Developing Mutual Relationships With Supporters
Much of the work conducted by animal protection groups can be thought of as public relations. This includes connecting with different audiences, maintaining a trustworthy reputation, and spreading important messages. The onset of the internet and social media has made such work even more important. Creating and fostering online relationships with the public are key ways of organizing people together and building movements.
The concept of “control mutuality” is an important aspect of how organizations engage with the public. Control mutuality details how both the public and the organization should feel they have a degree of control over the organization’s actions and outcomes. In other words, it’s important for the public to feel that they are not only involved with non-profit groups, but that they have some say in what they do. They want to feel like they are part of the process behind the organization’s work.
Social media has brought the concept of control mutuality into sharper focus. This study dug deeper into this concept. The study looked at 1) the extent to which donors feel that they have control mutuality in their relationship with their local animal welfare organization; 2) the extent to which donors engage with their local animal welfare organization on the organization’s social media platforms; and 3) how control mutuality is associated with how frequently the public engages in social media activity concerning their local animal welfare organization.
The researchers did this by directly surveying donors to animal welfare organizations. They found a vibrant and vocal world on social media, but note that animal welfare groups need to encourage public engagement. The researchers found a simple kind of give and take; donors who “liked” or “followed” their local group’s social media profiles felt greater control mutuality than those who didn’t. Those who were engaged in social media were also more likely to participate in the group more generally. They felt their opinion was more valued by the organization too.
Based on these results, the researchers suggest that animal welfare groups should make more effort on social media. Specifically, they should do the following: 1) Ask for feedback from the public on a regular basis; 2) Include conversations with the public in strategies to show they value the public’s opinions and suggestions; 3) Implement suggestions from the public on a regular basis; and 4) Provide decision-making opportunities for the public. For animal advocates, this is invaluable advice. While there is no “one size fits all approach,” this kind of information can help guide animal groups to take advantage of evolving communication platforms.