Pet Adoptions Go Viral
Creative campaigns use social media to raise awareness.
George, the cat, beat the odds. He made it out of the shelter and found a new home with Dan Harris, weekend anchorman at Good Morning America.
Practically, that also means George has the apartment to himself for the whole morning. According to the ASPCA, the talented little cat has used his free time to star in the new Hover Cat video, which launched on Good Morning America the second weekend in June.
The video, which shows George home alone and showing off his "special skills," has spread to YouTube, where it collected 800,000 hits on its first weekend, Kymberlie Adams, of the ASPCA, said.
The video also became the centerpiece of the "making pet adoption go viral" campaign, which launched recently with interviews live streamed from the ASPCA's New York City headquarters, according to Olivia Melikhov, the ASPCA's social media manager.
"We're hoping that this video will help spread the adoption message far and wide to make a difference in the lives of millions of homeless cats and dogs around the country," she said.
The ASPCA has in the past turned to social media to find homes for pets, especially for "hard to adopt" cases, Adams said. Typically, the word goes out over Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and reaches the ASPCA's "supporters on social media," she said. Recently, for example, an energetic pit bull puppy, who prospective owners had passed over "through no fault of his own," found a new home because of a social media campaign, Adams said.
"He was a little high strung," she said, "but he found that perfect home" with a woman who heard his story and drove from Vermont to New York to take him.
Also, previously, Twitter helped the ASPCA rehome animals left homeless after the 2011 Joplin, Mo. tornado, she said.
But this was the first time the ASPCA ever harnessed both Twitter and live stream in conjunction, Adams said.
This time, the ASPCA decided to "come at it from every angle," she said.
It was affordable because a media relations firm donated the cost of the live stream, she said. For advance advertising, the ASPCA used YouTube to showcase the Hover Cat video. In the first weekend, Hover Cat captured the top spot in YouTube's pet category.
Several shelters also shared the Hover Cat video on their websites and Facebook pages.
The live stream on June 14 at 7 p.m. featured the ASPCA's adoptable animals, plus Harris and You Tube celebrities, Jesse and Jeana, Melikhov said.
And everyone could get into the act by following the discussion and adding their own comments in real time on Twitter, she said.
"It was really, really successful," she said and "very exciting." Newspapers also picked up the Hover Cat video story and promoted it, she said.
In 12 minutes on live stream and Twitter, the ASPCA became a trending topic, Adams said, and went on to add that would "equate with (pet) adoption becoming a trending topic."
"We gained a whole new audience of people," she said, including more than 1,000 new Twitter followers, she said. No question, she said, the "go viral" campaign has raised awareness about the pet overpopulation problem.
The ASPCA estimates between five and seven million cats will be "in dire need" of care at shelters, Adams said. Most will arrive during "kitten season," between March and November, and their numbers will sometimes overwhelm the local rescue.
However, Melikhov couldn't say how many pets had been adopted as a result of the "go viral" campaign.
"That's hard to say because we weren't looking for correlation nationwide," she said. "We were asking people to go to local shelters."
The jury is still out on whether or not the "go viral" campaign will make a difference at local shelters.
"It was a cool video," said Pam Peebles of the Thomas J. O'Connor shelter in Springfield, Mass. The TJO posted the video on its Facebook page. But she didn't know of any pets adopted as a result of the "go viral" campaign.
"Not as a result of this," she said. Instead, Peebles said, the O'Connor find homes for the animals by relying on a network of 50 shelters.
Pictured: An adoptable kitten at ASPCA's New York City adoption center. (Photo Courtesy of ASPCA)
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