When I started officially working in animal rescue and protection in 2000, there was no such thing as social media. Facebook, Twitter, and other sites had not become a reality. At that time, homeless companion animals were just starting to make their way onto websites (such as Petfinder). Now imagine back to the 1980’s or even earlier when none of those options existed. We’ve come a long way, baby, and the animals are benefitting.

While it seems like we’re always treading with our head barely above water to safely place so many animals each day, and we wonder whether we are actually making progress, I want to tell you that we are making progress. Social media is now an amazing tool that we have at our fingertips to help us help companion animals. Here are some ways that social media is helping:

  • To promote the adoption of companion animals in shelters and with rescue organizations;
  • To feature difficult-to-adopt companion animals;
  • To help get an animal out of an unsafe situation (being abandoned in a foreclosed home);
  • To help fundraise for a specific animal-in-need or for an improvement at a shelter;
  • To help raise awareness of an issue, such as a legislative bill or a petition to help animals;
  • To mobilize communities to take action on an issue related to animal protection;
  • To advertise fundraising events or community programs;
  • To share stories and information about your efforts to help animals, especially post-adoption stories.

This list goes on and on as to the benefits of social media for animals. I could not even begin to speculate on how many Facebook and Twitter pages are dedicated to shelters and people helping animals. I see hundreds of postings a day about animals that need help. And while we wonder whether these postings fall on blind eyes or actually work, they are helping more often than not.

For example, on March 16, 2012, the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center put out a request for $250 to replace a dilapidated washing machine. Allstar Rescue inNew Jerseyprovided the money. Despite over a 2000 mile distance between Allstart Rescue andSt. Croix, social media worked to help bring them together.

And just this morning, the Humane Society of Midland County in Michigan put out a plea for cat food and printer paper and people were responding immediately to fill the need. That same shelter also put a plea on their Facebook page on May 10th to have feral and semi-feral cats placed in barns. Not only did someone come forward and offer to provide free transport between the shelter and the barns, but another lady found a barn willing to take four of the cats. Although this particular shelter is working endlessly to have all of their animals placed, finding a safe home for feral or semi-feral cats is extremely challenging. They went to social media to help and it worked.

If you work or volunteer for a shelter or rescue organization, or simply have a voice to help animals, you can reach more people through social media. Having a Facebook and Twitter account can help you reach people across the globe (and you can connect those two accounts together so that you simply post on one page and it automatically posts on the other).

Here are some other social media options to consider:

  • YouTube is a compelling tool to help you share videos of animals in need.
  • Picasa is a tool that I have used to create slide show video presentations of shelter animals. Click here to see an example.
  • LinkedIn is a professional networking site where you can connect with professionals in the field (which is excellent for obtaining advice) and to animal-related groups for updates, news, and information.
  • Care2 is good for taking action on petitions, or for creating your own free online petition to raise awareness of a cause.
  • The Petition Site is also a good site for taking action on petitions or starting your own.
  • Change.org lists animals one of their top causes and provides information on current trends and issues that need action.
  • MeetUp will help you bring together people in your community for events, meetings, etc.
  • HootSuite is a tool to help you combine all of your social media sites in one platform which not only saves on time, but also provides you with ways to measure your results and who you reach.
  • ChipIn is a quick and easy way to raise money online and provides you a fund-meter that you can place on your website.
  • Or create a free online blog to feature your great work!

King Street Cats, where I volunteer, is now using multiple social media platforms to help our cat orphanage. We currently have a ChipIn campaign to help with some excessive veterinary bills and have raised over $3,500 in just a week. We also create videos and place them on YouTube to help promote our cats. And our Facebook and Twitter pages have multiple postings each day. All of this effort is due to a handful of volunteers who are dedicated to these tasks.

Although shelters and rescue organizations are always overworked and struggling to get basic work accomplished, it is worthwhile to find someone (even a volunteer) who will take on your social media presence and spend even just an hour a day posting information about adoptable pets, asking for help, and advertising what you are doing. Just a little effort goes a long way.

If you have a successful social media story, please share so that we can all learn! And if you already haven’t signed up for my Facebook or Twitter feeds, please join in on our great conversations to help animals!