Your Shelter’s Facebook Page is Changing June 6th, Here’s What You Need to Know

If you haven’t already been given the option to change your rescue group’s Facebook Page over to the new format, or you have and you ignored it, it will automatically be changed on June 6th. Here’s a quick run down of the changes:

A navigation bar is now at the top to switch between your Page, Activity, Insights and Settings.



A window will be on the righthand side to give you a quick glance at your current number of page likes, your reach, and notifications.



All of your posts are now in one column.



The About section is more condensed:



Your apps, that were previous at the top of the page, below your cover photo, are now prominently displayed on the left-hand side, along with your “About” section, photos, posts to your page by others, and other Pages that your Page likes:


What does this mean for you? It means there are some housekeeping items you’ll want to take care of:

  1. Make sure your apps are updated, there are no broken apps, and that you even have some. My favorite apps are the free apps from that pull your other social media feeds from Twitter, Pinterest, and/or Instagram on to your Facebook page, as you can see above in the very last photo. Message me if you need help installing it.
  2. Make sure your “About” section is updated. Keep it short and concise, as it is what will be displayed in the left-hand column of your Page. You can do longer descriptions and give more info, such as hours of operation and contact information, in the Company Overview and Description sections.

Sniff Tip: One Simple Way to Get People to Stay on Your Animal Shelter or Rescue Group’s Website and Blog Longer

What’s one mistake many authors (not just in the animal rescue world) make? They don’t add links to their website or blog in a way that keeps people on their site. There is a special code you can use to make webpage links open in another window.

There are two ways to link:

This way (click the back button to come back when you’re done!)


This way

See how that opened another window, but kept the window to this website open?

Don’t help people leave your website, help them keep your website open!

It’s actually quite simple to do the second link. For starters, DON’T use the automatic link-maker that typically comes in your website or blog’s editing window. The thing that looks like a chain link? It looks like your friend, it acts like it helps you because it’s so easy to use, but it is not your friend. It is making people leave your website.

Instead, all you have to do is keep these little piece of code handy:

<a href=”” target=”_blank&quot;”>Whatever text you want here</a>

Any time you need to add a link, copy and paste this link into your site, and add in the website and text you want. Only change the parts that are in bold, leave the rest exactly the same. Voila!

One thing to remember, this code only works if you are in the “text” or “WSWYG” (What You See is What You Get) portion of your site. Typically, you have the option of “text” and “visual,” or something similar. It cannot be pasted into the visual side, or it won’t work.

Play around with it, once you get the hang of it, it is really simple. As always, feel free to get in touch if you have questions!


social sniff

Sniff Spotlight: The Humane Society of Silicon Valley’s Social Media Strategy, One to Watch

I’ve long admired the current social media strategy of the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV); it is infused with humor which humanizes the shelter in a way that people on social media crave. I’ve said it time and time again, people come to social media to be entertained, inspired or informed. HSSV has mastered all three goals beautifully, and enjoys a robust social following.

Full disclosure: I got my start in animal sheltering and rescue at HSSV (more years ago than I care to admit) as an adoption counselor, before moving to health check after I became a vet tech. I do have an affinity towards this particular shelter, but I swear, my love for their social media is totally unbiased. It’s just plain awesome.


HSSV’s communications associate, Finnegan Dowling, and Digital Marketing Manager, Leah Llach, were generous enough to talk to me about the strategy behind the shelter’s social media presence. Take a peak to see how HSSV is mastering the social space:

1. How long have you been working for the HSSV and what drew you to working with animals?


I’ve been with HSSV for three years but I’ve been in shelters and rescue for over twenty years. I started with an internship in college and got hooked. I was lucky enough to come to HSSV in a Customer Care role – doing adoptions and intake – and then transferred into our marketing department.

2. How did you get into the social media side of things?


I worked with a shelter in Nicaragua and started a personal blog about that. It snowballed and wound up becoming a great fundraising vehicle for us. While doing adoptions and receiving here, I started working on the HSSV blog and the rest is history.

