Using Social Media to Solve Problems

You can turn to social media to solve real-world problems, both big and small. In the example on this and the next page, you will read how students used social media to tackle a problem facing a local institution.

Case Study: Save Our Animal Shelter

  • Background: Every year, 11th graders at Wilmington South High School volunteer at their local animal shelter. The shelter receives no federal or state funding and relies on private donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations. For the last three years, private donations have steadily decreased, and the shelter is struggling to operate on a tight budget. There are even rumors that it may close.
  • Problem: How can students at the high school help the local animal shelter solve its budget crisis?
  • Solution: A group of five 11th graders decided to start a social-media campaign to support the animal shelter.
  • Research: The students used their study hall to research other animal shelters’ social-media practices. They discovered that many of the country’s largest shelters maintain a heavy social-media presence, from blogs to social-network pages to online videos. The students used Twitter to ask advice from the marketing director of their state-level Humane Society. That Twitter conversation eventually led to a Skype call between the students and the director, during which more questions were asked. The marketing director recommended some additional resources and provided the students with her email address for future contact.

Creating a Social Media Campaign

Having some good information and knowing where to look for more, the students at Wilmington South High School began their social-media campaign for the local animal shelter.

    1. First, the students created a “WSHS for Animals” Facebook group, which included basic information about the cause. They took pictures of animals at the animal shelter and uploaded them to a photo gallery on the group’s page. Then they invited all their friends to join the group and encouraged those friends to invite others. The group was made public so anyone could join.
Twitter Post: Who doesn't love puppies? #PuppyLoveDance
  1. Next, the students created an @WilmingtonAnimalShelter Twitter username for the campaign. Initially, they used their personal accounts to promote the campaign account. Soon it gained enough followers that they could use it to post updates, to share information about the shelter and its animals, and to announce a dance and other fund-raising ideas. They ended every Tweet with the #PuppyLoveDance hashtag and encouraged others to do so, which made it easy to search for any mention of their cause.
  2. To boost appeal for their campaign, they created a digital video featuring interviews of staff members and volunteers from the animal shelter as well as footage of the animals themselves. The students uploaded this video to YouTube, embedded it on their Facebook group page, and shared a link to it on their Twitter account. In addition, they created a caption contest for a photo of two puppies. The person who delivered the most creative caption would win a #PuppyLoveDance T-shirt.
  3. The students had already obtained school permission for their Puppy Love Dance. With the success of their social-media program, they brainstormed more ways to raise funds. They decided to approach local businesses about donating items for an auction at the dance and asked them to help advertise the event. Each new success was broadcast on Twitter and Facebook.
  4. The dance and auction were huge successes. Staff members from the shelter showed up with animals, and photographers from the school newspaper and a local paper snapped photos. During the event, the emcee encouraged participants to Tweet live updates using the #PuppyLoveDance hashtag.

Social-Media Summary

Building on the success of the event, the animal shelter asked the students to help create an official, ongoing social-media presence for the society’s local location. As more and more people in the community took notice of their cause, donations to the shelter increased, and the Puppy Love Dance became an annual event.

Inquiry Timeline

The students encountered a problem and inquired about how to solve it. The students used social media to plan and reserach a solution to the problem. The students created a social media campaign to help solve the problem.