Social Strategy for the Dogs. How Social Media is Saving Animal Lives.

shelter dog

Most people read {grow} to see how social media is connecting brands and people … but I wanted to share how it is also connecting people to animals in need, too. In fact, social media is saving lives.

Adopting a pet who has been abandoned, rescued, abused, or simply unwanted, is a wonderful thing for a person to do. Not only do you get a loving companion who adores you unconditionally, but you get a sense of purpose and true responsibility to this innocent life you saved from being put down unnecessarily. By also helping via social media, I hope that my “lives saved” tally reaches far beyond the paws I have in my home.

The story of the dog

Last year my family lost two of our dogs due to old age and subsequently began our search for a new pet by visiting shelters every Saturday. Each week we saw plenty of contenders, and then I would go home and visit them on Facebook to see who got adopted, new strays that had been rescued, and the antics the shelter staff would post. This went on for weeks until I was introduced to a beautiful fluffy white dog with a pink nose who had just been posted on Facebook:

bitly shelter photo

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About 45 minutes later we were going home with our newest addition “”

But connecting people with pets is just part of how social media is helping shelters. Just last month the shelter was able to reunite two stolen senior Basset Hounds from Missouri, Aggie and Clyde, who were dumped here in Texas! You can watch the reunion here. My local shelter has many happy tails, and many not so happy tails of abandonment, neglect, abuse etc. But the point is, they use Facebook. They use it well. With little staff and money, they have managed to pull off consistent stellar Facebook engagement. Some things they do:

  • Reply to posts within hours to inspire engagement
  • Post intake and adoption photos daily, updates on animals who have been adopted to drive consistent activity
  • Post professional photos of animals up for adoption, some of which are really quite adorable and shareable
  • Promote fund raisers; coordinate volunteer initiatives to get folks involved and posting to the page

Their community is wonderful. There is a lot of activity, personality, and of course sharing. So why weren’t they on Twitter?

The Twitter connection

One day my son (4) says out of the blue,”Mommy I want a kitten. A black kitten.” I have no idea where this came from but he never let it go. So we re-started our Saturday shelter visits with a new purpose. I was getting more and more involved with the wonderful shelter pets but noticed there was no Twitter feed. Why wouldn’t they share these animals with people on Twitter too?

So, I sent a Facebook message to the gals at the shelter (we are old friends at this point) and told them I could help them set up a Twitter account, show them how to use Hootsuite, and leverage Facebook posts in this new platform. Easy enough right!?

Not really.

Twitter best practices for a shelter

Well here in lies that pesky problem of time. The shelter needs time to post, which they are already doing and Hootsuite would basically just copy the posts to another social platform, Twitter. But they also need time to devote to building a following, sharing Tweets, and also answering tweets. They simply did not have the resources to do this and asked for my help in setting up and maintaining their Twitter feed.

Some time saving strategies I use, and suggest are:

Set up scheduled backbone tweets. The shelter has many “core messages” they can run over and over on Twitter on a timetable by scheduling through Hootsuite or Buffer. An example would be monthly remiders to followers about donating goods selected from the shleter’s Amazon Wish List.

I like to schedule posts that are pretty basic and not terribly time sensitive. The scheduling process is as easy as writing your short blurb, adding the link (Hootsuite and BufferApp will shorten the link for you), click which social networks you wish it to post to, and pick a date and time that you want it to post. There is also the “auto schedule” option that lets Hootsuite choose the most optimal times to post for you. Scheduled tweets can not be the only part of your strategy, but they help free up time to do real time engaging. Don’t forget to add relevant hashtags to help your post be “found.”

Utilize add-ons. Buffer and Hootsuite’s extensions are excellent time savers. The extensions are on your web browser, so you basically only have to click the icon on your browser window when you want to share something as opposed to opening the full dashboard. The shelter might want to use this for any article they run across or even YouTube video that is relevant to their audience. You can choose to post immediately or schedule as described above on Hootsuite and BufferApp as well. You can post to multiple platforms.

Utilize Twitter’s mobile App. I have the Twitter app on my phone (of course) and can toggle between my accounts and the shelter account. This is great for live Tweeting. The shelter might be able to utilize this at off site functions, of course while utilizing appropriate hashtags. You can also check any mentions, messages or the like while on your smartphone.

