This post will be the first in a short series on how to use social media for animal welfare, sheltering, rescue or any related cause. I hope it will be useful if you want to start a group that share information, such as education about no kill or animals who need homes.

Where to share

There are several different locations to share information:

The most important for animal welfare are Facebook and a website. Twitter is somewhat useful, however is often a “firehose of information” so might be less useful to your organization. It’s a great idea to try different social media accounts to see what works best for your workflow, and your cause. If something doesn’t work, try to automate the process and focus on an account that does achieve results.

Note: If you are a rescue, make sure to place your adoption listings on sites such as Petfinder.com, Craigslist.org and Adoptapet.com, and then share those listings with social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. This helps ensure that more people in your community find your adoptable animals.

What you need

After you decide to set up a group, there are a few pieces you will need to get online.

  • A name: This is quite obvious. You will want to think of a name that is unique, and you may want to check if anyone else has used that name (such as, already taken the Twitter handle or URL).
  • A logo: You will need some kind of graphic to add as your “profile photo” in social media. You could use a photo of an animal or a simple text-based graphic until you have a finalized logo – just make sure that it is original, or open source (in other words, no copyright issues). There are some organizations that offer logo design services for free.
  • A short phrase: Facebook, Twitter, and other sites ask you to add a short phrase that describes yourself or your organization. It is a good idea to have a sentence or two that describes what your organization is about.

Now it is time to start signing up on the sites where you want to build your online presence. For Facebook and Google+, you might already have an account and need to create a new Page. I will cover that process below. I will not describe the registration process, as they are all designed to be relatively straightforward. I will cover blogging (and sites that offer free blog-based websites) in a separate post.

Creating Pages

If you are on Facebook or Google+, you will need to create a page for your organization.

Facebook

Facebook seems to be the primary location to share information on animal welfare related topics and pets who need homes. It is important to have a Facebook presence, even with all the shortcomings of the website. And, there are many automated ways to send information to your page without any effort at all. After you have an account on Facebook, you can create a Page following these steps:

  1. Go to this page or click “More” under “Pages” in the left hand column.
  2. Click the Create a Page button.
  3. Click the box that best describes your Page (such as Causes and Communtion), and then enter the name of your new page.
  4. Follow the four steps to enter basic information and settings for your new page.

Your page is then created. You can use the Admin panel (which shows automatically) to adjust settings, invite followers, and more. I will create a blog post about how to use the Facebook Admin in an upcoming article. Follow Dogthusiast to be notified about our new posts.

Note: To share your page with new users, click the Build Audience button and choose one of the options from this menu (such as Share Page).

Google+

Google+ does not have the same traction as Facebook in our animal welfare communities. However, it is useful to have a presence there and there are some automated ways to share information on your Page without much effort. To create a page in Google+, after you have created an account:

  1. Select More… Pages at the bottom of the left column.
  2. Select Create New Page from the upper right corner of the page.
  3. Pick a main category for your organization, then select a category and click next.
  4. Add information for your page, then click Continue.
  5. Optionally add your logo, description, email, and then click Finish.

Sharing information

Social media accounts let you post updates, but they also let you easily share information from others. Here’s how to share information on a few different social media sites.

Facebook

Make sure to “Like” Pages to follow the stories of animal advocates and organizations in your area and around the world. To Like a page, search for terms using the Search box at the top of Facebook, and then click “Like” next to the pages you want to follow.

To share news, follow your news feed and then:

    .

  1. Find a story you want to share, and click Share beneath the story.
  2. On the dialog that opens, select On your Page from the top menu.
  3. Select the name of the page (if applicable) to share the story with.
  4. Type a description of the story, why your posting it, or whatever comment you’d like to make. Then click Share Link.

You can also share new content:

  1. Click the name of your Page in the left hand column.
  2. Click Write Status or add Photo/Video buttons near the top of the page, and then write your new content (or upload a photo/video and so on). When you click Post, the content is added to your page and shared with followers.

Google+

As your page, find content to follow. You might want to use search terms and then add pages and people to follow, and then you can add them to “circles” (essentially, categories).

To share existing content from your newsfeed:

  1. Find a news story, and then click the Share this post button.
  2. In the dialog that opens, type your comments about the story and click Share.

To post new content:

  1. Open your page by selecting the name from the top-right menu, as shown here:
  2. Type new content, and click Share when you’re done.
  3. If you want to add different media, select one of the icons below the text box.

When you are finished posting as your page, you can switch back to your personal account again using the top-right menu shown in step 1.

Twitter

You are limited to 140 characters, but Twitter can be an effective way of sharing information to a large number of people. Make sure that you search Twitter for accounts to follow about your interests, such as other rescues and advocacy groups. I will create a future post containing tips for using Twitter, such as adding “hashtags” to help people find your “tweets” (messages). For now, open your Twitter account and you will see how incredibly easy it is to use!

  1. Type into the text box in the upper-left corner of the screen.
  2. Click Tweet.

That sends out a message to your “followers” (other people watching your messages). I will create a blog post about how to use Twitter effectively for your cause in the near future.

Blogging

Blogging is a great way to communicate your opinions on current events, animal welfare issues, and debates. It is also a great way to let your community know about animals that you have, or others have, for adoption. It’s really easy to create a blog, and it doesn’t need to cost your organization any money either. I will create a blog post on how to create your own blog in the near future. Follow Dogthusiast to be notified about our new posts.

Future posts in this series will include:

  • Using the Facebook Page Admin and Lists
  • Twitter tips
  • Creating a website for your organization
  • Automatically sharing information to social media
  • Managing multiple social media accounts
  • Linking social media accounts

I’m sure that you will have questions about what I’ve covered above. Please ask in the comments! This will help revise this post, which I hope to make better over time.

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.