Advertising online can be an effective way to get the word out about your missing dog or cat. However, you need to get your ad seen by the right people. One way to do this is through boosting a Facebook post and using audience targeting. To do a boosted post you pay Facebook to take a post from your page's timeline and show it to people as a "sponsored post" in their own timeline. You can select people to show your post to based on location and interests, such as people that live within 10 miles of your home and that like dogs. Facebook will then optimize your boosted post by showing it to people similar to those that "like" and "share" your post.
Facebook used to allow boosting posts from your personal account, but now you need to use a business page. If you already have a business page for another purpose, you can use that page. However, your post will be most effective if you create a business page specifically for your lost pet.
How to create a Facebook Page for your lost pet
See example page: Find Dante (@LostDogDante)
- Go to Create a Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/creation/
- Select “Community or Public Figure”
- Add a Page Name - examples:
- Find Dante
- Help Find Dante
- Bring Dante Home
- Lost Dog Dante
- Let's Find Dante
- Under Category put “Community”
- Add a Profile Picture and Cover Photo with photos of your missing pet
- Add content to your page
- Add a photo album of your missing pet. Be sure to add some photos in different lighting, indoors and outdoors, and some far away.
- If you have one, upload a video of your missing pet.
- Add an About Section and Contact Information
- Add a “Call Now” or “Learn More” Button
- Invite any friends that live in the area where your pet is missing to "like" your page
- Create a Page @Username
- This is an easy way for people to find your page on Facebook and creates a custom link to your page such as facebook.com/lostdogdante. Ideally this should match your page name. However, Facebook requires usernames to be unique, so you may need to pick something slightly different. In any case, make sure that it is easy to read and remember and preferably short. You can also share this link on your posters, flyers or mailings.
- To create an @username, click on the "About" tab in the menu. Then click on "Create Page @username".
- If you get the error message that "This Page isn't eligible to have a username," then check out this article for troubleshooting. You may need to get enough page likes before you can choose a username, but don't worry, you can still boost a post without an @username for your page. Just create one later for putting on flyers once you have more likes.
How to create an effective lost pet post on your lost pet page
Take the time to learn how to create an effective lost pet post. Otherwise, all the time and effort that you put into boosting your post will be wasted.
To create your post, select Photo/Video and choose "Upload Photos/Video" or "Create a Slideshow." Videos will often get more engagement on Facebook, but they also take more time and effort to create. If you keep your video under 20 seconds, it will auto-play. There are many free video editing programs available. I use OpenShot Video Editor, which is easy to use. A slideshow is a good second option since you can include several different photos of your missing pet.
How to select the best photo(s) to use
If you are only using a single photo, then make sure you pick the right one. If using a slideshow, then make sure that your first photo is cute or interesting (to get people's attention) and the second photo is the clearest. The best photo will show your pet's face and shape of their body with any distinct coat markings, especially those that can be seen from a distance.
Choosing the text for your Facebook post
People often put way too much information or not enough information in their lost pet posts. Keep in mind that only the first few lines will show on mobile devices, so put the most important information on top.
Start with an appeal for help. “Please help us find Dante!”
- State if you are offering a Reward
- Best for cats and very friendly dogs.
- Not recommended for skittish or loose dogs.
- Recommend including the wording “Reward for information leading to return” so people don’t think that they have to actually catch your pet to get the reward.
- Putting a specific reward amount will often get more interest.
- State if your pet is shy or fearful and ask people not to approach or call their name.
- Contact information: phone and/or email address. If you don’t want to use your own phone number, see Using Google Voice to Aid in Searches for Missing Pets.
- Brief description: breed, colors or coat patterns, and size. Include age if noticeably young or old. Don’t put too much information! Save some characteristics for verifying sightings.
- State if they were wearing a collar, but note that it may have come off.
- Date and location lost. Use an intersection or area rather than your address (for personal safety).
- Include a specific “Call to Action”
- If you don’t tell people what to do, they may think that they need to have your pet and not just have a sighting.
- How do you want to be contacted? Be specific! Example: “Please call or text immediately with any possible sightings.”
- Also ask people to “SHARE to help bring Dante home.” If they don’t share, they will have no record of the post in their timeline and will likely never be able to find it again even if they see your pet.
- Ask people to take a screenshot and save it to their phone in case they see your pet.
- Lie about Medical Conditions. If too serious people will assume that your pet won’t survive long.
- Include your address (for personal safety).
- Offer rewards for skittish/loose dogs.
- Include exact locations of sightings, especially for skittish/loose dogs. Well meaning people may go to the area searching for your dog and accidentally scare them away.
How to Boost your Facebook Post
- Go to your lost pet page and find the post that you created.
- Click on “Boost Post” in the bottom right corner (Figure 1).
- Under Audience, click “Edit” next to “People you choose through targeting” (See Figure 2).
- Do not change Gender or Age settings
- Delete default location
- Option 1 = Type an address and set a radius
- Default radius is 10 miles
- Select arrow to change radius
- Indoor-only cats: set to 1-3 miles (or smallest Facebook will allow)
- Outdoor-access cats: set to 2-5 miles (or smallest Facebook will allow)
- Dogs: depends a lot on the dog and location lost
- Option 2 = select by town/city
- Default is radius of 25 miles
- Select arrow to change to “Current City Only” or set a radius of 5 to 50 miles
- Look at Potential Reach at the bottom on the page
- This is the total number of people on Facebook that meet your criteria.
- If this number is high (over 50,000), you might consider adding “Detailed Targeting.”
- Pick Interests such as “Pets,” “Dogs” or “Cats” to target people that might be more interested in your ad.
- Check the change in Potential Reach as your ad won’t perform well if too low.
- Minimum required potential reach is 1,000 people.
- If you have more than 1,000 and it says that your audience selection is too specific, your ad should still run, but won’t be seen by many people.
- Be aware that if your radius includes a college or university, the students may eat up a lot of your budget. If you want to avoid this, change the minimum age to 23.
- Uncheck “Run promotion on Audience Network”
- Set your Budget and Duration (see Figure 3)
- Set total budget (you can always add more later)
- Set duration (you can always extend this later)
- Check Estimated People Reached to see how many people might see your ad each day
- Click “Boost”
- Enter payment information
- Click “Continue”
If this seems too complicated, you can pay someone to create and boost your Facebook post
Be aware that when you pay another business to boost your Facebook post, the post will usually come from that businesses’ Facebook page and will not link to a Facebook page for your missing pet.
Lost Pet Research and Recovery – This is a service that I am testing out. If you are interested, please submit a Contact Form. I also offer the option of setting up a SEO optimized webpage for your pet with a customized shortlink. See http://lostpet.site/puck for an example.
Find Toto – This company offers packages that include phone calls combined with online advertising through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Ads. Packages range from $95-$295. Find Toto is accredited with the Better Business Bureau. Their FAQs state that the online advertising radius is set from 1 mile up to 10 miles based on population and the package purchased.
PawBoost – As the name implies, this company focuses on boosting Facebook posts. Packages range from $29.99 – $89.99. Be aware that this service involves a recurring fee and I have heard of some complaints from people about difficulty unsubscribing. Here is a link to their Better Business Bureau listing. The main shortcoming of this service is that the default search radius is 10 miles. This is fine for a dog, but is too large for most cats.