While this list is by no means inclusive, it may help you get started with organizing your social media efforts when you don’t have much time.

I hope that through a few minutes a day of my Tweeting I can help someone find that perfect pet or a shelter animal find their forever family, like “Marlo” or “Roxie” who have been at the shelter for 276 and 236 days respectively. Eventually, I am sure the shelter will be able to take over tweeting, but for now I enjoy it. My ROI is knowing that I might be able to save one animal life.

And, in case you were wondering, here is “” with our new addition “#hashtag” the black kitten:

bitly the dog

Do you have any experience using social media to help with animal causes? I’d love to hear your story in the comment section!

Top photo courtesy Flickr CC and Woody Hibbard

Discuss This Article

Comments: 16

  • Jan P says:

    Great Article!!! yes this is the great power of social media to connect communities on sooooo many levels!! I love to see it being used for positive. Connecting people and families with pets is a wonderful use for social media and I look forward to seeing more of this…. I will have to look at how I can incorporate this into my site… thanks again for the info!!
    Jan P

  • Gerard Jendras says:

    Check out this story…a tale first shared on Craigslist, which went on to trigger an outpouring of generosity:

  • Tami Stodghill says:

    We actually share dogs on Facebook all day—everyday. I believe it helps…even one dog saved is worth it. We actually posted our dog, Annabelle, who can’t walk and has neurological issues and when we saw she wasn’t adopted 2 months later, we drove over 1200 miles to go get her. She is now a member of our family and we couldn’t love her more.

    • Tami
      That unmistakable, instant bond I felt with “”, would have made me drive the distance too. The look she gave me and my (then 3 yr old) son was almost magical. And how she allowed him to cuddle with her in her hiding spot under a bench…. I actually had to carry her in and out of the house for almost 2 months. Now, 10 lbs heavier and 200% happier and healthier, I cannot imagine our family without her.

  • When deciding on how to marketing your business online, read and listen to the advice, do some testing yourself, and do question it. Then you are in a good position to decide how to split your budget. PPC can be expensive yes, but if you are savvy you can get a lot back, my advice would be to continually test the waters and built it up slowly.

  • Sorry I cut and paste the wrong comment into the box, my apologies, here is the comment I should have posted…This is a wonderful post. Anything that can be done to help connect animals to loving homes is fantastic. Social media as you have shown has a lot of potential for this (your animals are adorable I must add). I understand that budgets and staffing resources are often very tight but maybe this is a great opportunity to take on students straight out of college or university as a volunteer for a couple of months, they can set everything up to ensure it’s low maintenance, train the current permanent members of staff to manage the platforms and they are then helping a fantastic cause whilst gaining great experience to add to their CV.

    • Daisy they have numerous volunteers, but I think could really benefit from someone like you describe. I may have to pass the torch to a student! However, many times once the intern/volunteering students gets a career going they often fall off the radar. That has been my experience. This endeavor needs consistency.

  • Very thorough and well written article Jessica! Your advise really speaks to the holistic nature of social and how it can be used to share your stories, build communities, and reach audiences in any context.

    I’m glad that HootSuite is playing a part in telling the dog’s story!

    -Connor from HootSuite

  • Well this is a great idea. I had been looking at my local cat shelter and if they used social media it would certainly make a bigger impact than the current website they use. As good as it is right now, they could always do with a boost. Good to see social media has some additional benefits, at least, it’s not all about chronic narcissism.

  • Alex, Maybe you could make a suggestion to them.. With a few tips it would not take too much time out of the day to take a quick photo and request to share via social..

  • Very good article. It definitely shows us the power that social media can have on impacting lives of people and animals. I think all shelters should have a presence on social media and it would definitely help with possibly increasing adoption rates. The shelters could also inform new pet owners about how to raise a pet properly and the care and attention they may need in the future.
    Great way to raise awareness and makes me feel good

  • Maria says:

    I recently rescued a lovely min-pin which I found via one of the adoption websites. It would have been even better if a potential adoptee could interact virtually with the folks temporarily caring for the pets to ask specific questions and the use of social media could expedite the process of getting these animals to a permanent home.
    Very glad to hear that some folks are catching on to this idea!

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