3. HSSV’s social presence is filled with humor, what do you think is the importance of humor in the shelter’s social strategy?


It’s HUGE. Traditionally shelter media has been a really grim place. Places like Best Friends and BAD RAP have done an awesome job with making it more accessible but we still have a long way to go. Sad and urgent posts might get people to share once, but they don’t encourage people coming back to your media. We want shareable media. We want people coming back. We want as many eyes on our animals as possible.

Two of the biggest misconceptions about shelter adoption is that A) our animals are damaged and B) going to a shelter is going to be a depressing, sad experience. The number of people who won’t come to shelters because they don’t want to be depressed is significant. There’s the old cliche of ‘A shelter? I couldn’t go there. It’d be so sad I’d want to take them all home’.

Neither of these things are true. Most of our animals are here because their owners had a change in life circumstances. We’re not a sad place. We’re a place where happy endings start. Humor helps overcome those objections.


4. What kind of changes have you seen in your social media analytics since implementing the current social media strategy?


I can touch on the anecdotal side of this but actual questions about analytics I need to refer to Leah Llach, our rock star digital marketing manager who came to us from Na’ankuse, a wildlife refuge in Namibia.

For my anecdotal bit, I’ll tell you we’ve seen a lot of growth across all our platforms. We’re up over 10,000 followers on Facebook since August and we’ve more than tripled our Twitter following. And these are actively engaged followers who are sharing, liking and commenting our content. We just started with instagram a while back and we’ve come out swinging on that with the help of a certain celebrity kitty that was adopted from us. We’ve just begun growing our LinkedIn and that’s going great guns as well.


Analytics is ever-changing for us at Humane Society Silicon Valley. We’re taking every opportunity to measure the impact of posts (particularly on Facebook) on important mission goals like adoption inquiries, especially based on the type of animal and its qualities. We’re actually re-launching the website later this year so that we can have better insight into our audience and our ability to analyze them, so we’ll have more to share then! Over the last few years, working for the sanctuary and now Humane Society Silicon Valley, I’ve been impressed by the impact of analytics on these types of institutions. Sometimes you won’t find anything of use for months, and sometimes you find little quirks that end up helping you drive 2x more funds than the year before. The knowledge that analytics can help us find opportunities to change lives is what makes me excited to come to work every day, aside from the fact that I work with very driven, smart and positive people.

5. Have you gotten much feedback from the public in regards to the shelter’s current social media presence?


We get a lot of anecdotal feedback and people love it. People remember our animals, they mention the blogs and the posts, they ask for updates on Phoebe and Regina, they share, they email us – it’s great.

I swear when I die the words ‘Tantastic Tuesday’ will be on my tombstone. When I tell people in Silicon Valley what I do for a living, a lot of times the first words out of their mouth are ‘Tantastic Tuesday!’. I take that as positive feedback.

6. By my count you have Mutt Monday, Meow Munday, Tantastic Tuesday (featuring adoptable pets who are tan), Sunday Bunday, Caturday and Foster Friday, am I missing one? This is a great content setup, how did you concept this strategy, and how has it performed?


A lot of it was looking at the groups of animals we have and making sure they’re all getting coverage. Tan dogs, particularly chi mixes, are really common in shelters here and super overlooked so we wanted to make sure that we gave them a day to shine. We also wanted things to be catchy and memorable. Some of them, like Caturday and MuttMonday are existing popular hashtags – we do a lot on Twitter as well – and some of the other ones, like Bunday and Tantastic Tuesday, I’m really hoping will catch on, hashtag wise.

7. One of the pitfalls of trying to do social media when you work for an animal rescue organization, such as a small shelter or all-volunteer rescue group, is finding the time to fit it in – what tips and tools help you run the shelter’s social media efforts efficiently?


We’re very, very lucky in that HSSV is really progressive and understands the importance of social media. My tips for smaller organizations would be to make it a priority and actively recruit volunteers that have both passion for animals and social media dexterity. And invest in a social media management tool like HootSuite or SproutSocial. The ability to pre-program a few days worth of content, see all your incoming comments and queries and shorten and track links in one place is a huge time saver. I’ve been able to run our social media programs from other countries while on vacation with those tools.

