So You Want to be a Pet Influencer?

Get in line. If your dog or cat doesn’t have an Instagram account dedicated to their every yawn, booty scratch, and daily quirk, do you even have a pet?

We joined the rat race of pet influencer accounts about four years ago. Working as a journalist at the time, I interviewed Lil Bub’s Dude Mike Bridavsky for a story a month shy of adding a puppy to my household. Bub, a bottle-fed feral runt kitten living in another friend’s toolshed, gained popularity through Tumblr, and quickly rose to fame. Today, she boasts millions of followers on multiple channels.

That conversation inspired me to try my own hand at bringing the adorableness of my English Setter into the hearts of thousands. Back then, I never associated free products and pay as a potential perk out of our role in social media – I just wanted people to like my puppy pics.

Today, I work in digital marketing and use Winston’s account as a sandbox for my real world ideas, a creative outlet, a platform to help rescues, and a support system for my every day dog owner needs and concerns. The Winstagram as I call it currently has around 10,000 followers – we are also active on Facebook as well. At this points, we’ve received countless free products, work as affiliates for companies earning commission off sales, received compensation for posts or just for our photography with their product, and the dogs have been crucial pieces in marketing materials all over the world.

So How Did We Do It? And How Can You Do It, Too?

Here’s 10 important lessons to remember in your quest to be a pupfluencer:

  1. Content is Queen – Sure, the old saying goes Content is King, but we’re feminists in this household and patriarchy can afford to lose one male-dominated phrase. You must devote time to creating and capturing content. I’m talking high-quality photography and captions. Review your own feed and ask why would someone feel a connection with this account. Look at other accounts and take note of what drew you into them. Can you find your own defining attribute?
  2. Post Regularly – Everyone wants to be an influencer until they realize this crap takes work. You need to post regularly. Change your account to a business account and keeps tabs on your insights to see when the most popular times and days are for posting. Keep a steady stream of stories going as well.
  3. Let’s Get Engaged – You can’t expect other accounts to engage with you if you aren’t engaging with them as well. Like, comment, message, and develop these relationships. Have a niche account like English Setters? Follow the hashtag and start engaging with the people who like those doggos.
  4. Partner Up – Leverage companies’ following to help you out. For example, I’ve completely changed my support for companies because of how active they are on social media. If they’ll mention us every time I post a picture of their bones, OK that’s who I’m buying from moving forward. I was going to buy them anyways – might as well purchase them from a brand that will benefit me with their shares. Many brands also offer Model Searches, but don’t think they’ll add you to their roster if you haven’t purchased anything. Support the brands financially that you truly respect, and I promise you, they’ll remember it.
  5. What’s In It For Them – You’ve got to ask yourself, what’s in it for your followers? Is it your photography? It is educational? Funny? Find your thing and run with it. Also ask, why are you doing this? Is it to help others? Is it for the possible cash? Is it entertaining for you? Remember this answer because they’ll come a time where you’ll want to take a long break from Instagram and it helps as motivation to keep going.
  6. Plan Your Posts – Create a content calendar for each week and at least have a general idea of what you will be posting that day. For doggos, Tongue Out Tuesday is a popular one, Wet Dog Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, OR throw it all out and march to your own beat. Regardless, understand your followers’ schedule and when they want to see what kind of content.
  7. Tricks or Treats – You’re going to do it. You may have already done it. A company is going to comment on your photo and say “Wow, we love this photo. DM us so you can model our gear.” You DM them, which means you now follow them. They’ve already taken something from you. And they’ll respond, you can be a model and we’ll give you your own coupon code after you spend full price on our products. They will say they’ll share your photos for exposure, but they won’t. And they’ll have gotten follows, sales, and promotion without giving you a thing in return.
  8. Break it Up – Please, please, please use a site to break up your big long block text on Instagram. The break in lines will help your reader so much and it’ll so much more attractive to followers finding you.
  9. Tag You’re It – Tag your location, tag the collar company, tag accounts that share dog photos. Don’t expect people to find you if you’re not on the map.
  10. Quality, Not Quantity – This I promise you: It’s not about the amount of followers you have. It’s about the trust you have established with the ones you have. If you say jump, will they? If you say this is a great product, they must have it, will they buy it? Will they donate to your causes? I choose quality over quantity a 100 times over.
  11. Do It For More Than the Gram – Will Instagram always be THE platform of choice? Ask a 13-year-old what they think of Facebook and they’ll say it’s for old people. Diversify your channels so you’re ready for a shift WHEN it happens.

There’s a thousand more tricks and tips to gaining followers – giveaways, follow trains, like and comment pods, bots, etc. My advice using some of those methods? Be careful – Instagram is always watching.

Follow Winston and Ivy on Instagram here.

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