Finding the right voice on Facebook has been a work in progress for The Humane Society since creating their Facebook page in 2007. According to Ragan.com, the organization has discovered that “When it comes to caring for animals, people prefer something a little more serious than the tongue-in-cheek fare found on many Facebook pages.” So how did the Humane Society manage to reach – and surpass – the one million fan mark while experimenting to find the right tone for their organization?
Responding to Fans
Being attentive to social media fans is key, according to Carie Lewis, director of emerging media for the Humane Society. Lewis told Ragan.com that “Every person who comes to our page and asks a question or voices a concern, that gets an answer,” and even more impressive, that “Our response time on Facebook is under two hours.”
How does a non-profit manage that level of response (while the majority of businesses are still ignoring consumer complaints on social media)? Lewis manages the overall social media strategy for The Humane Society, and then has 2 full-time employees monitoring the organization’s presence on Facebook, and another employee to manage the Twitter account (and also help with Facebook.)
This level of attention has led to consistent growth, with The Humane Society’s number of “likes” more than doubling every year. The organization also maintains “a small, steady budget” for advertising to people who talk about animals on Facebook.
Giving Fans A Way to Participate
In addition to responding to questions, complaints and comments, the organization surveyed fans using Facebook’s polling feature, and discovered that most fans “want to see ways they can make a difference.” To facilitate this, The Humane Society started “Take Action Tuesdays” on its Facebook page, which offers ways for fans to get involved with helping animals, and a Take Action tab where fans can sign online petitions. Lewis says “We have spent a lot of time analyzing what our fans respond to best,” and when she realized fans didn’t want to leave Facebook, The Humane Society inserted the petition forms right into the social network so fans could participate without leaving the site.
The organization has created other memes including Fun Friday and Meatless Monday, and according to Lewis, fans complain if they don’t see these familiar memes each week.
Getting to 1 Million
While being super-attentive and offering fans ways to participate and help animals was a huge part in growing The Humane Society’s Facebook fan base, there was an “extra push” to get people to like the page as it approached the 1 million mark. During this period, when someone liked the Facebook page, an image would pop up on their profile saying “This person is against animal cruelty” – an added feature which led to “thousands of shares.”
1 Million and Beyond
The Humane Society reacted immediately after reaching the 1 million milestone on November 2nd by posting an infographic about their fans and launching the “A Million Reasons” tab – a place where fans could tell stories about their pets.
Lessons Along the Way
Learning how to reach The Humane Society’s potential fans on Facebook involved changing both tone and method, and listening to the response. The organization seldom uses “like-gating,” with the holidays being the only exception to that rule. Lewis says “We don’t recommend doing this technique unless you’ve got something really good behind it.”
The Humane Society tried using a “campier” tone on Facebook about a year ago, and also experimented with more frequent posts. The result? Lewis told Ragan.com that “People were unsubscribing to us faster than they were subscribing.” As a result, the organization settled on a more serious tone.
However, that tone can change depending on the social media platform, and this adaptability is allowing The Humane Society to begin reaching beyond its key demographic – women 55+ – and engage Twitter users (generally a different crowd). According to Lewis, “The tone is not as serious on Twitter, because we’re not exactly catering to our constituency.”
While Twitter users are generally not those who take action for Humane Society causes, they do mention the organization frequently, and Lewis believes it is important to be there and respond. Twitter users also get their own memes – Feline Friday and Mutt Monday – for followers to post pics of their pets.
Today, The Humane Society is up to 1,035,475 Facebook fans, already showing significant growth in the month after reaching 1 million. Will the organization’s more consistent tone, quick response time, and interactive memes continue to drive fan numbers up at a steady rate?
There’s much for businesses and non-profits to learn from The Humane Society’s example of genuinely listening, responding, and adapting to the needs of their fans on different social media platforms.