Also leverage your younger volunteers. If you have younger volunteers with cell phones, you have an Instagram army to help get your animals up there. Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag.

8. The HSSV blog is just as entertaining as it’s Facebook page. In fact, your Puppyzilla post is what initially got my attention. Are you the sole author of the blog, or is it a group effort?


Thank you. It’s a group effort. I write the dog blog and Erica Sanborn, who works in Customer Care and is amazing, does the cat blog. Our biggest and most valuable members, though, are our volunteer photographers. They make my job so easy. Malcolm, Jackie, Elizabeth, Kelly, Iwona and Betty are a dream team. I can lob the strangest ideas at them and they come back at me with these awesome pictures. A lot of the blogs are built around these crazy and beautiful photos they take that just inspire me. They capture our animals so well.

9. I hear from many shelters who are hesitant to have a robust social media presence because they are nervous to open themselves up to the public, or fear a social media misstep that may result in bad press for them; was this a concern you ran into? What are your thoughts on that?


Not really. I think there’s more danger in not having a presence at all. We need to be more open as an industry. We need to show people that these are good places to get great animals. We’ve had a couple dust-ups were people didn’t like certain content and we address those head on with an open mind and a lack of defensiveness. It’s all feedback and it’s all dialogue and therefore it’s all valuable. The only way to get more people invested in shelters emotionally is to talk to them, to answer their questions and bust the stereotypes that limit us. Social media is that talk.

10. What are the top 3 things that you think are essential to an animal rescue organization having a successful social media presence?


1) A great attitude – if you can’t present your animals positively, don’t present them.
2) Consistency – you can’t post a lot one day and then not post for days.
3) Photo collateral. I can’t stress enough the value of good photography. You can have the best text writer in the world but without great photos to grab people’s attention, you’re sunk. I could talk your ear off about nothing but photography.

11. And finally, confession time: how many pets do you currently have and what are they?


I personally have a 5 year old very deadpan, very lazy yellow lab/sharpei mix named Sister Frances Banana. She comes to work every day and sleeps under my desk. Our marketing team also has a chiweenie named Peach, a chihuahua named Elmo and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Milo. We’re a diverse group. And we brainstorm during doggy pee breaks quite a bit.


Thank you, Finn and Leah, for taking time out of your busy schedules to tell us about your fabulous work!

Want more? Finn will be leading a table topic on positive blogging for shelters and rescue at the Blogpaws convention in Las Vegas, which takes place from May 8th-10th. Check out Finn’s Speaker Spotlight here on the Blog Paws site. If you will be at the conference, there will be sign ups available Friday at the conference for the various Table Top lunch tables, including Finn’s.

If you would like to follow HSSV (and trust me, you should), here’s their digital paw prints:

And of course
Their blog

Thanks ladies, for doing such a great job speaking on behalf of the animals!


Is Your Shelter Making This Mistake on Twitter?

Is your animal shelter or rescue group on Twitter? There’s a good chance it is, Twitter is an excellent way to interact with those in your community, as well as others in the animal rescue industry.

But one thing to never lose sight of is this: social media is a way to let the personality of your shelter shine through. It humanizes your shelter. It lets your audience interact with you on a personal way that has the power to change the way the public views your organization – for good or bad. Most importantly, they want to know a real live human is running your social media accounts.

Therefore, there is something I see way too frequently on Twitter that makes me cringe every time:


This is the Twitter feed of an actual animal shelter (I blacked out their logo and name).

What does this feed tell you? It says that they have their Facebook feed set to automatically post to their Twitter feed, and that they probably aren’t spending a ton of time on Twitter.

What’s the problem with this? Well, people don’t want a robot talking to them. Or in this case, they don’t want Facebook talking to them on Twitter. The message you’re sending is “I don’t care to interact with you, but I do want you to listen to everything I have to say.” Who wants to be friends with that person?

