Brenden Gepson, a marketing specialist for the Nebraska Humane Society, takes a photo of one of the humane society's cats to post on social media.
Courtesy Photo. Brenden Gepson, a marketing specialist for the Nebraska Humane Society, takes a photo of one of the humane society's adoptable cats to post on social media.

Social media becomes integrated part of shelter plan

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses across Nebraska and the nation. Humane societies and animal shelters are no exception. Because of social distancing protocols, some shelters are using social media to promote pet adoptions and connect with the public.

The social media app TikTok, where creators can make 15- to 60-second videos, is the latest way shelters and humane societies have been reaching people. Many across the country are closed to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and only allow customers with an appointment. 

Brendan Gepson, who has been the marketing specialist for the Nebraska Humane Society for the last three years, runs the organization’s Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat accounts. He said TikTok is the organization’s latest venture on social media, which has picked up in popularity. 

The Nebraska Humane Society TikTok account has about 70,000 followers and 1.9 million likes on the profile. Its most viewed TikTok has 1.2 million views. 

@nehumanesociety

Our pets are all still 10/10 despite these ratings. Like for Part 3! #fyp #foryou #rating #adopt #animalshelter #nebraska #dogsoftiktok #catsoftiktok

♬ mario sound – mandycap
Nebraska Humane Society’s most viewed TikTok with 1.2 million views. The TikTok is
the second part in their series where animals at the humane society are ranked.

“Right after Facebook, TikTok is our most popular social media account,” Gepson said. “It’s surprising because it’s the newest one, and a few of our posts have gotten quite a bit of attention.”

Gepson said the organization has been able to get a lot of views by following TikTok trends.

“For a while, there were a lot of videos of people rating random things, and so I figured I’d give it a try,” Gepson said. “I started making videos rating the different animals we have, and it just kind of blew up.”

He said a lot of his ideas come from browsing through TikTok in his personal time, and that he’s seen more and more shelters and humane societies use the app.

One of those organizations is the Paws and Claws Adoption Center in Columbus. 

Shelter manager Caitlin Davis said the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged the staff to branch out and try new things to bring attention to the shelter. 

“Since the pandemic, we are finding a lot more people commenting on our social media or sending messages asking about animals,” Davis said. “Facebook has been our biggest exploration in trying to post more. We also have a few staff members running a TikTok account trying to do more blips on the animals and some of the ones that have been here longer.”

Davis joined Paws and Claws as the shelter manager in July, starting in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“When I first started, we knew social media was something we needed to improve on to push forward since we’re the only shelter between Columbus and Norfolk,” she said. “It was the ideal time to reevaluate our social media presence and get more interest since people are sitting at home and scrolling through their social media.”

Susan Rodabaugh, the shelter manager for York Adopt-A-Pet, said that the shelter’s adoption numbers haven’t been drastically affected by the pandemic, but stafff members still use social media to reach people.

“Our only social media is Facebook which we use to post lost pets, available animals and adoptions,” Rodabaugh said. “Because of the pandemic, we’ve made sure to put all of our animals on Petfinder, which is a national adoption website. We did that before, but now it’s even more important.”

The Nebraska Humane Society, Paws and Claws Adoption Center and York Adopt-A-Pet are all following similar protocols where guests have to make an appointment to visit the animals and adoption applications are offered online. They all agree that social media has been a big help in finding their animals forever homes. 

“Social media is where everyone sees what’s going on,” Gepson said. “It’s nice because we post adoptable animals as well as keep people informed with some funny little videos.”