If you run or work for an animal rescue centre, the chances are you might already have at least one social media channel set up – but are you making the most of it, or could you actually be posting things that are putting people off and causing potential adopters to ‘unfollow’ or ‘unlike’ you?
I’ve put together this guide to help you use social media to your fullest advantage. After all, as a rescue shelter, time is precious; most staff will be volunteers, and even paid staff will have many conflicting tasks to deal with every day. However, it is important that time is put aside for a social media campaign as, used in the right way, these accounts could be the best tool you have for finding new homes for your pets – and they’re free.
Heather Clarkson, the director of a South Carolina-based Australian shepherd rescue, said:
Facebook has been the lifeline for our little rescue that started two years ago.
In that time, we have saved hundreds and hundreds of dogs who would have otherwise faced certain death.
So, read through these easy hints and tips, and let’s get your rescue centre’s dogs, cats, and other animals rehomed through the successful use of your social media accounts. Here are five things to consider when using social media:
1) Learn your limitations:
First things first, you need to consider what your limits are. Think about how much time you can devote to social media per day. You also need to think about which social media channels would be most suitable for your centre.
I would recommend Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to all centres (all of which are free to use), but if you are new to social media I’d suggest you start with one and see how you get on, as running three accounts can be surprisingly time-consuming. You can always set up more accounts further down the line. This all depends on how much time you can dedicate to social media communications, and how many people will be running your accounts.
2) Stay positive:
It is important to tell a cat or dog’s story, however, it is also imperative that you do so in a positive manner. Negativity can be very off-putting for potential adopters, so draw on the strengths of each animal when sharing their tale with the world, and attract new owners by focusing on each pets’ positive character traits.
We do find that keeping the message positive as opposed to the sad stories gets pets adopted.
Some of our pets with special needs, for example, Kenny, who is a blind dog, is getting attention for how resilient he is and how clever he is adapting to the world.
Also, never be tempted to post something dramatic, like this (often accompanied by a photograph of a very sad-looking animal):
“URGENT!! INNOCENT BOBBY WILL BE DESTROYED TOMORROW. HELP HIM NOW!!”
While this may spur action, it is more likely to trigger negative or unwanted action than offers of rehoming; people might feel useless and unable to help, they might feel overwhelmed by your message, and they may unfollow you. Those who don’t unfollow you could be so concerned by your post that they will jam up your phone line and social media channels with queries about the animal’s well-being, and possible donation offerings, instead of offers for adoption.
Here is an example of an effective rescue post by Yorkshire Cat Rescue I saw on Facebook recently:
3) Photographs are important:
Linked to the concept of staying positive in your posts, photographs of animals locked in cages are far less likely to convince someone that an animal is their next pet than a nice photo of the animal being cuddled or going for a walk on a lead. Photograph your animals looking adorable, and/or doing everyday activities they might do with their new owner. A timeline filled with images of sad-looking, injured animals will not end in high adoption rates.
Photographer, Tammy Swarek, has recently been photographing dogs at her local shelter in El Dorado, Arkansas (USA), but with a twist; she has been taking pictures of them dressed in clothes that represent their personalities and lives. This has been a big hit on social media, with adoption rates soaring for the dogs in the images. All of her images can be viewed on the Shelter Dog Project website.
4) Keep it simple:
Don’t feel you need to write lots in every post; the pictures may speak for themselves. Ensure your main message is clear though, whether that is ‘please adopt me’, ‘could you adopt Bella?’, or ‘could you offer Minx a furrever home?’ Don’t let the adoption factor get lost in the post; you want to rehome your animals, not just get lots of likes on their photos.
5) Add a CTA to avoid the noise:
On every post featuring a photo of a pet needing a home, make sure you add a call-to-action, such as a phone number, meaning you will hear from only those people who are serious about adopting. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can all get very noisy with superfluous comments – these include comments such as “Aww, what a cute cat!”, “I’d love to adopt him but I live too far away”, “Someone needs to adopt this dog NOW!”, or even “I’ll take her” when they don’t really mean it. Adding the CTA will cut through the social noise and let you know who is serious about adoption.
Lisa Wright told Mashable:
Dogs and cats in shelters were to a large degree invisible before social media.
So, get your shelter’s animals out there in the spotlight, but do it with the above tips in mind, and you’ll be spending your limited and precious time in the most valuable way possible.
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