Even though we’d been talking about (and looking into) adopting a dog, the week we adopted Topher was a whirlwind event. It started with a photo in my Facebook feed, shared by a local rescue group; less than 48 hours later, Topher was settling into his new home. Whether this is a normal scenario or not, one thing is clear: social media changed the game for rescue groups and shelters, for better or for worse.
Currently, social media is heavily integrated into our daily lives; it’s only natural for companies and charities alike to leverage it for greater success. In many cases, non-profits like animal rescues and shelters don’t have as many resources at their disposal, nor do they possess the time or tools to craft the viral, spot on messaging you see from big corporations. We all love to commiserate over the emotional power of those Sarah McLachlan commercials, but can social media strategies for dog rescues attract even a fraction of that response? We think so. Here are just a few ways rescue groups and shelters can make the most of their social media accounts.
Cover The Basics
Though it seems obvious, many small organizations seem to operate online without any clear contact information or “calls to action.” If your goal is for interested parties to get in touch with you, this is a huge mistake! Make sure information is correct and clearly listed on all social media channels you operate. The website link you use on all accounts should also be the link you want to direct the majority of your audience too. That means if you’d rather send potential adoptive families straight to Facebook, always link to it directly in every profile!
In the same vein, always make sure you’re sharing photos of adoptable animals with all important information a potential adopter will need—location, ID numbers, availability date, contact info—so it will follow that pet’s photo if it’s shared by other people.
Focus on Photos
One picture is worth a thousand words—or at least a few hundred retweets—when it’s a good one. We’ve shared tips for taking great photos of your pets that you can use regardless of your equipment setup. It doesn’t take a big, expensive setup to take a lovely photo of a dog! If we could give one tip to every shelter and rescue group, it’s this: get out of the cage, or even get out of the building if you can. Natural light and a little time out in a grassy area with a camera (or just a phone) will help show off an adoptable dog’s “good side” and keep their mugshots from looking the same as all the rest a potential family might be hunting though.
Simple, Positive, Honest
Once you have a photo, it’s time to share a dog’s story and rustle up potential adopters. These are the three pillars of messaging we feel every shelter and rescue group should focus on.
Simple: Pick out two or three of the best qualities this dog may have, and write one or two short sentences about them. While it might be tempting to write out an entire life story to set a dog apart from the masses, sticking to a few positive qualities will give potential adopters something to latch onto and remember, without diving into four paragraphs on why this particular dog is so great. Social media moves faster everyday—keep things as short and sweet as possible.
Positive: Some dogs come from truly terrible situations and are literally fighting for their lives when they arrive with rescues or shelters. In those cases, it’s common to showcase their story, because those kinds of situations and how a dog survives them will dictate their story as they move through the rescue system.
However, a majority of dogs come into rescues with no backstory, or a pretty common one: they simply aren’t wanted. In these cases, it’s better to focus on the positive. Don’t demonize previous owners or dwell on past transgressions. Focus on the reasons why this dog is ready for a new home with the right family, and those families will—with any luck—be drawn to those positive messages.
Honest: Rescue dogs can sometimes be tricky to place, and it’s important for shelters to be honest about a dog’s potential issues. Animal reactivity, experience with children, and any special needs should always be clearly listed when you’re giving a description of an adoptable dog. All of these things help potential adoptive families to see, at a glance, if this dog is one they can work with or not.
If your rescue is not focused on getting out of state adoption placements or transporting animals, it’s important to stay local in your social media efforts. List your location when sharing animals, target your post with that location on Facebook and Instagram. Make use of local hashtags when it’s relevant, or create your own so local audiences can track your new rescues and success stories.
Even if a dog’s status hasn’t changed, it can be helpful to share new photos of them—perhaps with something you learned about them recently—to keep any dogs from falling through the cracks. Smaller rescues can even go as far as keeping a Facebook album for each of their dogs, updating with new photos or new encounters when applicable.
If one of your dogs has been recently adopted, share it! Happy endings and positive messages are shared more often and more widely, so any good news for you is also good news your followers can help celebrate right along with you.