Instagram Best Practices

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).

chloe profile
 Chloe the Mini Frenchie

 

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.

Post Regularly

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.

Mervin edit
Mervin the Chihuahua

Hashtags Rule

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.

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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.

Instagram’s Impact

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!

Tongue in pinky edit frame
Hello world – it’s me!
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Three Chatty Cats

Social Media to the Rescue!

Social media has not only changed the world, it is saving lives. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of animal welfare organizations, shelters, rescue groups and individuals, countless dogs and cats who might not have had a second chance are living wonderful lives with their forever families. One of these dedicated individuals is Rachel Loehner. She is the brains, talent and heart behind Three Chatty Cats, a blog devoted to highlighting the work of great cat rescues and their life saving efforts. Although she just started Three Chatty Cats in January, she has already been nominated for a Liebster Award and is quickly becoming a social media influencer. Her blog posts are fun to read, full of amazing photos and provide relevant information that resonates with animal lovers. Most importantly, she is vastly expanding the reach of the wonderful cat rescues and people she profiles.

Besides all of the research, emailing, writing, editing and photo prep she does for her blog, Rachel is also the mom of – you guessed it – three chatty cats; Dexter, Olive and Sophie, as well as an adorable dog named Eddie. Each of them has an inspiring rescue story which you can read by clicking on their names above. She has kindly offered to share some of her blogging experiences with us.

Dexter
Dexter

Your own pets, Dexter, Olive, Sophie and Eddie, have wonderful stories. Did your rescue experiences with them help inspire the creation of Three Chatty Cats? If it was something else, can you tell us a little about what did?

Well, I love my pets and I named my blog after my cats, so in some small way they’re an inspiration behind it. But it’s funny because I didn’t really think out the process of starting Three Chatty Cats. I had recently become addicted to an app for cat lovers (Catastic) and was constantly browsing through all the cat pictures and loved how everyone was sharing their stories and experiences. Something clicked inside of me and I suddenly wanted to start a cat blog.

I think I researched it for all of about one day and then signed up and got started. I definitely rushed into it and probably should have taken a bit more prep time before “going live.” I didn’t know what I wanted to blog about – just that it would be related to cats somehow. I started with a few basic posts on my own cats just to get something posted. Then I asked someone I had connected with through the cat app if I could share their story because they are an amazing couple totally dedicated to helping animals. And that post completely spiraled into where Three Chatty Cats is now – a blog to promote cat rescue groups and individuals who are doing their part to help cats in need. I couldn’t be happier with the direction that the blog has taken, even without pre-planning it! Sometimes you just let things take their own direction and it works out for the best.

Dexter
Dexter

Have you had any unexpected or surprising experiences as a blogger?

I didn’t realize how much of a difference a blog could make. I know that because of my blog some featured rescue groups and individuals have received monetary donations and items from their Wish Lists. And just yesterday, I had someone contact me about donating items to a woman I featured in Italy who helps stray cats. An American living abroad in the very city that the rescuer lives in – what are the chances? The woman I featured emailed me to say they were already in contact with each other and set to meet up. Here I am in California, and my blog is helping cats in Italy! Things like that really warm my heart and make me feel like I’m doing my part. I know it’s about the cats, but it’s so nice to have that feeling inside that you’re helping.

Olive
Olive

In your post on Amanda Whitman, I read about the importance of Facebook in the work she is doing. How do you think social media has changed the landscape for shelters and rescue groups?

I usually ask the rescue groups and rescuers how they get donations or get the word out. So often the response is Facebook. I think Facebook is key in supporting shelters and rescues. In my own personal experience, with the exception of one rescue group post on my blog, I have found every other group to profile through social media (I’ve also since asked for reader suggestions). A lot of them I find on Instagram and then go to FB to learn more about them. Without social media, I would be completely lost!

The Amanda Whitman post was due to the fact that another cat blogger shared her story on FB that she read in a local online newspaper. So again, without FB, I would have never learned about her amazing story. And Amanda wouldn’t be as successful as she is in all her rescue efforts without Facebook. That is primarily how she is able to save so many cats. She’s able to network through Facebook and link up with rescues.

