Webinar presenter Angelina Martin answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Social Media and Disaster-Related Events for Animal Shelters. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: We hear these terms reach and engagement. And I’ll be really honest, they are often very confusing to me. So, can you kind of explain in layman’s terms what these different words mean in the social media world?
Angelina Martin: Absolutely! It’s one of the most asked questions that I get as a social media consultant, so think of reach like this. You are standing in a group with people, and those people are the people who like your page. Who follows your page, the friends of the people who like, and follow your page, and the friends of the friends of the people who like your page, so it’s a pretty big group of people. You stand up on your box, and you start talking. That box is your social media platform. Once you start talking, the number of people who have the potential to hear you, that’s your reach. Now, to increase your reach, you can talk about things that people are already talking about and join that conversation, and guess what? Your reach has just increased tenfold. Engagement is the number of people in that group who are listening to you, could give you a thumbs up, who are nodding when you’re talking, or who are clapping or who are booing you, or who are telling their other friends about you, who maybe are not listening to you at that time? So, they are liking, commenting, and sharing your information with other people. So that’s engagement, and that’s what reach is, I hope that answers the question.
Audience Question: You talked about your top three social media platforms. What about Nextdoor?
Angelina Martin: Well, Nextdoor is wonderful for community members. Unfortunately, as government agencies or the animal shelters, most of the time we don’t have access to using Nextdoor. They haven’t opened that up for us. I know, as a government shelter, they have not opened it up for us. For the Sheriff’s Department, they have, but not yet for us. If that has been updated or changed, I’m not aware of it at this time. I don’t know if the local non-profit organizations, the animal shelters, like this may societies, or foster-based rescues, if they can get into Nextdoor. I just know that as organizations, it’s very hard to get into Nextdoor, which is one of the reasons why, in the lost and found posts that we put on our Facebook page. Now, we asked community members to please share to Nextdoor because it’s such a great resource.
Audience Question: How do you manage competing social media sites, which seem to spring up out of nowhere. It seems like, in California, lots of collateral sites spring up with animal info and evacuation info, and even looking for donations. How do you navigate all of those other competing messages and sites out there?
Angelina Martin: That’s a great question. We have that happen in Sonoma County as well. So, in the 2017 fires, what we had was a slew of people who wanted to help, it goes back to that psychology, they need information, they want to help. So, they created Facebook group after Facebook group, after Facebook group, re-unification groups, and they started sharing information from other pages. So, when people went online, on social media to find an animal or to look for an animal, they were overwhelmed by all these groups. So, we basically said, listen, we are Sonoma County Animal Services, we are the resource. We have annual reunification groups that have been vetted. Please do not create additional groups online. Now you can’t stop them from doing it, but you can promote the ones who are vetted and who are reputable. That being said, we also have other agencies who sort of jumped the gun and put information out, that’s not vetted, and it makes things very confusing for our online community. We’ve asked them not to, we’ve communicated with them. We’ve talked to them. We’ve shared examples with them, and they still do it because it goes back to that psychology. They have a pure heart. They just want to help. They just want to get information out. The way that we counteract that is that we always make sure we put out accurate and timely information so that people will trust us and come to us to learn more about a disaster or an emergency. If at any time we were to post something that wasn’t vetted, we would lose the trust of our community. So, that’s why we always make sure that we post professionally, consistently, accurately, and timely. And we’ve got a rule now to where we post within 24 to 48 hours and have an event starting to maintain the community’s trust, that we’re on it, and we’re available. So, I hope that helps. You can’t really combat them. All you can do is focus on your social listening, and when people ask questions, you provide accurate and timely solutions and answers.
Audience Question: Could you re-explain the No Media Policy again?
