2010 was a year that many rescues and shelters dabbled in social media with varying amounts of success. For those who haven’t created a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, YouTube, or any of the other myriad social media portals, why not? Statistics say that the demographic that most rescues and shelters want to reach out to are probably on social media of some sort.
I have noticed that, of rescues who are utilizing social media, the largest number feel safest wandering into Facebook first. So I’ll focus on this social media outlet for today. Note the following statistics:
- There are over 500 million people who have accounts with Facebook.
- 250 million people log in on any given day.
- 200 million people access Facebook on mobile devices (phones and pads).
- The fastest growing demographic is women over the age of 55.
- More than 30% of Facebook users are over 35.
- More than 30 billion pieces of information are shared each month. (Is any of that information about you?)
If even a tenth of one percent of these users (50,000) were in your state, interested in your breed or species and potential adopters, donors or volunteers, don’t you think it’s worth it to have your message out there for them at no cost, other than time (which I understand is always in short supply)?
I recommend the following as you start to concept your plan for entry into social media.
- Determine who your audience is – donors, potential adopters, volunteers, interested public or all of the above?
- Is your message very local (your city or state) or do you have some things you’d like to say that have global interest?
- How many of your current supporters use Facebook, My Space, Twitter, You Tube…
- Do you have a trustworthy volunteer or staff member who is already spending a lot of time on social media that would enjoy helping you to create a presence there?
If you are just getting started in Facebook, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Set the page up as a group page and not as a personal page.
- This will allow you to set up multiple admins, track likes and watch statistics about how your page is being viewed.
- You will have the ability, as you grow, to set up more group related tabs and apps.
- Don’t post more than 1-2 pieces of information a day. Your followers are interested in you but are also likely interested in their friends and multiple other groups or interests and don’t want to see you hogging their “Wall”.
- Social media is a two-way conversation, not a mode of posting bulletins with no interaction. Allow and encourage people to interact with you through open-ended questions.
- Make a decision early on about the “voice” you want to have.
- Neutral 3rd person – “PETCO Foundation supports Rescue X”.
- 1st person – “I support Rescue X”. We recommend posting in the 3rd person but keep it conversational “We are so excited about all the great work that Rescue X is doing”. Initially you may personally know the 10-12 people who follow your group’s page, but eventually you may not know everyone and could alienate people who don’t feel on the inside circle of who “you” are.
- Try to sprinkle in more fun posts than not – this is a “social” network. A general rule of thumb (er…paw) is that only 20% of your posts should ask for money or convey business information.
- People love to see the fuzzy, feathered and scaly faces of your adoptables. However, we caution you to post no more than 2 a day. No one wants to open their Facebook to an entire wall of homeless pets that they have to scroll past before they can see what anyone else posted that day. The average person has 130 Facebook friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. They are looking to see more than just your posts.
- Don’t assume that most users are viewing your posts from your actual page. Most are viewing them in their news stream on their own walls or even on mobile devices. Avoid use of directional words – “see the post above”, “see the photos below”, “click on the link to the left”.
- Keep your posts short (unlike this article). People don’t have long attention spans.
- Don’t automatically delete negative posts. They are often an opportunity to engage or educate.
- If you have an avid following, they will often also jump in to defend your group or contradict the stand the person has taken.
- If it is a claim that someone is making that you can address from a customer service standpoint, ask them to send you an email and address the issue outside of the public facing Facebook.
- However you handle the post, do be as polite as possible, as they’ve already shown a propensity to air discontent on your page.
- When linking to a url from a post, read the default text that comes up associated with that link. You can click in and change any of it from within your post to be more relevant.
- Make use of the ability that Facebook offers to limit some posts to the walls of people in a specific city or state (beneath the Status update box, click on the icon that looks like a lock. Choose Customize. From there, drill down to an audience as specific as you want.) There is no need to post an adoption event in Tallahassee on the walls of followers in Oahu.
- Remember weekly to click on the Options link under the status updates and click on Spam. This will show you posts that got tagged as spam before getting onto your wall. Unfortunately a lot of rescue posts get thrown into the Facebook spam filter.
- Don’t worry about how many followers you have. It’s better to have 100 loyal followers than 1,000 followers who sign up to follow you but then never interact with you again.
If you already have a presence on Facebook but are looking for ways to expand:
- Consider divvying up the posting responsibilities; but have a plan so that you are not over-posting and so that your message and “voice” stays consistent:
- One person posts event photos (making sure to tag them with volunteer and pet names)
- One person posts adoptables
- One person creates events
- One person submits educational tidbits about your breed, species, spay neuter or national news of interest
- Try doing a small contest. People are happy to win just about anything. The cost can be as small as a new toy or leash plus postage. The contest should have a goal:
- Draws in new followers (“we will draw a name from all people who post on our wall today”)
- Helps your followers learn more about you (“look on our website and the first person to post the name of one of our adoptables wins”)
- Is just fun and engaging (“post a photo of your adopted pet doing something silly and then get your friends to Like your photo. The person with the most likes at x time wins”).
- Encourages donations (“everyone who donates $5 today towards x cause, will receive a free gift”). Note that social media is typically not a strong fundraising tool so make fundraising requests sparingly here.
- Please note that Facebook rules with regard to contests on their site change often. Read up to make sure you are staying within their guidelines.
- If you are a larger organization, consider multiple accounts. PETCO and PETCO Foundation have corporate Facebook accounts but then also have designated official spokesters who are able to post as themselves under a name that identifies them as official. I can post on the main PETCO Foundation or PETCO pages as the administrator, however I have a separate account and am also able to respond as a person to the PETCO Foundation posts or posts on our partner’s pages as “Kim At PetcoFoundation”. Make sure that these additional people are not admins on your Group page or they will only show up as posting as your group and not as themselves.
- Follow or subscribe to one of the many organizations that now provide information about all the things that can be done with social media. I often read the posts of the Social Media Examiner http://www.facebook.com/smexaminer . They don’t necessarily specialize in non-profit but have some good, commonsense articles that span a variety of topics.
Whatever you decide to do, have fun with it and stay consistent to build a loyal base of followers.