Last week in class, we were privileged to have the opportunity to visit the Nebraska Humane Society (NHS) to listen to Creighton JM&C alum Elizabeth Hilpipre speak about her work. Unfortunately, my 1999 GMC Jimmy decided to take a day off, leaving me stranded on campus. So you must forgive me if my comments on NHS’s social media engagement are distant, distorted, or quite possibly wrong in every way, shape, and form. But hopefully that is not the case.
NHS’s online presence is strong. With approximately 6,300 tweets and 7,300 followers on Twitter and over 50,000 likes on Facebook, it’s clear that Elizabeth is thorough and consistent in her work. There are two active Twitter accounts (@NEHumaneSociety and @NHSCats) and a Facebook page. The first thing I noticed about its Twitter account was the little puppy peering through bars like a falsely convicted prisoner. This image alone is enough to make any animal-lover drop the task at hand, and drive like Ricky Bobby to retrieve his or her new best bud. As I proceeded to scroll through the account’s tweets and photos, there were three reoccurring themes that stuck out to me, all of which play off of each other.
(1) The cute factor
Dogs and cats are cute. Everyone knows it, and very few people are capable of rejecting the “puppy face” when it’s actually on a puppy. The cute factor makes the viewer say, “AWHHHHH, THAT’S THE CUTEST PUPPY I’VE EVER SEEN! I HAVE TO HAVE HIM/HER NOW.” This is the attention-grabber that hooks viewers. It’s powerful, yet simple eye-candy.
(2) The guilt trip
While most dogs and cats possess some degree of the cute factor, abandoned dogs and cats are cuter. A lot cuter. Furthermore, we as humans are inclined to feel guilty that a creature that cute and innocent looking could be so unfortunate as to not have a true home. Thus, it only makes sense that NHS would encourage people to adopt by carefully guilt tripping its viewers via social media. Pretty straightforward but here’s an example.
(3) The follow-up
Lastly, I noticed that NHS likes to interact with people who have adopted from them using “Follow Up Friday”. People can get a shout-out from NHS by posting a picture of their NHS alumni with #FollowUpFriday. This is an excellent way to show that NHS cares not only about the animals it cares for, but also the people who adopt them.
All in all, Elizabeth’s approach to social media is spot-on. Although being guilted into adopting a pet might come off as annoying or desperate to some, it is essential to keep the mission of NHS in mind – to give abandoned animals a loving home. And for that, I commend Elizabeth and the rest of NHS for their work. For those who are still opposed to pet adoption, maybe this will help. Now excuse me while I go adopt a dog.