We recently had the opportunity to interview Dan Solomon, Social Media and Outreach Coordinator for Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia. We asked him about his role at Morris and the ways in which the internet and social media have changed how shelters (like Morris) work with the public.
Q:I see from your profile that you’ve been with Morris for 10 years. What has been your greatest challenge in enhancing the Refuge’s social media profile?
A: Two answers. First off: until recently, social media was only a small part of my work at the Refuge, sandwiched between processing donations, taking in pets, etc. This last year, however, the Refuge has decided to make social media outreach an even bigger part of our overall approach, so I'm able to really go all in on it.
We have an amazing and dedicated group of supporters, plus a long and historic legacy, but as a smaller private shelter we're not necessarily the first organization people think to find online. We're working on it, though!
Q:Had you worked with any other animal advocacy groups before joining Morris?
A: No, although I've always cared deeply about animals both wild and domestic. I had been working in the nonprofit field more generally when I saw an online help wanted ad for the Refuge, and jumped in.
Q:In what ways has the internet and social media shaped the outreach efforts of shelters like Morris?
A: I can't speak for other shelters, but for us it's been a godsend. As I mentioned above, we're a smaller shelter, and one virtually hidden down a side street, so we've always worked on reaching out to the community—in our archives, we have at least one decades-old scrapbook of 'pet of the week' advertisements we did in local newspapers. But with the Internet and social media, many more people can easily find out much more about our adoptable pets and other services. And along with the greatly increased reach and range comes online community - we can answer questions, ask questions, engage in conversations, hear back about adopted pets, and make goofy jokes on Twitter.
Q:What has been your biggest professional win while at Morris?
A: Every adoption is a win! (Although we're really proud of FIV+ cat Russ getting adopted.)
And there was the time we challenged the Louisiana SPCA to a bet on the Eagles/Saints playoff game, with the loser having to rename three pets after the winner's city. Sadly, we all know how that went, but our pets got quite a bit of online/TV coverage out of it, which made it all worthwhile.
Q:Was there anything that surprised you when you began managing Morris’ social media account?
A: How great and generous people can be. These days, one often hears about social media stealing information, spreading propaganda, or raising blood pressure - but we're part of this marvelous community that shares pet pictures and best wishes for adoption, where people will out of the blue donate food or sponsor a pet's adoption fee from across the country (or occasionally other countries)!
Q:What’s been your greatest on-the-job learning experience at Morris?
A: All of it—but social media itself. Since we started relatively early, to some extent I was figuring things out as I went along. Of course, since things are constantly changing, I still am—but there are a lot more resources these days.
Q:I see you encourage people who’ve adopted pets from Morris to post on the Refuge’s Twitter stream. What positive effects have you seen on adoptions as a result?
A: It's hard to directly connect that to any specific adoption, unless people happen to mention it, but it's wonderful for building community. (Definitely check out @JoshKrugerPHL's tweets about Russ). It is basically people sharing the joys (and ok, occasional frustrations) of having a pet—and especially for people who hadn't been particularly thinking about pet ownership or may have not ever had a pet (or that kind of pet) before, perhaps this might be the thing that starts them on the road to adoption!
Q:I hear you’re working on a social media campaign to link the new Flyers mascot Gritty to Morris animal advocacy efforts. Can you describe the genesis of that idea?
A: Well, Gritty. Basically, it's sort of three-fold. Gritty is Philly, and as America's First Animal Shelter, helping Philly's homeless and abandoned pets since 1874, so, in a sense, are we. So, it's a kind of two great things going great together idea. Also, Gritty's gleefully fuzzy anarchic craziness is honestly a perfect match for some of the pets here at the Refuge. And of course, the boost Gritty could give our pets would be pretty amazing!
Q:Can you tell me a little about Mittens, the Morris mascot?
A: Adopted! She's a lovely fluffy senior kitty whose person had become ill and unable to care for her, leading the poor girl to be badly neglected. She spent 230 days at the Refuge, but was finally adopted by the awesome @FakeDariaM (who figured as a "fellow quiet introvert" they would get along great—and they have! Since she's now a mascot emeritus, it's past time we have a contest for new Morris mascot.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.