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Peter Shankman on Animal Nonprofits and Social Media

Best known as the founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO), a website that matches thousands of journalists with sources for their stories, Peter Shankman is also known as an author, speaker, skydiver, cat owner, and animal lover. He found his two cats Karma (age 12) and NASA (age 11) on the streets of New York City when they were six weeks old.

Karma with Peter.

I read his blog and while I glean information about social media, marketing, and public relations from it, I enjoy the fact that he occasionally mentions Karma and NASA.

I first heard Peter talk at an American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) luncheon. He spoke about HARO, social media, his cats, and the animal charity he supports. He really liked their work, so he sent them a donation. A few weeks later a coffee table book arrives in the mail. “I don’t own a coffee table,” he says. “Most people my age don’t own coffee tables. It’s a beautiful book, however, it was going to go on my bookshelf and no one will see it.”

“So, I got on the phone and called the public relations person at the animal charity. I thanked her for the book, and told her that I’m sure most of the donors–at least the ones in my age group–don’t have a coffee table in their homes. I suggested she upload videos to YouTube. It costs less than a full color coffee table book to produce, and it would reach a large audience.”

Peter went on to talk about social media and why we need it. A few days, later, I contacted Peter to ask him how animal nonprofits can use social media to their advantage. “When it comes to social media, there is no difference between animal charities and Fortune 500 companies,” he explains. “Both have to reach out to their audience and find out how their audience wants to be reached. And the easiest way to do this is through social media.”

Favoring Facebook
“Every animal nonprofit should have its own website and blog and should be on Facebook and Twitter,” he says. “Being on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t cost anything–except time. And in order to grow a nonprofit or any organization, you have to invest time.”

Peter favors Facebook because it gives people an ability to foster relationships. “It’s a great place to learn about your friends and followers.” he explains. “On Facebook, you can learn about your donors and potential donors. Sign up with Facebook and open a Twitter account and talk to the people you want to reach. Use these tools to listen to people. If you feel that your organization doesn’t have time, find time. This is marketing basics, you need to be on these sites to get your message across and to reach your targeted donors.”

Profile Pages
Spend time developing your profile page. “When people look at a profile, they want to know what you do, where you are located and what you like,” he explains. “Try sharing information and don’t worry about privacy. There are no secrets in social media, and besides you want to disclose as much information as possible about your organization. Be open and honest; that is what we all respond to.”

“Remember the ‘social’ in ‘social media.’  For every time you tweet about yourself, tweet five times about things that are helpful, interesting or that thank someone else.”

Learn from those You Admire
He also suggests copying from the best. “Look at other companies and watch how they are using social media. You can always hire interns if your budget is tight–as with most animal nonprofits.”

“Go on Facebook and search for animal charities to see what they are doing. Check out their websites and blogs. Note what you like and what you don’t like, and learn from that. Use their site as a template to learn and create your own site. And when you are on Facebook, ask questions. Ask your donors how they like to be reached. Listen, really listen to the people you meet on Facebook and other social media sites. Engage them in conversation and be patient and honest.”

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