Frank Barry, professional services manager at Blackbaud and blogger at NetWits ThinkTank, helps non-profits use the Internet for digital communication, social media and fundraising so they can focus on making an impact and achieving their missions. Find Frank on Twitter @franswaa.
Social media is all the rage, but does it actually help create real change in the world? The folks at Best Friends Animal Society would answer with a resounding yes!
Best Friends has introduced the Invisible Dog Campaign, a nod to the invisible dog leash from the ‘70s and ‘80s. “Invisible dogs” refer to the forgotten pets found in city shelters that face tremendous odds to get adopted. “[We’re] turning that into a real message about adopting dogs unseen in the nation’s shelters,” explains Claudia Perrone, marketing manager for Best Friends.Best Friends provides a valuable example of social media mobilizing people to take action in the real world.
1. Beginner: Hashtags
Use them — constantly. Twitter hashtags are an extremely effective (and free) way to consolidate topics and information that relate to your campaign. The Invisible Dog campaign uses #InvisibleDog in every tweet, every mention, every IRL adoption event and on the home page of its microsite to spread the word and let people track the whole conversation around the campaign.
2. Intermediate: Drive Action
The Invisible Dogs campaign asks people to take action by pledging online. Without pushing people to make an immediate commitment to adopt a shelter dog, the campaign urges people to pledge any action (adoption, dog walking, etc.) that helps invisible dogs. So far 1,758 people have made the pledge.
3. Advanced: User-Generated Content and Events
Letting people run with your message or events is scary, but it can be worth the effort. Best Friends hosts a DogWall where people share adoption photos, videos, text stories, tweets and Facebook messages. People can text photos to the wall instead of logging in to upload.
Best Friends is also using Meetup.com’s Everywhere capability to let people create their own events all over the country. People sign in with their Facebook accounts to join or to create a local Invisible Dog walk or “pup crawl.”
Most interesting, Best Friends gathers user-generated content to identify dogs that need help. It’s also planning to work with FourSquare on National Shelter Check-In Day this Nov. 12.The content, conversation and online social-sharing activity generated by this digital movement will help Best Friends save thousands of dogs by 2012.