Last week I experienced the worst five days I’ve had in a while. My rescue dog Lexie ran away for the second time in seven months. Her first escape occurred during the winter and only lasted 24 hours as she made her way back to my house cold and hungry—no doubt unable to forage for food in the snow. This time around the warmer weather allowed for an extended adventure, much to my chagrin. Initially hopeful that she would return on her own, my faith began to dwindle as the days passed and she was nowhere to be seen. I felt like I had failed my dog.
My family, friends and co-workers were incredibly supportive as we waited for any sign of my golden girl. Turning to social media, I posted a plea for help on Facebook, as did a couple of friends who live near the area in which she was last seen. Three posts total were pushed out, one of which even alerted a local rescue group called Pet FBI Ohio.
On the fifth day after her departure I received a phone call from an unknown number. It was a woman calling to inform me that her daughter had spotted Lexie in their backyard and recognized her from a post she’d seen on Facebook. As our search party canvassed the neighborhood calling out “Lexie!” and “Here, girl!” we ran into three other people who asked if we were looking for the “Golden dog on Facebook.” My, how news spreads on social media!
Although unable to find her, we felt better knowing she was safe. After a quick break our party returned to the area to try searching a second time. As we were about to set out I received another call, this time from two sisters who had seen Lexie in their neighborhood just a few streets down the main road. Once again, she’d been recognized on Facebook.
Long story short, my furry flight risk was waiting for us as we pulled into the neighborhood. Amazingly enough, the two had managed to get her into a collar and on a leash. She was a filthy mess, but I didn’t care. Lexie was found, and it was all because of Facebook (and, of course, those who’d been kind enough to respond)!
Lessons From Lexie’s Digital Comeback
I do my best to try and learn something from experiences that I have (both good and bad), and this one was chock full of lessons. As an online PR specialist, I was curious to go beyond the obvious wisdom (i.e., embrace technology like micro-chipping and GPS collars) and evaluate the crucial role that social media played in Lexie’s safe return. Could I find a connection between my personal use of Facebook and the strategies recommended for businesses who are engaged in social? I think so:
- It’s all about images. A picture really is worth a thousand words, so include them in your posts.
- Post important messages more than once. The three posts were stretched out over the course of a few days. If repeat messages hadn’t been pushed out later on, there’s a good chance my original message would have gotten lost in a sea of never-ending status updates. Be sure your principal posts get seen.
- Just because it’s not getting shared right away doesn’t mean it’s not being seen. Shares on Facebook are definitely a good thing but a lack of them doesn’t necessarily mean your posts aren’t being seen. In this case, my posts weren’t heavily shared right off the bat but they were put in front of the eyes of a few key influencers up front who were able to get the ball rolling and eventually deliver desired results.
- Know your target audience. In my case I was looking to attract the attention of anyone who lived locally, especially those who were pet-lovers. Tagging Pet FBI Ohio also proved useful as most of the group’s followers fit perfectly into my target audience.
- Get people talking. Sparking conversation is a great way to increase interest in your post. And whenever possible, respond to those who take the time to comment – this will help refresh your original message and keep your audience engaged longer.
I was hoping to end this post with some iron-clad insights on how to attribute social media strategy efforts to ROI; however, I couldn’t assign a value to the return on my “social investment” because Lexie’s safe return is priceless. If it helps, setting goals for your posts (and channels in general) is a great place to start and can provide you with a basic understanding of how much value your social media is bringing to the table, even if a specific dollar amount can’t be assigned each time. The goal I attached to my post was achieved, and that was more than enough for me!
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and a big thanks to everyone who provided help and support over the past several days – I am grateful.