Facebook’s new campaign to save animals shows how non-profits can use social media to their advantage, although it runs the risk being associated with scams and “clicktivism” charges.
“Share A Pic, Save A Pet” is PetSmart Charities and Adopt-A-Pet.com’s new program on Facebook, which lets users raise awareness about homeless pets by using their profile picture or Timeline banner to share information about specific animals. No word on how many people changed their pictures thus far, but more than 400 pets found homes thanks to this program, showing social media can function as a force for good.
“Share a Pic, Save a Pet is an innovative way to use social media to promote pet adoption locally,” said Susana Della Maddalena, executive director of PetSmart Charities, explaining why the charities teamed up with Facebook.
Share A Pic, Save A Pet capitalizes on how easy it is to spread information on social media, but its crusade may run up against some problems. The most recent well-publicized campaign for social activism propelled by Facebook, Invisible Children’s Kony 2012, ran up against substantial criticism over the creators’ intentions and whether Facebook users who passed along the video will actually do anything beyond clicking and sharing.
Like Kony 2012, Share A Pic, Save A Pet is primarily an awareness-raising campaign, and it will likely inspire more picture changes than pet adoptions. Nevertheless, this pet-adoption plea is much more straightforward than Invisible Children’s campaign, and people can actively participate in solving the problem posed by Share A Pic by adopting the pets they see.
Facebook users burned out by social networking activism due to Kony 2012 or wary of Share A Pic, Save A Pet’s credentials because of the increasing number of Facebook scams targeting the altruistic may dismiss this type of charity.
However, this pet-saving app shares several similarities with Socialblood.org, a donation app for Facebook matching blood donors and recipients. As with Share A Pic, Socialblood uses Facebook to seek help, and users respond by acting, not just clicking a Like button. Donating blood may be less of a commitment than adopting a pet, but heart-melting pictures of kittens or puppies are likely to spur at least some pet lovers to action.
Charities will likely take more pains to make sure their organizations come across as genuine in the future. Social media can add power to messages, but it can also water them down by making it easy to pass along information without taking action or questioning its sources.