The Future of Pet Assistance: How Social Media is Changing the Way We Help Pets

FACE welcomes guest blogger Dr. Elizabeth Benson, DVM of Paws Into Grace:




Much like everything else in the modern world, social media is changing the way in which businesses operate. Even non-profits are seeing increased exposure (see: The Ice Bucket Challenge), receiving donations from outside of their normal donation pool, and watching as pets that were normally only aided within a community are now being flown hundreds or even thousands of miles cross-country to settle into new homes or receive specialized care.

Social media is a game changer for non-profit animal well-being organizations.

Social Media and Visibility for Animal Wellness Groups

Social media is an unstoppable force for wellness organizations whose primary goal is delivering a message and increasing visibility for the cause. Never before in history has it been possible to spread a story any faster than it is today. A puppy mill in Missouri that wouldn’t have made the front page in the local paper is now known by people worldwide, bringing about a large concern for the well-being of our animals.

In my time at Paws Into Grace, where we specialize in care during the final days of your pet’s life, I’m continually amazed at the response of people when they find out (typically through social media) that services like ours even exist. Having a social media presence, as well as a website where people can get more information, allows us to expand our reach and deliver a message to an audience that often provides us with additional tips, responses, or resources that we didn’t even know existed. Facebook has become the new referral. When our audience knows that a friend or loved one has a pet that may be in their final days, they quickly tag us and let them know about the services we offer.

The FACE Foundation and Social Media

The FACE Foundation has experienced great success in spreading the word about the important work they do–providing grants to help family pets receive life-saving veterinary care–through social media outlets. This is often difficult for small, specialized non-profits, as people typically learn about them through word of mouth. For example, new people are “Liking” their Facebook page daily, and a look at the demographics on the “Insights” page shows that FACE has found fans from all over America and other parts of the world (Pakistan, Germany, the Philippines, to name a few). Another example of how social media has benefitted FACE is when their grantees post about the help they have received from the organization, and that gets shared with their friends and family. When this happens, FACE sees much-needed donations come through from people who heard the good news about a saved pet and learned about FACE’s mission, which might not happen without social media.

How Social Media Helps Shelters and Rescue Organizations

Gone are the days of adoption events at a local pet store, walk-ins to the shelter, or classified ads being the only real education and adoption tools that rescues had at their disposal. With social media, we’re able to send a targeted message worldwide, and reap the benefits that this sort of engaged audience provides.

A great example is a local shelter here in San Diego that recently sent out a plea for donations in the form of cash, food, or pet toys via Facebook. The response was overwhelming and due to one simple Facebook post the story went viral, allowing them to receive the support they needed. The story was picked up in local papers, news networks covered it, and it became a sort of rallying cry for the power of social media in animal well-being organizations.

While donations are great, at the end of the day it really boils down to being able to help more pets. A shelter with money is still nothing if they aren’t placing pets into new homes so that they can rescue additional animals in need.

Social media works wonders in that regard.

What was once a furry face amongst many other furry faces can now be shared with audiences that often number in the hundreds of thousands all while telling the animal’s story and providing pictures or videos to accompany it.

People love a good story, and these sorts of messages are being spread like wildfire through the community of animal lovers. It’s now commonplace for a social media message detailing a rescued animal to reach audiences worldwide, and because of this, we often see donations coming from far outside the geographic limitations that many rescues experienced pre-social media. In addition, we’re now in an age where a dog in Boston can easily be transported to his new companion in Colorado, making it easier than ever to find rescued animals a new home with a family that may have been unreachable just a decade or so ago.

The rescue and animal well-being groups of today have resources available at their fingertips that just weren’t available in decades past. Animal lovers are animal lovers, no matter what their location, and we’re seeing how this tight-knit group of people is increasingly going above and beyond in ensuring that animal welfare organizations receive more donations, while helping more pets, all through the power of social media.

Raising awareness, increasing donations, and aiding animals in need is an on-going battle, and social media is quickly becoming the weapon of choice.