Social media is a great tool to help find homes for adoptable pets, but that’s just the beginning of what your organization’s Facebook page or Instagram account can do for you. A carefully planned and well-balanced approach to posting can help enhance your organization’s reputation, cultivate new donors, increase community support and promote responsible pet ownership. How? By telling your whole story.
Most animal welfare organizations in the country are already posting adoptable pets, and that’s a solid foundation to start with; but for most organizations, it’s just one chapter in your story.
A recent study found that one of the main reasons people cited for not adopting pets from shelters was that they were afraid of what they might see at the shelter. “Behind the scenes” posts can help combat that fear, drive more potential adopters your way, and increase support by showcasing your professionalism and the many ways your organization impacts the community.
Below are some ideas for Facebook posts that can help you tell your whole story. Granted, not everything will be feasible for every organization, but hopefully these ideas and examples will help inspire you.
- Photos of staff holding and hugging pets. If you see something cute happening in your lobby or hallway, post it. It will make your staff — even those in uniform — seem much more approachable and less intimidating.
- Unusual animals. We’ve had 150 lb. Sulcata Tortoises, Scorpions, a Wallaby, plus all variety of birds, snakes, and reptiles, and we post them all.
- The building itself. Post photos taken throughout your facility, indoors and outdoors. Any time you get new equipment, an updated paint job, new signage, even new artwork — all are great reasons to show off your facility and take away the fear of the unknown.
- Enrichment activities. People who love animals will enjoy seeing the things that make the shelter animals happy, such as grooming, outdoor play time, walks, and more.
- Holidays. People often panic because they assume no one will be there to care for the pets. At Dallas Animal Services, we make a point to post photos of our staff caring for the animals on every holiday.
- Data about your organization. Statistics tell your story, too, and they aren’t just for websites anymore. Post monthly information about how many animals you help and other statistics that will help you tell your story.
- Donations. Posting photos of in-kind donations received and/or large monetary donations is a great way to publicly say thank you and encourages other people to donate as well.
- Events. Include your spay and neuter clinics. Even if the people you’re targeting aren’t following the page. Posting will help raise awareness about the event.
- Urban wildlife. Reassure your residents – or caution them if necessary, and explain how to deal with the problems wildlife can cause effectively and humanely.
- Your medical team. Promoting their lifesaving work and letting people know they are tending to the animals can do a lot to take the scary out of shelters and to tell your story. Crop out anything that could be misconstrued, or if you can’t crop, then be sure to explain it thoroughly when you post so that no one jumps to the wrong conclusion.
- Your animal care or rescue division. Every week we have officers crawling through tunnels and into drains to rescue animals, braving the ice and snow, rain and storms to rescue pets, plucking dogs out of creeks and extracting cats from cars, pulling puppies out from under houses and nabbing kittens out of walls. Chronicling these stories on social media helped us tell our story and raised awareness of our work and our mission. Make sure to thank your team publicly for their bravery.
- Your volunteers and the work they do. This promotes volunteerism and helps combat the public’s fears as well. If parents volunteering with their kids, that’s even better.
- Transfer partners. Promoting their work helps them and helps you. Just get a snapshot as they leave the building and tag them in the post.
- The work you do to take care of pets unexpectedly homeless. If you offer protective custody/safekeeping for pets whose owners die unexpectedly, are arrested, or in accidents, let the public know by posting about it. We’re always surprised at how grateful people are when we post these. After all, it is comforting to know there is someone to care for your pet when something terrible happens to you.
- Reunification efforts. When our officers encounter loose owned dogs, they attempt to reunite them with their owners. One reunion photo can give you the opportunity to talk about loose dogs, leash laws, and your team’s work.
- How you care for pets in an emergency. Whenever you work with the first responders in your community, try to get photos and post so you can reassure people that in an emergency, the pets are taken care of, too.
- The trainings, seminars, and workshops your staff attends. Each one reminds the public you are professionals and lets them know that you are staying up to date on new developments in the industry. This includes any spay/neuter events, vaccination clinics, outreach, or any special events that your staff attends or leads.
- The professional accomplishments of your staff. If you have animal control officers and/or investigators on staff, be sure to tout their licensing and their accomplishments, including certifications and badge ceremonies. You can also post to celebrate any staff accomplishments like degrees or certifications attained, or work anniversaries for staff members who have served for a long time.
- Animal-related ordinances. Facebook posts about your enforcement efforts can help tell your story. When done carefully with friendly, shareable graphics, posts can help educate the public about ordinances they may not be aware of. This includes reminding people that selling pets on the side of the road is illegal in our community.
- Large-scale investigations. Posts about large scale dog fighting busts, seizures and cruelty investigations can also help tell your story. These emotional stories bring their own set of challenges but they can bring a lot of new visitors to your page.
- Responses to emergency situations. Be sure to include emergency information and procedures for those who need it. People affected need to know where to go and what to do with their pets. People not affected need reassurance that people and pets who are affected are getting the help they need, and what they can do to help.
Some additional tips for your organization:
- Don’t automatically shy away from posting something you think might upset someone. You can minimize negative reactions in most cases by waiting to post until you are relatively certain the story will have a happy ending, and by describing exactly what people are seeing in the photos.
- When you do post about a serious case, be sensitive. Above all else, don’t jeopardize the case. Don’t accuse anyone and don’t provide unnecessary detail or gory images. Focus the post on the outcomes and the animals, not on the circumstances and never place blame. Try to include a way that concerned pet lovers can help.
- Don’t forget to have some fun, too. Spreading a little humor can raise both morale inside your organization and support outside your organization — it’s part of your story, too.
If you need more inspiration, check out the Dallas Animal Services Facebook page and get help with shareable graphics on Canva.com. For those of you in charge of social media for a brick and mortar shelter, you are invited to join us on Facebook at @AnimalShelterSocialMedia for more ideas. And remember, if you don’t tell your story, someone else will.
The opinions and advice expressed within this article are the opinions of the author, and not of SAWA or its affiliates.