Without a doubt, social media (blogs included) has opened so many doors to shelters and rescues. Some of the groups I’ve featured have mentioned how they get donations from people around the world because of social media. That likely wasn’t the case 10 years ago. Maybe even five years ago!

Olive
Olive

Do you have a favorite success story since beginning your blog?

I’m probably not supposed to, but I do have a favorite cat rescue story – and that is Sophie (a different Sophie than pictured below) from the Zoo Rescue. Her rescue off the streets and into a loving home is so touching, and I can’t imagine what her life was like as a declawed kitty, abandoned and alone. But luckily she was rescued! Her eyes are so soulful and her face speaks to what trauma she endured in her previous life. Every time I see her picture, my heart just melts. And it’s so amazing what that husband and wife team who rescued Sophie do to rescue all of their animals. They really are an amazing set of rescuers! (This is the post that got it all started for me… in regards to the direction of the blog.)

Sophie
Sophie

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I love how social media, as well as the blogging community, brings people together around a common cause. I personally never used Facebook or Instagram to post things prior to starting my blog. I saw it more as a place where people shared pics of their dinner or shared selfies 24/7. But of course there really is much more to social media than that! Yes, there are those who do only use FB and IG to share those food pics. I’m probably the one they roll their eyes at since I share cat pics! But now that I have my blog, I’m glued to my screen (undecided if that’s a good thing or not!), either on FB, IG or reading other blogs. I even opened a Twitter account! I now have so many communities and people I follow who have all helped me on my blogging journey. And being able to connect with people like you is awesome! I feel like I’m coming to the social media game a little late. But now that I’m here, I see how truly helpful it can be in connecting like-minded individuals. My take on social media has basically been a complete 180.

Sophie
Sophie

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to thank Rachel for sharing her time, expertise and insights. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and of course, Three Chatty Cats!

If you are interested in making a difference like Rachel or know of a shelter or rescue group that might benefit from a social media presence, here are a few resources that might be helpful:

Social Media 101 for Shelters and Rescue Groups

Shelters Use Social Media Strategies to Find Homes for Pets

21 Ways Non-profits Can Leverage Social Media

By caring and then connecting, we can all do something to help an animal in need.

Eddie
Eddie

 

How to Choose a Great Dog Name

One of the most exciting and daunting tasks when you adopt a new pet is naming it. The name needs to suit the individual animal and its personality, along with yours. As a forever pet parent, you will be using this name for a very long time, so it needs to be just right.

When choosing Pinky’s name, I had a couple of criteria. The first being that I wanted the name to start with the letter P. She had been called Penelope while she was living at the rescue shelter, but my previous dog had been named Penny and something not quite so close would be easier for me. I thought that by keeping the first letter the same as she had before, it would make her transition smoother. Next, I took into account her personality and physical appearance and came up with two final options. The first was Pinky because we all thought that she bore a strong resemblance to Pinky from the cartoon Pinky and the Brain. This cartoon was essentially about two white mice plotting world domination. Hmmm…We also thought she looked a little like Piglet from Winnie the Pooh, especially when she wore a pink sweater. It was a close race, but in the end, Pinky stuck, and it has suited her perfectly.

If you are the type that prefers to take a more scientific approach, some trainers recommend that the best dog names are those that are comprised of two syllables. It seems that dogs learn to respond to two syllable names more quickly, making training easier. Longer names can be confusing to some pets, especially if it is pronounced differently by different people. This can make consistent obedience tricky. (I will say that even though Pinky has a short name, it hasn’t helped either of us in regards to education….but that is a story for another post).

tennis ball rosie
ROSIE

If you have been thinking and thinking and haven’t come up with just the right name for your new best friend, there are some fun online resources to help you. You can google things such as popular baby names or how to name your pet and find some good suggestions. The American Kennel Club lists the top 150 dog names inspired by the thousands of dogs that have participated in their events. Another fun site is mydogsname.com. They have a variety of categories to choose from such as movie dog names, sports names, TV dog names, funny dog names and tough dog names.

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According to Pinky, when you find the right name you will know it. Happy hunting!