I happened across an older blog post recently that sparked some controversy over how people should or should not use Facebook for pet rescue. Heather, of Dog Hair & Bourbon, shared some very valid points in her article, The Love/Hate Relationship of Social Media and Rescue. The article was picked up on Petful and garnered an equal response of opposing views arguing for and against the points Heather made.
Will Anyone Act on Your Social Plea?
The comments made me remember a really interesting interview I heard a couple years ago on NPR with social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam on supporting a cause. Research by psychologist Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon showed that people reduce giving when they feel like their contribution would not make any difference in the long run. According to the research, you are more likely to help one starving child rather than contribute toward feeding a much larger population.
Understanding how the brain responds to giving, pet rescuers can use social media to paint a picture that illustrates their cause, but doing it one dog or cat at a time. Those same rescue organizations can harness social media best practices to help boost their visibility, but in a way that supports their end goal and does not dilute efforts.
Craft Social Messages that Prompt Action
Individual stories about each foster pet could include suggestions on how the general social population can help. For example, “Fido is a 5 year old lab/chihuahua mix who is in Omaha. We cannot afford to transport Fido, but if you have connections in Omaha, please share this post.” Fido is heartworm positive, but will live a long, healthy life with heartworm treatment. The treatment cost is only $xx. If you cannot adopt Fido, please pay for his treatment. Email …”
Social media is a powerful tool, but you need to tailor it to meet your goals. That said, if you are using social media as a rescue organization, make sure you establish your goals, define your target audiences, and create your social plan accordingly. And remember, research shows we humans are more likely to contribute if we think it will make an actual difference, so don’t overwhelm us with huge statistics or seemingly unsolvable problems.