“Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.” James Cromwell
Whether you’re a dog person, a friend of felines or fish, birdies or something with scales, now’s the time to celebrate your pet (or pets) and the endless joy they bring to your life.
February 20th is actually Love your Pet Day. As a collective of animal lovers–and you’ll often find someone’s dog hanging out in our office– we wanted to mark the day by thinking about our furry friends. We decided to focus on pets and their affinity with the internet while considering how shelters can help abandoned or mistreated animals find homes through the power of social media.
Like cheese and wine, (or Netflix and pop tarts), pets and the Internet go perfect together. Not only do animals pull on our emotional heartstrings, but their amusing, unpredictable nature offers a wealth of web-based entertainment across a range of mediums.
Studies suggest that dogs are the most popular animal on the Web, with 44% of the planet’s most popular pet-based Instagram accounts being canine-related. This is closely followed by cats, the most famous of whom–Grumpy Cat–received her own obituary in major news outlets, so wide was her fame.
For as far back as anyone can remember, pets have been stars of the net, with posts, campaigns, and content that has earned droves of engagement or viral status—like Charlie Schmidt's famous Keyboard Cat which has earned over 57 million YouTube views since 2007 when it became an instant viral hit. Shortly after the video reached the heights of Internet fame, the content was re-edited, remixed, and spread across social media like wildfire—a testament to the power of pets and the net.
And the ‘ snoot challenge’ became a social media phenomenon in 2018 as countless dog owners documented themselves teaching their four-legged friends this neat trick.
These ‘pets on the net’ examples are merely the tip of the iceberg. Our affinity for animals makes pet-based web content incredibly infectious—a powerful vessel for encouraging meaningful consumer connections, boosting brand awareness, and sharing powerful messaging.
From ‘Keyboard Cat’ alone (an advocate for the Shelter Pet Project), it’s clear that YouTube owes much of its early growth to cats in particular, as shown by this infographic. And the widespread human love of pet pictures and videos has even led to pet-inspired Spotify playlists launched in early 2020, and Fitbits for dogs. Pets of various types (and species) rank up there with some high-earning influencers (did you know, Esther the Wonder Pig makes around $1.5 million alone?), with Instagram the place to be if you think your fluffy friend might have what it takes to go viral, and profitable.
Internet pet hysteria isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and by tapping into its ever-growing power, anyone involved in animal welfare can use social media to help build awareness, helping needy animals find the homes they deserve.
Take the case of the ‘New Jersey shelter dog’ for instance. When the Siberian Husky called Jubilee was abandoned by its breeder due to an eyelid deformity, Matawan, NJ's non-profit Husky House shelter took to social media to find the deserving dog a home.
To forge an instant emotional connection and engage potential dog lovers, Husky House produced a post in Jubilee’s voice, explaining her desperate situation and asking for a new home.
The heartwarming personal plea resulted in 40,000 Facebook shares, earning Jubilee a forever home quickly—and the follow-up post generated 30,000 engagements. In fact, the campaign was so popular that Jubilee’s new owners have even set up a social page to keep fans updated on her progress. An incredible outcome and a clearcut case of pet power.
Another interesting pet marketing angle is to take advantage of the animal influencer. Jetblue Airlines, for example, consulted the services of four-legged mascot, Marnie the Dog, to boost brand awareness. This post alone earned more than triple their usual level of post engagement.
A wildly popular dog that was adopted by a shelter over a decade ago, Marnie has a 1.8 million-follower-strong Instagram account. By creating a cute Insta post featuring the beloved pooch, the airline reaped the rewards of 3,900 likes and 157 comments.
In addition, harnessing the power of hashtags is an incredibly effective way of boosting post engagement and reaching a wider target audience. As a shelter, the more animal-lovers you can reach, the greater your chance of finding loving homes for your charges.
To demonstrate the power of the hashtag, this dog-based Instagram content alone achieved over one million post likes and an excess of 22,000 comments by leveraging the #WeeklyFluff hashtag.
The British non-profit feline adoption and wellbeing organization, Cats Protection, enjoyed droves of engagement across Twitter and Instagram by creating the hashtag #50ShadesofBlackCats in conjunction with national Black Cat Day.
This well-timed campaign’s mission was to make animal-lovers aware of the fact that cats whose black coats have faded find it far more difficult to find homes—and in terms of spreading awareness, it succeeded. In fact, it’s initiatives like this that have earned Cats Protection over 87,000 Instagram followers, and counting.
If you’re involved with an animal shelter or charity looking to raise their profile and find homes for their residents, social media is an invaluable marketing outlet.
By being authentic and using a mix of emotive messaging, user-generated content, pet-based influencer marketing, and well-timed hashtags, you will increase your levels of engagement which, in turn, will place you before more social media users—particularly animal enthusiasts that are already online and might be able to give your abandoned pets wonderful homes.
Here’s a little framework that will help you create catchy pet-based social media content for your shelter:
Now it’s over to you. Get creative, look to your residents for inspiration, communicate your message with your audience, and the rest will surely follow. Oh, and don’t forget to share the cutest images and videos you can find. Happy Love Your Pets Day.
For more marketing inspiration, read 5 successful social media campaigns you can learn from.