Over the past year, I have blogged readers to sleep about what a great marketing tool we have in social media. I spend so much time reading and talking about it, it’s easy to forget how powerful it is in action. I got a beautiful reminder over the New Year holiday when our very close friends’ dog disappeared on New Year’s Eve.
Our friends’ dog, Elsa, was spending the night with another friend when Elsa got out of the back yard. Elsa’s owners, the Rudisells, were in Charleston and we were in Greenville. In the old days, we were out of luck ‘til we got home. Today, thankfully, we have Facebook.
I jumped on my profile from Greenville, as others had already done in Columbia, and was instantly in touch with the search for Elsa. Knowing her family was devastated, I was grateful for the opportunity to tell hundreds of people where and when she was lost on the off chance someone I know might have seen her or know someone who had.
As we traveled back to Columbia that day, I hoped Elsa was already home. Sadly, she wasn’t. For the next six days, we would search high and wide, driving through neighborhoods miles from home and combing the statuses and comments of strangers who might have seen a dog that might have been Elsa. We never saw Elsa as we searched the adjacent neighborhoods, but we did see something amazing as the days passed.
Michele Affronte noticed it first, posting this note on her profile. As you would expect, those who knew Elsa and her family were driving the search. Before long the search party included people who didn’t know Elsa or the Rudisells. Soon, it also included people who didn’t know any of us; people who simply said they wanted to reunite Elsa with a family that obviously adored her.
The reach we got through social media was simply astounding. Our neighborhood’s Facebook group actively shared our search. Elsa’s story appeared on countless Facebook profiles and business pages, Twitter tweets, e-mail lists and virtual lost pet directories. Friends and commenters shared leads. Friends with businesses offered rewards. Richland County shared. The City of Columbia shared. Our local tourism Twitter hashtag (#famouslyhot) shared. People who follow that hashtag shared.
As the number of people sharing Elsa’s story grew, I saw strangers posting Elsa’s lost dog poster as their profile image. Thanks to a dedicated stranger, the story appeared on WLTX and was picked up in other markets including Charleston and Alabama. It was truly amazing to watch the compassion, sharing and reassuring that went on in this brand new community the week Elsa was lost.
Then, one week after she disappeared, I got the call I‘d been aching for. Elsa had finally wandered into the right hands, all the way over in Eau Claire. She was ten pounds lighter and her pads were painfully worn, but she was finally home where she belonged.
I know social media is not how we found Elsa, but social media helped the search in so many ways.
It helped searchers stay in close contact and share information in real time. It helped quell the hopelessness. It gave people who cared a way to do something in a situation where fate was in control. It showed how local businesses (and their employees) such as Rosso, Tombo Grille and Four Paws Animal Clinic are truly members of our Forest Acres community. It expanded my circle of friends to include new ones and tightened the hold many already have on my heart.
But the biggest lesson for me can also apply to any business or group that’s considering the value of social media. Social media connects people who care. People who care are what power social media.
And that is a pretty amazing thing to have in your corner. Just ask Elsa.