote the animals in our care, we can maximize the value of social media by thinking outside the box. Social media channels allow organizations to have a more robust and interactive community, spanning across state lines. With a well-thought-out approach, your online platforms can amplify your organization’s mission, programs and fundraising in a real way. Here are three things to consider when planning your social media strategy:
- First and foremost, it’s important to understand that not all social media channels were created equal, and you don’t have to be the best at them all. Identify what your organization’s goals are, who your audience is, what your strategy is for each platform and engage accordingly. It’s more than ok to focus energies on one platform over the others. For instance, if you’re an organization that does a lot of advocacy work, Twitter is likely the best platform to announce big legislative wins, as it is primarily a channel used for news. However, if your goal is to use social media as a community resource or fundraising platform, Instagram and/or Facebook offer more tools such as live interactive videos, reels, in platform fundraisers, donate buttons and space for infographics which can be used for educational purposes. With all of the new social platforms emerging (what feels like) daily, take a similar approach in deciding whether or not they are right for your organization. For instance, my organization does quite well on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and our audience responds to cute, goofy, humorous content. Knowing this, we decided it was in our best interest to start a TikTok account, where we could not only engage with a new audience, but could also share the content we created on TikTok to our Instagram and Facebook accounts. Examples:
- This may sound obvious, but it’s important to find your ‘social voice.’ Your audience should get to know your tone, writing and imagery style so that they associate it with your ‘brand.’ Be it humorous animal bios, goofy photos, or straight-forward informative captions — choose your voice and stick with it. Remember, your social channels are your best tools to engage with your community on a daily basis, and they want to feel like they know you, and know who they support.
- As the animal welfare industry continues to move towards new community outreach and surrender prevention solutions, social media can be an incredibly important community resource. For instance, unwanted behavior is one of the main reasons dogs are surrendered to shelters. By offering free or low cost live chats with a behaviorist or trainer on your staff via Instagram and Facebook, pet owners can mitigate unwanted behavior and talk through possible solutions that make both the humans’ and dogs’ (or cat, hamster or rooster …) lives happier and more stress free. At our shelter, we post a weekly training tip every Tuesday (called #TipsTuesday) in the form of a short 60-second video that addresses common pet owner concerns that are easy to fix! We also host monthly “Ask a Behaviorist” live sessions with our behavior director so our community can ask questions and get answers in real time.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. By following these and others, we’ve grown our FB audience by 40k followers, our IG audience by 19k followers, and increased our social fundraising revenue by 84% in just over a year’s time.
If you’re looking for more social media resources, the Facebook group Animal Shelter Social Media is a great place to share ideas, find inspiration and problem solve (it’s private, so you do need to apply to join.) And if you have any questions for me, feel free to reach out anytime. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.