Follow Friday: MSPCA-Angell

Their stories will tug at your heartstrings.

walk for animals

Well, you’re adorable. / Photo from Walk for Animals 2014 via MSPCA-Angell Facebook

Follow Friday, At a Glance
Connect with MSPCA-Angell on social media:

facebook Facebook
twitter Twitter
instagram Instagram
linkedin LinkedIn

Pet owners and animal lovers in general should know about the MSCPA-Angell. The nonprofit organization, headquartered in Jamaica Plain, provides thousands of animals with medical care and services every year, in addition to working toward the prevention of animal cruelty.

The nonprofit advocates for all kinds of animals, from dogs and cats to horses and hamsters, and boasts the top-notch Angell Animal Medical Center, a facility all pet owners in the area should know exists.

For this week’s edition of “Follow Friday,” PR director Rob Halpin shares memorable stories from his time at the animal care center, and explains how they balance the number the happy and sad stories shared on the MSPCA-Angell’s social media sites.

Are you the only one who handles the MSPCA’s various social media accounts? How do you manage all of them?

I run the official MSPCA-Angell Twitter, and the overall strategy for Facebook is managed by our web marketing director. In turn, each of our three shelters in Methuen, Boston, and Centerville have their own Facebooks, and the staff at those shelters manage them autonomously. This is key for them because they’re constantly “in the know” about homeless animals that come in and they can immediately market those animals with photos and other info to ensure their stay in our shelters is as short as possible, and we do all we can to get them into new homes.

In addition, we have Facebook accounts for our advocacy/lobbying program as well as our 24-7 emergency and specialty care hospital, Angell Animal Medical Center. These pages are administered by their respective program heads.

All told, tens of thousands of people connect with the MSPCA and track our news and goings-on via these Facebook pages. Moreover, 40 percent of the traffic to is from Facebook—a hugely impressive referring site for the MSPCA-Angell.

And we have about 4,600 followers on Twitter as well, which we use not only to broadcast news and information about our programs, but also to answer questions and field complaints from followers.

What are the goals for the MSPCA on social media?

They are two-fold:

• Secure public validation for our animal sheltering, lobbying, humane law enforcement, and veterinary care programs.
• Raise money.

In three words, describe the voice and tone of the MSPCA’s social media.

Authoritative, clarifying, and fun.

What has been the happiest story you’ve ever shared on social media?

Without a doubt it was Lilly the “Pit Bull Hero,” a pit bull who literally pulled her unconscious owner away from train tracks several years back as a train was barreling through. Lilly was unfortunately struck by the train and she lost a limb. Doctors at Angell tended to her for weeks. The story went around the world and was responsible for thousands of shares on Facebook. Nearly $100,000 in donations came into the MSPCA-Angell as a result of that story. And Lilly herself is now a star, with a Facebook page of her own boasting 435,000 likes!

What’s been the saddest?

It’s hard to pick just one. But invariably when we have to update our fans on animal cruelty investigations in progress, it’s generally not the happiest news. Sometimes animals are deliberately beaten, or left to die in the cold, or otherwise neglected or harmed. For every party or fundraising event that the MSPCA puts on there are hundreds of these in-the-trenches, heart-breaking stories. We try to be judicious about sharing these stories on Facebook so as to avoid the tone becoming too heavy.

What’s the weirdest, most surprising, or most outspoken feedback you’ve gotten via social media?

Occasionally people confuse us with MySpace on Twitter, which I think is more funny than weird.

Some of the most challenging feedback we get via social media are industry groups or individuals who are angered by particular animal welfare positions we take that do not align with the interests of businesses. For instance, we are opposed to horse-drawn carriages working in the city. When we speak up about this on Twitter, the industry goes after us hammer and tong. But we speak up anyway, because we advocate for animals, not business interests.

Can you share something about the MSPCA that people may not know about?

There’s a lovely statue in Boston’s Post Office Square with a fountain that countless people enjoy sitting next to on their lunch break. The statue and fountain was dedicated in 1912 to none other than George Angell, our founder. The fountain served as a much-needed drinking spot for horses pulling wagons around the city in the early 20th century. That location was selected because a count was kept that showed that 5,000 horses a day crisscrossed the busy plaza. That fountain served as a lifesaving oasis for laboring horses at the time and now stands as a memorial to a man who spent most of his adult life advocating for the welfare of animals.

Since you’ve been with the MSPCA, what has been your personal favorite story to share on social media?

We recently shared a story of 16 rescued shih tzus—mostly puppies—from a cramped and dirty home. Not only were the photos and videos adorable—complete with puppies playing one moment and then immediately falling asleep—but the Facebook post and Tweets sparked hundreds of emails to our Boston adoption center, allowing our adoption counselors to handpick the most qualified adopters. After less than a week, all of the dogs were adopted. What a wonderful outcome, made possible via social media!

And finally, what’s your favorite animal, and do you have pets of your own?

I’m a cat man, through and through. I have three: Cal, Scout, and Malcolm. They are kooks and I love them.


Responses have been edited and condensed.