Six Lessons From a Social Media Contest for Pet Lovers

September 11, 2013 Janet Thaeler

Your boss doesn’t get social media, or maybe it’s your obnoxious Uncle Craig who doesn’t get what you do all day at work. You can’t blame them. There are so many social networks on the web today that tracking them all can be hard. But what if cute animals were there to help explain the power of social media?

That’s how this social media campaign started. Here’s a look at how it started and what we learned from the campaign.

1. People Share What they Are Passionate About

In general, people respond to what they’re passionate about, and for a lot of us, it’s our pets. The Internet loves animals. As a company that creates infographics for clients, we decided to do some promotion using our own skills. Our Social MEowDia infographic had famous cats explaining the top social network sites.

The infographic did well. Just on our site, it got over 2,000 shares and was picked up by many large sites. In addition to shares, the cat graphic brought us new leads and business. It became our largest branding and marketing campaign. Best of all, it delighted people.

2. Promote That Which Gets Social Proof

Some marketers create waves, others ride them. Riding waves is much easier than trying to create big waves out of still water. Once a concept works, that’s your social proof—and you can build on that so your work is seen by even more people. That is why we chose to invest more into the project by creating another version of the graphic and a contest to highlight both.

Besides being the fodder for social media for tweets, Facebook posts, and blog posts, the graphic formed the basis of other shareable content. We used the graphic in presentations at conferences (#1e on SlideShare the day it was released). It was featured in a print ad that ran in a local business magazine. We created a video about it. An ebook with social media tips from cats is in the works.

3. Find New Ways to Spin Your Success

When you have something that successful, there’s got to be a strong follow-up. So cue the dogs! Social MEDogIA had famous dogs where cats once were. While the infographic looked similar to the cat version, it was more than just a rehash of it. Rather, it had its own personality.

We could’ve just launched the new version of our successful graphic, but we wanted something bigger, something that would benefit real cats and dogs. It would pit dog and cat lovers in a vote to see which infographic did a better job. So, we partnered with two nonprofits that are social and could help us get the word out about the contest.

4. Create Partnerships

To help spread the word and as nonprofit partners, we partnered with (dogs for deaf and disabled Americans) to represent the dog vote and The Humane Society of the United States to represent the cats. It helped to have a both a smaller organization that was a dedicated partner and a larger well-known nonprofit that had a huge following.

Both organizations tweeted about the contest. The day the contest ran in The Humane Society newsletter, we saw a huge uptick in votes that lasted for days. is smaller but brought a more constant push throughout the month-long contest.

In addition to getting votes, we asked other agencies, clients, and partners, to donate to the cause. The contest’s hashtag was #pawsvsclaws. Cat lovers used #voteclaws and dog lovers #votedpaws. Ultimately, the dogs won and got the majority of the donations collected.

5. Promote to Influencers

One key to successful social media campaigns is to work with influencers. Using Facebook’s Graph Search, we found Facebook Pages and groups full of animal lover fans who could help get the word out. Minutes after a posting on a dog retailer’s page, the dog votes poured in. The caveat here is that if you email through Facebook, your message will go to the “other folder” (i.e., get lost forever). Ideally, find an email in the About section of a page.

Knowing that PeterShankman is not only part of the industry, but that he loves cats, we asked him to tweet about the contest. He tweeted about the contest to his almost 160K followers. There were many retweets, including from his followers, such as C.C. Chapman, who has over 40K followers, and Nancy Byron who has more than 11K.

6. Double Your Lead Time

Besides creating the graphics and pages, a promotion like this takes more time than you think. Mat Siltala said, “We depended too much on hoping this would get picked up by major players… We should have done better reaching out to big websites WAY ahead of time.” In addition, we needed to give staff more time and encouragement to reach out to their networks. Last of all, we could have done better locally getting local news stations on board. Still, sometimes the best results don’t come directly from the contest, but from the media coverage of it afterward.

We’re not disappointed. In all, the campaign garnered roughly (combined total everywhere) of over 20k  social shares and ultimately raised thousands of dollars for each animal advocacy organization.

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