Humane Society of Huron Valley Marketing Strategy


Rows and rows of dogs peer out from behind their chain-link kennels, just waiting for someone to come and pet them.  Cats pace back and forth in their cages, wishing someone would take a moment to scratch their ears.  Each year over 10,000 cats, dogs, rabbits and other small animals pass through the doors of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, Washtenaw County's only humane society.  In addition to providing food, shelter, medical attention and love to these animals, the staff and volunteers at HSHV are faced with the crucial task of marketing these animals to the public, and ultimately getting them adopted.  

Utilizing social media and social networking sites gives non-profit organizations like HSHV an affordable, easy way to interact with a large, online audience.  For a local non-profit, time and money are in demand, so I have created a marketing strategy for the Humane Society of Huron Valley that will help them effectively promote their organization while being responsible with both time and money!

The Humane Society of Huron Valley serves both the animals and people of Washtenaw County, MI, taking in all types of unwanted, injured, lost, stray, abandoned and abused animals.  They have somewhat of a niche audience that includes animal lovers in Southeastern Michigan who are looking to adopt a new pet or are passionate about animal rescue.  It is important to consider what forms of social media this audience uses, and how HSHV can connect with them.  I believe that a majority of HSHV's audience shares some of these characteristics: 

  • Looking to adopt an animal, or advocate for animals currently in the care of HSHV
  • Live in Washtenaw County
  • 18+ years old (must be 18 to adopt without parent or guardian's consent)
  • Have a basic knowledge of social media/networking (use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter)

HSHV should also consider the local media and businesses as an important audience, as they can both promote the humane society as well as be a valuable source for private donations.

Ideally, HSHV should focus on the following goals through social media marketing:

  • Create a community of advocates for animal adoption
  • Give these advocates proper tools to share the work HSHV does with their friends and network
  • Develop content that creates positive conversations about HSHV and their animals
  • Increase traffic on HSHV's current social media accounts

To do this, the Humane Society of Huron Valley needs to cultivate strategic relationships through their social media.  They already have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  Out of the three, HSHV's Facebook page is the most developed. They make a point to interact with their followers by asking them questions, sharing positive adoption success stories, and notifying them of animals with special concerns.  In return, the niche community of animal lovers in Washtenaw County, MI seems to be very comfortable posting on HSHV's wall, asking questions and sharing positive experiences with the organization.  

I would suggest that HSHV start utilizing their Twitter account similarly to how they use their Facebook - to generate conversations.  They need to start using hashtags, such as #HSHV or create hashtags for certain events or specials they are promoting.  HSHV should create unique tweets that engage their followers, instead of following their typical form of:  [Pet's Name] is our [insert link here] Pet of the Week! Twitter is also a great way for HSHV to connect with local media outlets - if HSHV can get one of their posts re-tweeted by any major radio station, news network or company, thousands more people will see it and potentially share the tweet as well!

The Humane Society of Huron Valley seems to primarily use their YouTube account to make videos of adoptable pets.  This is fantastic - it allows potential adopters to see pets before hand and creates somewhat of an "emotional" connection.  I think it'd be a great idea for HSHV to extend their use of YouTube to also incude videos of adoption success stories, fundraising events, and social events they participate in.  People LOVE having a connection to an organization - you can bet that if a family who adopted a dog is featured on a "success story" video, they'll share it with all of their friends.  This is a simple and easy way to connect with your audience and create positive conversations about the work that HSHV does to save animals. 

The Humane Society of Huron Valley currently holds many different fundraising events, camps for kids, and adoptee apprecation events.  They need to share these events on their Facebook and Twitter instead of just advertising on their website.  Creating an "event" on Facebook or posting a link to the website allows much easier sharing, which would hopefully result in increased attendance!

To increase traffic of their social networking sites, HSHV needs to be strategic about how they promote their Facebook and Twitter.  For example, it never hurts to make a little post on Facebook, directing people to your Twitter account.  HSHV could also create "Twitter Specials" where followers are rewarded with particular deals (for example, "$25 off adoption fee from 2-5 PM") through tweets.  

HSHV should also explore location based services, like creating a Foursquare "location" or using other check-in apps.  It's a very easy way for people to show they've been to the animal shelter without necessarily having to write a post about it.  Sometimes simply seeing the name of an organization is enough to get someone thinking about visiting.  Another good way to create a sense of community among animal lovers in Washtenaw County would be to ask foster families to blog about the animals they're currently taking care of, or have a blog that the humane society's volunteers could post on.  

Using the different services Google offers is a great way for HSHV to promote their website.  They can use AdWords to create ads for the Humane Society, and determine their cost-per-click.  Because the humane society only receives $500,000 a year from the state government to operate their facility, they rely on private donations for the rest of their income.  Budgets are tight, so AdWords may not be the best area to spend a ton of their very limited income. HSHV's main responsibility is to care for the animals, not pay excessively to get their name at the top of a Google search.  Also, because The Humane Society of Huron Valley services the community of Washtenaw County, most people could provide specific enough search terms to yield HSHV as a result (for example: "humane society near Ann Arbor" or "Washtenaw Co. animal adoption").

Animal adoption is something that a lot of people are very passionate about - the HSHV should focus on using that passion to spread their message.  Give those who are committed to rescuing animals some quality material, so that they can share it with their friends.  Never underestimate the power of "word of mouth" advertising - this is often the way that local non-profits thrive, and social media gives people the opportunity to share with a whole network of people at once!  The Humane Society of Huron Valley is doing a good thing - reuniting lost animals with owners, finding abandoned animals families, and positively impacting their community.  By following the marketing suggestions I have put together, HSHV should be able to cultivate a strong community of animal lovers dedicated to seeing the pets at HSHV find forever homes!