This post originally ran in 2018. We are republishing it today because foster marketing is as relevant as ever!
Thanks to social media, foster caregivers from around the country are realizing the power they have to get pets adopted through marketing. Photographs, video, text and other materials created in foster care are especially valuable in helping potential adopters picture a pet in their own home and conveying information about a pet’s behavior outside the shelter.
You don’t need a degree in marketing to be successful at finding homes for pets. “I think a lot of people hear ‘marketing’ and assume it’s this complex beast they don’t have the expertise to dabble in, when actually it’s a lot of fun and anyone can be great at it!” said Rachel Jones, Post-Placement Foster Coordinator at Pima Animal Care Center.
Now that you know how easy it is, how is it done? Check out these six guidelines from some of our favorite foster caregivers and coordinators!
Aim to create an emotional connection
Emotional connections are what drive us to act. With any adoption marketing, the most basic goal is to create an emotional connection between potential adopters and the featured pet.
Behavioral foster Jami Ojala is an expert in making emotional connections between her foster dogs and potential adopters, perhaps because she bonds deeply with each one herself. In marketing fearful foster Sweet Jane, Ojala focused on the captivating aspects of her personality. “Each time, the goal was to feature another facet of her personality, and her beautiful appearance,” says Ojala. “You want to present the animal in a way that showcases her in a home setting and emphasizes her endearing qualities.”
Keep it positive
It’s important to keep marketing focused on the positive. Negative information in marketing can act as “stop signs” for potential adopters, even ones who might be a perfect fit. “Stop signs” such as “must be an only pet” and “no children” inhibit the creation of emotional connections. These things are best discussed 1-on-1 with a potential adopter.
“If I am passionate about a foster, it builds the hype for that animal,” says rock star foster Linda Ryno. “Also, marketing the good qualities of that animal. Make them seem like the best thing since sliced bread.”
Market, market, market!
Make marketing as much a part of your experience as feeding your foster pet. Aim to create new marketing material (a photo, video, story, etc.) every 7-10 days. Keep your camera on hand for great photo opportunities. When your foster does something memorable or touching, write it down so you can craft a post.
Your organization’s social pages may be where you get the biggest return on investment for your marketing material, but don’t stop there. Market to potential adopters using different avenues such as your own personal social media pages or pages you and others create specifically for the purpose of marketing pets.
Ojala recommends a team approach to marketing. For Sweet Jane, a small team of fosters came together to brainstorm ideas and then reached out to photographers and other volunteers for help. “If your shelter or rescue has a photographer or marketing resources, take advantage of them,” she says.
Connect with the community
The more people get to know your foster pet, the closer he or she is to going home. Make sure to introduce your foster pet to friends and family. Take your foster dog with you to run errands. Put an “adopt me” vest or leash on your foster dog and venture out into the community.
“I recommend getting the foster out in public. There is no better marketing than being in front of the people who are willing to adopt a shelter pet,” says Ryno.
Don’t get discouraged
If your first forays into marketing don’t result in an adoption, don’t worry! Over time, the stories told and pictures shown on social media become the chapters in the pet’s story. Potential adopters who read about a pet regularly often make an emotional connection to that pet along the way.
In Sweet Jane’s case, her adoption marketing was so effective that people she’d never met began to recognize her when she was walking down the street! “She was eventually adopted by a family who had been watching her on the shelter’s Facebook page,” says Ojala. “After seeing multiple posts, they decided to come and meet her and immediately fell in love.”
“Second to providing food, water, shelter and love, marketing is the most important thing a foster caregiver can do for their pet,” says Lorian Epstein, Maddie’s® Adult Dog Foster Coordinator at Austin Animal Center. “Pets in foster are virtually invisible to visitors at the shelter, so those animals need a marketing advocate, an ‘agent’ to help them get noticed by potential adopters. Who better to market them than their foster parents?”
Interested in learning more? Download our marketing guide for foster caregivers!