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Photo by: Megan Elliott - A record number of pets have found homes thanks to a new social media strategy of Orange County Animal Services.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 3 years ago

Social media helps Orange County pet adoptions hit all-time high

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Social media increases pet adoptions
by: Megan Elliott

With record-high adoptions since June, Orange County Animal Services is seeing huge payoff from its use of social media. With a following of nearly 22,000 fans, the OCAS Facebook page has attracted national attention, and has been imperative in finding homes for the adoption candidates at the shelter.

“I would attribute it most to having adoption promotions, and then promoting them on social media,” said Alyssa Duross, the marketing and public relations intern at OCAS.

In June, OCAS saw record-high adoptions with 569 animals given new homes. The numbers climbed in July with 646 adoptions, and then peaked in August with the highest number of adoptions in the shelter’s history — 693. Throughout September, the numbers remained high with approximately 584 shelter pets finding new homes.

Carolina Mlynarczyk, the agency’s marketing and public relations coordinator, agreed, adding that while it’s hard to tell exactly what’s bringing people to the shelter, social media complements their traditional marketing efforts such as adoption promotions, radio and billboard ads and segments on local news stations.

But while each of OCAS’ marketing strategies is effective in its own regard, the shelter’s Facebook page has a unique edge: the ability to create a vast network of potential adopters on a national level.

“It’s happened a few times that we’ve had successful adoptions from other states,” said Mlynarczyk, noting instances of North Carolina, Georgia and Texas residents traveling to OCAS to adopt a pet they saw on Facebook. “People will literally drive or fly out here, adopt a pet and go back,” Mlynaczyk said.

Just last week, Natalia Ghilzon, an out-of-state fan of OCAS’ Facebook page, went to the shelter with Tampa-resident Lance Williams while she was visiting from out of state. “I live in Michigan originally, and he lives here permanently, so I come down half-and-half,” said Ghilzon, “And I’d seen it on Facebook, and so I was like when I get down here in the winter, we’ll go look — and so we did.”

In addition to attracting out-of-state adopters, OCAS has garnered national attention from the content on its page. In March, the shelter made national news when one of its videos — a short clip of a cat named Turkey who made a gobble sound while eating — was picked up by Good Morning America, CNN and the Huffington Post. The video reached 80,000 people online.

Mlynarczyk says that videos like this “work like a charm” to get shelter pets adopted. Additionally, she says high-quality photos of the adoptable animals are effective in bringing people to the shelter. “There have been a lot of initiatives to make the pets’ photos better. That’s one of the big things,” said Mlynarczyk. One of those initiatives included teaming up with Pawsitive Shelter Photography, a group of volunteers that shoots high-quality photos of the shelter pets for OCAS’ Facebook page and website.

Mlynarczyk says these pictures often bring in people who are interested in adopting a particular pet they saw on Facebook, but if the pet is no longer available, those people usually take home another animal that’s up for adoption.

This year alone, OCAS has had 8,429 live releases (a culmination of adoptions, rescues by the shelter’s partners and return-to-owner cases); that’s just short of the shelter’s 8,837 live releases in 2013. With the record increase in adoptions, the shelter is moving steadily towards its goal of 10,000 live releases in 2014.

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