Regardless of whether you’re a social media butterfly or a Twitter-hating neo-Luddite, there is no getting around the fact that social media is here to stay, and has forever altered the way businesses and organizations interact with their customers, supporters and fans.

Many shelters and rescues have embraced this brave new world of social media by creating active Facebook pages full of photos and video updates on adoptable animals, or insightful blogs with regular posts about shelter events and activities. The best thing about social media is that, unlike a website, it is 100% free to use, and doesn’t require any advanced training in order to update.

But despite the accessibility of these social media platforms, it can sometimes be hard to know exactly how to use each one to its full advantage to spread the word about your shelter or rescue, search for volunteers or donors, or simply connect with the local community. So here are few tricks to help give your social media skills and, by extension, organization, a big boost.

  1. No matter the platform — Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Foursquare or your own blog — if you aren’t already up and running with at least one form of social media, now is the time to start. You can always change, modify, or switch platforms later on.
  2. Make it a habit. Whether you’re updating a Facebook page, writing blog posts, tweeting, or all of the above, make sure to post regularly, every day if you can manage it.
  3. Keep the quality up and the voice consistent. If possible, make one or two volunteers responsible for social media updates. That way your page, blog or twitter feed will have a unique voice that will keep your fans coming back for more.
  4. Anytime anyone mentions your organization in a post or responds to something on one of your sites, take the time to respond and engage with them. By doing so, you will be on your way to step 5…
  5. Create community. Give people a way to interact with your content, and don’t be afraid to ask them to comment, share, like or retweet. And be sure to tell them why they should do so.

If these tips leave you yearning to know more, there are plenty of websites offering tips on how to get more fans, likes, comments and readers on your social media sites. For Facebook users, How To Get More Likes And Comments On Facebook is an excellent place to start, and this guide to Facebook posts for non-profits should provide plenty of continued reading. For Twitter, check out this story from the New York Times. And for YouTube, take a look at this insightful piece on how to optimize video content. Finally, as with anything else, it’s always a good idea to spend some time researching the social media strategies of other successful organizations — both shelters and other types of nonprofits.

Do you have other useful tips for getting the most out of social media? Visit our Facebook page and let us know what’s worked for you or your organization, or give a shout out to a shelter or rescue that you think has a particularly effective social media presence. Oh, and while you’re there, why not give us a “like”?