The Gentle Barn is a national non-profit farm animal sanctuary with 200 rescued animals across locations in California, Tennessee, and Missouri. We rescue animals who are too old, sick, lame, abused, or neglected to be adopted elsewhere, work hard to rehabilitate them, and when they’re ready, we partner with them to heal people with the same stories of neglect, abuse, or trauma.
When people connect with our animals in person, they’re amazed by how smart and loving they are, and they leave feeling inspired to live with more compassion. Social media has made it possible for us to foster this connection with people who can’t physically make it to one of our sanctuaries, and reach millions of people all over the world.
Our goal with this video series was simple: show how intelligent farm animals are in the most shareable way to reach people outside of our own followers.
Our animals all have meaningful names that we’ve chosen for them, often with the help of our community, and they respond when we call them, just like the dogs or cats in our homes do. We realized this is something most people don’t know or typically see, so we wanted to share it to foster that personal connection for more people.
We filmed the initial version of this video at our Tennessee sanctuary. While we were confident the animals would react when hearing their names, the challenge was capturing their reaction on camera. Since animals are extremely sensitive and aware of their surroundings, they can sense when someone is approaching or nearby. We had to get creative in finding ways to either secretly approach them or film them from far away so they didn’t react to seeing us before hearing their names. It often took multiple tries to capture their authentic reactions. We also have sanctuaries in three locations across the country, so filming and gathering the content for each of the videos we made took a significant amount of coordination from our team. Many of these videos took several weeks to shoot.
Another challenge we faced was grabbing the viewer’s attention. Most people see their household pets as emotionally complex animals, so they’re inherently drawn to content that shows their unique personalities. Farm animals, however, are often seen as products or property and people tend to overlook their intelligence. Whatever we created needed to break through that stereotype and the connection had to be instantaneous. We knew that showing our rescued animals not only knew their names, but how they all react differently to hearing them, would achieve this goal.
A lot of our strategy for content comes from listening to our community. When it came to choosing the opening shot, we had to catch people by surprise, again, to break the stereotype immediately. We knew from comments on our previous posts that people were always surprised to see cows jump and run with joy, so we introduced each video with our most popular clips of cows doing just that to immediately hook viewers and give our content the greatest chance of getting viewed.
Given the popularity of the first three episodes, we released a “Best Of” episode that was extremely popular. In response to comments claiming the animals were merely reacting to us calling out to them and probably didn’t actually know their names, we filmed a compilation calling the animals by wrong names first. We even filmed two installments calling animals by names that rhyme with theirs to show that they only respond to their own names. We’re excited to keep this interactive series going!
The organic engagement received on these videos proves that we reached far beyond our own audience.
We have 2.8 million followers across our social platforms, meanwhile this video series alone received 76.6 million views, 12.8 million likes, 218,000 shares, and 68,000 comments.
This propelled our Instagram account to reach an engagement rate of 24.89%, our highest rate to date!
Many of the videos were reposted by large accounts where they went on to receive even more views and engagement.
This video series brought in 200,000 new followers on TikTok alone. In fact, our followers only accounted for 1-3% of the views on these videos proving that the millions of views that were gained came from people outside of our own audience.
The feedback we received was evidence that this series had made many people see farm animals differently.
We received tens of thousands of comments from people who couldn’t believe cows were so smart and that they know their names — and that even chickens respond when called to.
Many people expressed how surprised they were to see how different all of the animals’ personalities were.
Others said they loved that we name our cows, a concept that was foreign to them because cows are usually given numbers, not names.
We set out to create content that would showcase farm animals’ intelligence while reaching new people, and we did.