As pet lovers, we have witnessed the rise of the Instagram “celebripet”. Normal cats and dogs who have rocketed to unexpected fame and fortune. A couple of years ago, it was reported that Grumpy Cat had earned over $100,000,000. Adorable pets such as Lil Bub, Marnie, Chloe the Mini Frenchie and Mervin the Chihuahua have made their way onto our computer screens and into our hearts. Whether you want a dog with its own personal brand and 100,000 followers or just want to show off the awe inspiring cuteness of your pet to your friends and family, I have collected some pro tips and best practices for Instagram. (Disclaimer: As I still have my day job and need to forgo cute shoes to pay school tuition, Pinky the Chi and I cannot personally guarantee that by following these tips, fame and fortune are on their way).
Basics for a Great Photo
People flock to Instagram for the visuals, and in the article, The Secrets to Making your Dog Famous, the folks at Dogs of Instagram offer three tips to producing an Instagram attention grabbing photo. 1). Make sure that you are photographing in good light. Instagram users with thousands of followers usually invest in a high quality digital camera, but if you are like me and using a smartphone, natural light always helps. (I know I have missed shots of Pinky that would have generated multiple movie offers because I couldn’t find my phone in the pit of my purse. Tip from me – try to keep it on hand for unexpected flashes of cuteness). 2). Capture the moments that show your dog’s personality and what makes them special or what marketers call their brand. Patience pays off when you finally get that one amazing shot! 3). Tell a story with your photos. Creativity is key; no one wants to see the same type photo day after day.
Posting regularly means increased visibility for Fido and Fluffy and visibility is essential to those on the road to stardom. According to Buffer and most of the other research I found, posting twice a day is recommended for Instagram. As a spectator, I know that I appreciate it when someone posts often enough to keep me engaged, but I don’t want to be saturated. Like cologne, a little bit is fabulous, too much and people start backing away.
Hashtags are the quick and easy way to connect with and find your audience. According to Hootsuite’s The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Hashtags, The more specific you can get with your hashtag, the more targeted your audience will be—and a targeted audience generally means better engagement. They are a way to join in conversations on trending topics. Apps such as Instatags and TagsForLikes can help recommend some popular hashtags to try for a particular interest. And if all else fails, we can always read the instructions on Instagram’s own Help Center.
Build a Community
Sean Griffis, dad to Brie, a Boston Terrier who’s star is rising suggests, “Network, just like in your professional and personal life, it’s vital to your pet’s budding internet fame to get out there and hawk the hell out of them – digitally and in real life…The more you interact, the more invested others will be in your animal’s shenanigans as a brand and will hopefully become a brand ambassador, unbeknownst to you.” Even if you are not hoping to make the news, engagement is so important – and one the things I have enjoyed most about social media. You can quickly create a community by following those who regularly like your photos and leaving comments when you like theirs.
Don’t Be a Mama Rose
I know this sounds counterintuitive to fame, but I am throwing it in anyway. Don’t be a stage mom or dad, hounding your hound night and day and doing crazy things to try to get that million dollar picture. We have all seen the poor dogs and cats shoved into costumes, posed uncomfortably and looking miserable. If dress up isn’t your pet’s thing, don’t force it. As viewers, we can always tell – and if it’s not fun for the animal, it’s usually not fun for us either. Be authentic and let the thing that makes him/her special shine through – no matter what it is.
Through our computers and tablets, we invite these four legged ambassadors of happiness into our living rooms and our lives. There is much more to this phenomenon than meets the eye. The Fast, Furry Rise of the Instagram-Famous Pet explains, “As superficial as the Instagram dog scene may appear at first glance, it has real causes at its heart. These dogs that we follow, with their scruffy hair and their pendulous tongues, would not be here for our enjoyment if they had not been rescued. If we want that cuteness in the world, the social media community suggests, then we too should rescue dogs. The message seems to be spreading. According to pet adoption organization Maddie’s Fund, shelter intake for dogs in the US dropped by eight percent from 2008 to 2013, down to 240,000 annually, and deaths dropped 40 percent, to 60,000.”
These are just some basic best practices to help your “child” take Instagram by storm. Since Pinky is currently earning her Master’s degree in napping and I am not out running around in a t-shirt with her photo and website URL emblazoned on the front, we may not be perched for stardom. We feel quite content with her being the most famous dog in our apartment building (where we make personal appearances in the lobby every morning on our way outside). Regardless of how many followers we have, the fun is in sharing the surprises, delight and sheer joy that Pinky brings into my life with the world. And just maybe – she will bring a little bit of that joy, along with a virtual hug into yours!