5 Go-To Social Media Strategies for Shelters

Social media is a central component of most shelter pet marketing strategies — and as you’ve surely already noticed, it moves faster than a dog that just heard a cheese wrapper in the next room. Reels, live-streaming, and good old TikTok are picking up momentum, video charges ahead as the most-consumed type of content, and emotive storytelling is the strategic response to aggressive algorithm updates.

But with so many moving parts, it can feel like a full-time job just figuring out where to start. Here are 5 pathways for recharging your shelter pet marketing strategy this year, and creating content that gets your adoptable animals seen and your message heard!

Plan It Out

A little planning at the start of each month can not only save you a lot of time managing your social media day-to-day but can also ensure you never miss an important event or holiday. Use our free editable online calendar or a wall calendar and jot in public and novelty holidays, and your events and programmatic goals. Start as far in advance as you can, and add to it as your internal strategies and goals take shape throughout the year.

  • Capitalize on popular hashtag/novelty holidays for fun, shareable, engagement-driven content (ie; National Pizza Day, Earth Day, or Kiss A Ginger Day)
  • Draw from relevant pet-aligned holidays to inspire fund drives, adoption promotions, and social interaction (ie; Adopt A Rescued Rabbit Month, Black Cat Appreciation Day, or National Puppy Day)
  • Plot out your organization’s upcoming fundraising campaigns so you can start each one with messaging and promotional graphics already in place — less scrambling!
  • Add things like microchip clinics and other community resources, big-picture goals, special anniversaries, and important dates

Planning your content in advance can help you make better use of other social media platforms too! Prepare posts for your primary social platform first, and then appropriate it for your secondary platforms from there, optimizing with hashtags, shortened copy, or reformatted imagery where necessary.

Connect And Celebrate

The dynamic, interactive nature of social media makes it the perfect space for creating authentic connections with your community and attracting new supporters to your cause. It’s always on and it’s always vibrant — and people use it to interact and feel inspired.

Connect with your community

HeARTs Speak instagram social media tips animal shelter marketing

  • Through simple engagement boosters like @tagging and adding locations to posts. This helps create a broader reach for your content and establishes credibility for your organization.
  • By involving your followers and community in your day-to-day operations, such as naming new animals. People love to feel like part of the magic!
  • By being transparent about your needs, goals, and accomplishments. This is another approach that builds loyalty for your organization, and on an everyday level, helps you collect the things you need. Running low on canned food this week? Give your followers the opportunity to help.
  • By infusing humor! Laughter is a universal communicator and one of the key ways humans bond with one another. Being lighthearted and funny lets people know it’s ok to relax and can help them form positive associations with your mission, animals, and pet adoption as a whole. It’s endearing and breaks down barriers and stereotypes.
  • By telling stories. Real, raw emotion is motivational and makes a space for authentic connection. Remember to stick to the facts, and always maintain a tone of optimism and hope so your followers still feel useful, even with the sad or difficult stories.


  • By sharing updates about animals, campaigns, and projects. Keeping your followers in the loop shows them you respect and value them, in turn strengthening their connection to you — and everyone loves a happy ending!
  • By giving your staff and volunteers much-deserved public recognition for their work. Introduce them by name and include them in photos and updates. Not only does show that you value the people working behind the scenes, it introduces a human element which helps people feel more comfortable reaching out to you.
  • By share all the hard work and love happening at your organization through positive, honest pictures and video. This helps to build loyalty and support for your organization and inspires more people to choose adoption.

Optimize And Emphasize

A social feed is prime real estate, so optimize your content to make the best use of the space (and short user attention spans!).

  • For Facebook and Instagram, portrait/vertical format images pack more punch as they occupy a taller space in the feed
  • Overlaying text or designs onto photos and custom graphics is an eye-catching way to infuse more fun and humor, and establish a ‘brand’ for your organization. Include your logo and website URL so people can always find their way back to you and your animals. Keep any text simple, clean, and legible. Check out our growing collection of free image overlays in the EDU library and apply them using a simple tool like Canva or PicMonkey, or get super crafty with a more advanced tool like Photoshop.

When it comes to messaging, short is generally sweetest in the social realm. Briefer posts get higher levels of engagement because they can be absorbed easily during fast scrolling.

  • Shorten long URLs using bitly.com (and then you can track the clicks, too!)
  • For the most part, leave the hashtags out on Facebook, but apply up to 11 (ideally) on Instagram! They’re what help to get your content discovered. Check out other similar posts to see what hashtags people are using, and include your locations hashtag, too (ie; #sanfrancisco, #sanfran, #california, #CA). Lots more hashtag ideas on our free hashtag cheat card, too.

Live And Uncut

Live video and story options on Instagram and Facebook open up a whole new world of authentic connection and communication and further establish your shelter as a warm, welcoming place! Help your fans feel like part of your mission and inspire new followers to join you by showing the behind-the-scenes action at your shelter and events.

  • Do a little prep to cut down on interferences and surprises. Before you start, make sure the lighting is appropriate and your setting is arranged accordingly, and inform your team you’ll be recording live so everyone is aware.
  • Discuss your programs and upcoming events, and provide resources for your community like simple training tips and pet care advice
  • Live cams on litters of puppies or kittens are great engagement boosters and donation generators
  • Here are some excellent tips on live streaming from our Artists Helping Animals member, Monique.

Lights. Camera. Adoption!

Video has fast become one of the most engaging forms of content on social media, with around 100 million hours of video watched on Facebook alone every day! It’s a powerful story-telling tool, and an efficient way to help potential adopters envision a pet as part of their life.

  • Keep it short and simple – videos under 2 minutes long get the most engagement on Facebook, and your message is more likely to be absorbed if it’s clear and emotive. For Instagram, videos must be shorter than 1 minute but those under 30 seconds get more engagement. Even a gif can be easily created, and packs a lot of punch!
  • Recap events and fundraisers
  • Use footage from adopters to highlight happy endings, or footage from fosters to show a pet in a home environment.
  • About 85% of videos are watched without sound, so if there is spoken content in your video, remember to overlay captions
  • On Instagram, Reels catch attention and are a fun way to highlight a pet’s tricks and cute quirks. Think simple storytelling, or humorous takes on trending sounds or songs, and as with all things social: Don’t be afraid to experiment!
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HeARTs Speak

HeARTs Speak

HeARTs Speak's goal is to increase the visibility of shelter pets by uniting creativity and advocacy. Through programs based in partnership, training, resource-sharing, and innovation they are proud to be the only organization of their kind uniquely focused on the portrayal and marketing of animal services and pet adoption. A tiny but mighty organization with over a decade of work under their belt, they're passionate about ensuring that no animals go unseen, and that creative marketing for shelters and rescues is fast, easy, and fun.