If a Twitter feed is full of nothing but Facebook posts that were auto-posted, it undermines the whole purpose of social media: to have a two-way communication medium. People don’t want to be spoken at, they want to be spoken with.

There’s nothing wrong with posting the same picture on Twitter that you posted on Facebook, but change the accompanying text. Talk TO your Twitter audience, not at them.

Remember, free tools, such as Buffer App, allow you to schedule posts to all of your social channels (except Pinterest) in one place. It even allows you to preschedule posts and it will determine the most optimum time to publish them live. But be careful! Again, we don’t want to sound robotic, so do be sure to still go to your social channels daily, to monitor and participate in discussions.

Have a question about using Buffer App? Feel free to ask me!

~ Jess


Amazon Prime’s New Feature, Amazon Pantry, Could Change the Way Your Shelter Receives Food and Litter Donations

Lots of people have Amazon Prime these days, and why wouldn’t they? It makes shopping easy with a click, and free two-day shipping on thousands of products. But now Amazon has added a new feature service to the Prime portfolio: Amazon Prime Pantry. For a flat fee of $5.99, those with Amazon Prime can order household items weighing up to 45 pounds, or measuring up to 4 cubic square feet.

So what does this mean for your shelter or group? Take a look at some of the items they have available for purchase:


Dog and cat supplies are included in the items that are eligible for Amazon Pantry.

This is a great opportunity for your supporting public who has Amazon Prime (and likely a great deal of them do) to send you a few bags of litter or food, and it will take them a few mere clicks to do so.

How can you ask them to do it?

First, write the text that will accompany your request. Something along the lines of, “Do you have Amazon Prime? Did you know that you can shop Amazon Pantry and send us up to 45 pounds of pet supplies for a shipping rate of only $5.99? Here’s some of the Pantry eligible items that we’d love to receive.” Then be sure to list out any of the items on the Pantry list that your shelter or group uses, and provide for them the link to purchase. This is the link:

Here’s the ways to distribute this request:

1. On a page on your website. This is the best option because, unlike the suggestions below, it will always live in one spot so people can continue to see it every time they are on your website. Simply paste in your request, and then include the link. To make it look better than that big ugly link, you can simply copy and paste this after your written request: <a href=”; target=”_blank”>Amazon Pantry can be found here</a>

I know – it’s ugly code. Just trust me, all you need to do is copy and paste it into your site. Just make sure that you are not copying it into the “visual” tab, but rather the “text” tab, if you’re working with WordPress or something similar.

2. Ask on your social channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Copy your request, then paste the link.

3. Your email marketing letter

Remember to reinforce your message, especially if it isn’t going to live on your website, be sure to mention it consistently via social media and email marketing. Facebook messages and tweets have a very short shelf life, and only a fraction of your audience sees them when they go out, so don’t be afraid to repost it every so often.

As always, let me know if you have questions.

~ Jess

One Simple Way to Make Sure More People See those “Just Adopted” Shelter Photos on Facebook

You may have heard by now that Facebook has made some changes that have resulted in less people seeing the stuff you post on Facebook. Have you noticed fewer people Liking or commenting on your posts? It’s because Facebook wants you to pay for advertising. Rather, they want the companies who have pages to start doing it, but it unfortunately has a negative impact on small nonprofit organizations with a small budget. But fear not, for two reasons:

  1. I’m working on a FREE eBook that will give you ways to work around that. And even though it’s an eBook, it won’t be long, because I know you don’t have a lot of time!
  2. I have a possible workaround for at least some of your posts.

You know those awesome photos you all are so great at posting of newly adopted pets going home with their new parents? Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 9.11.20 AM

Stop posting them one at a time.

According to Ignite Social Media: “There’s a simple posting strategy that appears to deliver expanded organic Reach and solid Engagement: Add more than one photo to Facebook media posts.” What does that look like? Well instead of adding one photo, like the awesome photo above, upload several at a time. It will look like this: Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 9.13.51 AM

According to tests run by Ignite Social Media, it appeared that several photos uploaded at once, rather than one at a time, saw more people Liking and commenting. There’s a good chance that this may go away, because Facebook is constantly changing things, but give it a try and see if you notice a difference. Save all your photos to upload at the end of the day, or even the end of the week. To upload more than one photo at once, go to where you normally update your status: Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 9.18.03 AM

When all your photos come up from your computer, hold down the “shift” key and select them all at once. Let me know if you have any questions! ~ Jess Check out the full Ignite Social Media article here.