Angelina Martin: Oh, this is a big one. Yes, we definitely learned this the hard way. So, we had volunteers coming in from all over. Community members come in from all over to look at animals. And they pulled out a cell phone and they took a photograph of an animal or a video of an animal, they would post that to their social media pages not knowing if that animal was surrendered, or lost, or found, or being boarded. So, because they didn’t have that information and they were posting it online, it’s very confusing to the community. So, what we did was, I typed up a no media policy, which just specifically states in volunteers coming to our shelter during a disaster or an emergency. Number one, they’re told verbally, and then they’re sent an e-mail out before they ever get to the shelter. So, when you put out your fee to volunteers, for them to come into your shelter, you make sure that they know you have a no media policy, which means they are not allowed to take photos, or videos of any animals in animal services care, and post that to their social media pages. There’s an all-staff e-mail too. As soon as a disaster starts, that standard text e-mail goes out to everyone. And because it’s standard and everybody’s read it before they know what it means. So, we had animal control officers who see a volunteer with a phone and they were videoing an animal and the Animal Control Officer or the other volunteer. The shelter supervisor will go up to them and say, “Excuse me, I’m very sorry. We have a no media policy,” and explain why. And most of the time, our volunteers or our staff members don’t remember it and they’ll work with us to ensure that they are not taking images and putting them online because it could be very confusing to community members.
Audience Question: Have you found much movement in the PIO community and using social media more proactively? If you’re embedded within the operations section, how do you interface with the incident PIOs?
Angelina Martin: So, this is a really important question. I’ve been a PIO for an animal response team, so I understand where this is coming from. I’ve had to work with a PIO. We basically had to come to the conclusion that for animal services to function. We needed to have our own site on our social media, especially during a disaster or an emergency. So, by the time that you create the post and send it to the PIO, the PIO has so many other things going on, either you get direct priority, where it gets, once you send it to them, it’s flagged, and they get back to you in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. Or you lose that resource. That resource is gone. And once the PIOs, once the agencies understand it, sometimes they’ll work with you, and sometimes not. It’s very challenging to go through, which is why I feel like it’s so important for a resource, a social media expert to come in, and to be able to earn the trust for you or help you earn that trust of that PIO. So that standardized text is created to our PIO just looks at, it, checks a couple of boxes, and it’s, it’s approved. That’s why using standardized text is so important. So, I don’t really know how to answer that question other than working with the PIO and seeing if you can implement a new policy or procedure during a disaster or an emergency that if you need a plea for supplies, or you need volunteers, or you have lost or found animals that you don’t have to get every post approved, you could have someone on-site doing that directly for you.
Audience Question: Again, as we alluded to earlier, we are fast approaching fire season, as well as tornado season, as well as all of those other seasons. How should social media people start working right now with fundraising or their operations people to start coordinating and thinking about what are those material needs they’re going to need? And start planting those seeds now or what is your advice for doing that?
Angelina Martin: Start creating your CCP right now. And run through mock disasters in your head. So, if there was a tornado, or if there was a wildfire and you were evacuated, what would you need? Basically, we had to go to a warehouse. And, in that warehouse, we had nothing, so, we had to bring our own water in. And so, what we had to do was in our CCP outline all of the items that we could need that we might need. And make sure that we had access to those. What happened during the 2019 evacuation, we didn’t have access, which is one of the main reasons why I had to put out that shareable graphic immediately. And so, you know, outline those items ahead of time in your CCP and see if you can get a stockpile of that just in case so you can pull from it. And that’s one way. Another way is to ensure that you are putting out disaster preparedness plans for your community members so that they know in times of need they have a go back. If it’s tornado season or hurricane season or wildfire season, you have to go back for your animals. No matter what animal that is, We have one for horses. We have one for goats. We have one for ranchers, we have one for dogs and cats. So, using those templates that I created, you can put that information out if there are weather alerts, or even just every 10 days of those seasons to make sure that your community’s prepared. I hope that that answered all of your questions. I know that planting seeds now on social media for being prepared, is key, in addition to creating that CCP, running through like mock questions or mock scenarios. So that you can write it on paper and have your plan. Even if things don’t go according to plan, it still sets you up for success, mentally and physically, and emotionally because you’ve written it all down. So, it helps you, even if things don’t go according to plan. So, I hope that answers your question.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Social Media and Disaster-Related Events for Animal Shelters.