A Successful Social Media Case Study

by Wednesday, April 6, 2011
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While on vacation this week, I read an article about one of my favorite websites…  Why is it one of my favorites?  I’ve got two words for you: Sebastian, Valli.

Those of you who know me personally know those names.  For the rest of you, they are our adored pets, both of whom we found on

My own personal involvement with began back in November, 2006 when my son lamented that our cat never really paid any attention to him.  (I’m sure some of you are thinking, “It’s  a cat!  What do you expect?” but that’s beside the point.)  Our 8 year old cat had bonded with my daughter and simply wasn’t giving my son the time of day.  Although I had never owned or even wanted a dog, it didn’t sound completely crazy when my husband suggested it.  I’ve always been a believer in adopting animals from shelters as opposed to breeders.  So how to find the right dog for our family?

As an avid Internet researcher, I quickly stumbled upon  For those of you unfamiliar, it’s like a garage sale of animals nationwide… all of the rescue organizations and animal shelters list descriptions (and photos) of their animals online, and once you’ve input your zip code, you can find all of the animals by breed, age, color, etc. within a certain radius of your home.

The Petfinder photo of Sebastian (then called "Duke")

Within a week, we found what seemed the perfect dog… a Schnauzer and something (possibly Dachshund) mix located about an hour away.  I spoke with the owner of the rescue organization and this puppy sounded ideal.  From the moment his picture was posted on Petfinder, we fell in love.  That day, December 1, 2006, we hopped in the car, drove to Winder, GA and after spending 10 minutes with this puppy who (although he swears he never said this) my husband said looked like a “Schnauzer with the wrong-colored paint job”, we decided to bring him home… one of the best decisions we ever made.  To this day Sebastian is one of the most important and beloved members of our family.  (FYI, when people ask what kind of dog he is, we say he’s a Schnoxand.)

Two years later, our cat (who, putting him in good company with my son, never gave Sebastian the time of day) had to be put to sleep.  Three weeks later, we went to see “Jersey Boys” at the Fox Theater.  Afterwards, we headed towards a favorite restaurant and passed the Atlanta Humane Society.  We decided to venture in and quickly found a beautiful gray and white kitten who let each of us hold her, never cried, fidgeted or tried to get away.  Best of all, she looked nearly identical to a cat my husband and I had adopted, loved and adored for 10 years.  Upon returning to our house, I discovered our kitten’s profile on  I was happy that she was listed there, and even more happy that she was ours.  (FYI, turns out, she was faking it.  To this day, Valli (named after the lead character in Jersey Boys) is not the lap cat we were hoping for, but she is best friends with Sebastian.  Plus, she’s just ridiculously cute.)

Valli's photo on Petfinder

So yes, I’ve just sung the praises of (whose logo says “15 years, 17 million adoptions”), but what does all of this have to do with social media? has a terrific website, which not only has photos of animals looking for their “forever homes”, but also serves as a resource for those needing pet advice.  Petfinder takes advantage of their blog, publishing an article nearly every day of the work week, including info for pet owners, animal behavior, and of course the ever popular “Happy Tails” (in which we find out what happened to pets after they were adopted). also uses a Facebook page which has 110,000 members.  They post articles that can be found not only on their website but also only on their Facebook page.  They also have several customized tabs, talking about contests and the purpose of  Finally, Petfinder’s Facebook page asks questions to get their fans to respond (which usually have anywhere from 10-50 comments) and polls, such as “Do you brush your pet’s teeth?” also has a Twitter account (@petfinder) which has 13,000 followers.  Petfinder posts a few times a day, and they have created some hashtags, designed to bring attention to their cause.  Here’s a tweet I just found: “Happy #TweetAPetTues! Help a shelter pet near you. Find one here: Then tweet to help find them a home!”  Some of the tweets feature certain pets that need to be adopted, and others highlight issues important to

Sebastian and Valli gaze out the window together.

Finally, has a YouTube channel.  They have 1203 subscribers, 22 videos and close to 150,000 views.  Their videos include info about pet adoption (“How to Find the Right Cat for You” ), pet ownership (videos about vaccination), and highlighting pet rescue organizations (“Animal Lifeline Rescues” ).

Clearly, has chosen to use an integrated social media strategy, which appeals to people who prefer different types of social networks.  You can imagine that having a national organization which can help individuals on a local basis, they had to come up with a savvy social media strategy.

And for those unbelievers out there, yes, it is possible.  At her bat mitzvah speech, my daughter thanked me for my best ever find on the Internet: our dog.  Petfinder helps you find the perfect animal for your home in so many different ways.




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