How to Start a Shelter Selfie Campaign, and Tips for Taking Selfies with Pets

One campaign that I’d love to see take off is Shelter Selfies – having shelter visitors looking at adoptable pets “donate” one of their social media updates with a selfie photo of them and an adoptable pet.

Here’s a general idea of how it could work:

  1. Have simple signage at the entrance of the adoption rooms, or if you have a good volunteer-base, a small sign at each adoptable pets dwelling, that says “Will you donate your next Facebook, Instagram or Twitter update to me? Let’s take a selfie so more people can see that I’m waiting for my forever home! Ask a volunteer.”
  2. The volunteer can help the donor take a selfie with that adoptable pet.
  3. The donor can then upload the photo to their social networks. Be sure to have them use hashtags that are relevant to your program and shelter. They can even use a few, such as #shelterselfie #abcanimalshelter #adopt

Think of it like this: for every person who uploads a selfie of them with an adoptable pet to their social channel, that’s an entirely new audience who is going to see that adoptable pet’s picture.

This is a pretty easy campaign to begin since it would only require the making of signage, and staff or volunteers who can help with the selfie. The donor uses their own smartphone camera and does the uploading for you. It’s a great way to get those adoptable animals in front a bigger audience who otherwise may not have seen them.

Here are some selfie tips:

  • Make sure that the donor and adoptable pet are pointed towards a good light source, as shadows of the phone and donors hand can easily get in the way and obscure the photo.
  • Use an app such as PetSnap to help get the adoptable pet’s attention to face the camera
  • A solid background is typically best, so as to not distract from the adoptable pet and make the photo look too chaotic.
  • While flash may be necessary for darker adoptable pets, try to avoid using a flash, in favor of natural lighting, where possible. Flash on smartphones tends to give pets those weird glowing eyes, or the dreaded “red eye”. There are ways to fix this if it occurs, but it’s much faster and simpler to avoid it all together.
  • • Remember that the photo doesn’t have to be of both donor and pet staring straight ahead at the camera – a cute candid of, say, a dog licking the donor’s face is adorable and shows off the pooch’s personality!

Have you done something like this? If so, I’d love to hear about it!



What Pedigree Dog Food’s ‘Share for Dogs’ Donation YouTube Video Means for Your Donations

We’ve got to hand it to the people at Pedigree, they hit the nail on the head with their latest YouTube video, “Share for Dogs” featuring adorable puppies. Here’s the rundown:

  • The made a video of nothing put shot after shot of adorable dogs (which is always a hit on the Internet)
  • They posted it with the message that they will be donating ALL of the revenue from the video being watched to dog rescue (YouTube video owners whose videos gets a lot of views get ad revenue from YouTube)
  • Now people are sharing the video to raise money for puppies, and Pedigree is getting awareness of their brand spreading at the same time. Genius.

What does this mean for you? This is a great solicitation opportunity to pair up with your own “Pedigree.” Do you know any companies who may be willing to pair up with you and your group? Perhaps a company in your area who may have an active YouTube presence? This is a win-win situation for the animal rescue, and the company!

Check out the video

How Google Can Help Your Nonprofit Animal Shelter or Animal Rescue Organization

Google offers several ways for you to promote your shelter or rescue to raise donations, raise awareness, and tell your story. Once your organization is signed up for Google for Nonprofits, you can use several of its tools:

  • Get grants to run Google Ads for your animal shelter or rescue organization
  • Free, enriched versions of your YouTube videos with the ability for you to put a call for donations on the video
  • Google Earth Outreach access that allows you to tell your story through mapping and video – perfect for rescues who travel a lot of with pets!

To learn more and sign up, visit Google for Nonprofits. Still have questions? Email me.