My first encounter with animal welfare was a trip to our local humane society in Florida when I was 11. My mother looked up the address of the local shelter and took my brother and me for a drive over there so we could each adopt a kitten.
We had no idea what animals they had there; just that according to the phone book, there was a shelter in our town.
A dozen years later, I was fresh out of college and my wife and I were ready to get a dog. I bought my local newspaper and started looking at the classified ads.
Alongside the usually ďfree to a good home catĒ ads and purebred puppies for sale were a couple of ads showcasing dogs for adoption from a local group called Friends of Strays.
This was still a good half dozen years before I had a home computer with an Internet connection, so my only option was to call the number and make arrangements to meet dogs that I only knew from a two-line description in a classified ad.
The Internet came along later and rescue groups started having modest websites.
Petfinder was created and brought even more attention to rescue groups and shelters, allowing them to highlight their adoptable animals to a wider audience than ever before.
Fast forward to 2012, and a wave of social media has brought animal welfare to new and better places. Many groups like ours now have pages on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and some even still use MySpace.
These platforms are easy to update with information, pictures, videos, to highlight upcoming events, happy adoption stories and any issues that might be of interest to pet owners in a community.
We have added a causes page, Pinterest, a YouTube channel, LinkedIn page and are always on the lookout for new ways to reach volunteers, donors and adopters with information about our cause.
One really exciting thing about social media is that it is extremely interactive.
Fans can immediately offer feedback on a new policy, an adoption photo, a new event or program we offer.
We become much more than an 8 to 5 animal shelter in that we interact with supporters around the clock on a variety of topics.
Even better, they can interact with each other, celebrating a great adoption story or commenting on this yearís barn tour or dog wash.
What I like best about social media is it serves as a great way for our supporters to help us in a variety of ways, without taking up a lot of their time or costing them anything.
One example is when I highlight a dog that has been waiting a long time to be adopted or one that just came in injured that needs expensive medical care.
Our supporters immediately start retweeting on Twitter and sharing on Facebook or Google +, and instantly all of their friends know about a dog needing a home or medical attention.
Their friends often end up passing the information along to even more people, and, before long, a very large number of people are aware of the situation, usually leading to a happy adoption or medical bills being paid for an animal that really needed it.
The power of social media is that our supporters are giving a testimonial to their friends and family about our charity and others that they are passionate about.
Their support draws new fans and followers to us, allowing us to reach more people to highlight the work that we do.
The result is that our 3-plus-year experiment into the world of social media has directly led to dozens of adoptions, foster families, new volunteers and donors.
Social media has enabled us to sell unusual items donated to us like cars, boats, even a large home air-conditioner. We believe social media is here to stay, and we hope to utilize it to the fullest to save even more animals each year.
To learn more about us in the world of social media, visit us at www.spca-albrecht.org.
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