There are scores of articles out there about how to gain a Facebook following, but what about the organizations that have already achieved that goal? How do those groups, particularly nonprofits run by skeleton crews, stay engaged with tens of thousands of social media fans?
That's the dilemma we faced at Peace & Paws as our Facebook fan base grew to more than 73,000 active participants.
Our mission is to match the world's best dogs with the world's best people. We have established solid relationships with southern US rescue partners, enabling us to transport, foster, and adopt out dogs from states that have numerous high-kill shelters. All of that is done with minimal staff and the assistance of volunteers. Facebook has become our primary platform for communicating with past adopters, donors, and dog lovers, as well for providing exposure to available dogs for prospective adopters.
Our Facebook community is vital to our organization, and we had to find a way to cultivate it without adding employees or taking time away from dog-rescue activities. Here are some ways we've learned to engage our large social media following to build a more successful organization.
Remember your mission, and reflect it in your posts
We founded Peace & Paws after adopting a dog from Alabama and learning about how many unwanted pets are euthanized there every year. Our organization's goal is to find forever homes for rescue dogs and support the foster families and adopters who love these animals. We want that to be clear in our social media communications when people "like" Peace & Paws on Facebook.
When people join our Facebook community, we want them to see posts that will help them care for their own dogs, as well as give exposure to dogs in need and celebrate those who are involved in rescuing them. We try to do that in a fun and engaging way without losing the thread of what we're about.
For example, some of our most popular posts involve the Tips of the Day with our dogs Giddy and Twinkle. These dogs show their personalities through the tips, which often involve a little sibling-like bickering. Often, we dress the dogs up in theme-appropriate costumes. While we want it to feel fun, the tips are often serious subjects that dog owners need to know. (If you look at this image we shared on Facebook for Valentine's Day, you'll get a sense of how we approach the goal of having fun while also serving our community.)
Melissa Hannon is the co-founder of Peace & Paws, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that matches homeless dogs with people who would like to adopt them.