Have you ever thought it would be fun for your dog to be internet famous? Dogs with their own social media profiles have become increasingly popular in recent years. Many dogs have even become major “influencers,” partnering with brands around the world. It can be a lot of fun and sometimes lucrative to help your dog build an online presence—especially since you get to interact with dog lovers around the world. But how do you get started?
Choosing A Platform
When you’re planning to make social media profiles for your dog, you’ll need to think about which platforms you are interested in pursuing. New social media platforms are created all the time, but currently, the main platforms where dogs are becoming famous and building careers are Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. If you want to start building your dog’s presence online in general, it’s best to start with one platform and grow your presence there. Different platforms have very different trends, growth opportunities, and algorithms to try and master. For example, my dog Sirius’s Instagram is her primary and most successful platform (where she currently has more than 11,000 followers), but she also has a YouTube channel with more than 2,000 subscribers.
Not sure which platform to choose? It can help to spend some time looking at dog influencers on the different platforms. This will help you get a sense of what the norms for the various sites are and what kind of content is getting the most views on them. It’s important to pick a platform that you like, since you’ll be the one doing the work (your dog just has to look cute). Following other dogs whose content you like will help give you creative inspiration. Try to focus on what is unique about your dog and where you can create new and interesting content that will help them stand out from other dogs online.
Focus and Voice
Dog accounts rarely become popular overnight. Yes, a random post or picture can suddenly go viral and lots of people can suddenly discover and follow your dog. But in general, developing a successful social media presence for your dog requires a fair amount of planning and strategy, so that you’re posting fun, quality content regularly. For sites like Instagram and TikTok, this usually means daily posting and engagement (likes, comments, shares, saves) with followers.
When creating content for your dog’s social media, focus on what makes your dog unique—their breed or breed mix, the activities you do together, etc. You could focus on day-in-the-life photos, dog-training advice, sports you train in, travels, or hiking. You’ll also want to think about what kind of “voice” the account will have. Will the posts be from the perspective of your dog? Will your dog’s voice be super formal? Silly? Dog speak? Or will your dog’s social media be from your perspective? Both approaches can be very successful, but staying consistent can help followers connect and recognize your account.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new content to see what resonates with your dog’s followers. For example, even though my dog is a successful competitive trick dog, it’s not her sports that are the biggest draw for most of her fans. I still post sport-related content, but her account started to grow quickly when I started calling her a branch manager and posting about the sticks she collects on her daily walks. I also capture the silly faces that she makes and the mess she creates when drinking her weekly puppuccinos in the coffee shop drive-through. Newfoundland breed enthusiasts are also a big and loyal part of her following, so connecting with other people who have the same breed of dog is a great way to build your dog’s following.
Taking professional-quality photos or video isn’t required to make your dog a social media influencer. In fact, many of the most popular profiles aren’t run by professional photographers. Similarly, you don’t need to go out and invest in a lot of equipment or lighting to be successful. The camera capabilities on most smartphones today can produce beautiful photos that will get people’s attention.
When taking pictures of your dog for social media, one simple strategy for getting quality photos is to use natural lighting whenever possible. This will help create bright, crisp photos people will want to click on and see more of. Avoid taking pictures of your dog in a messy room and instead try to take pictures where the background won’t distract the viewer. It can help to get down to your dog’s eye level instead of taking photos staring down at your dog—yes, sometimes that means getting down on the ground to get that perfect photo. Also try to diversify your photos. For example, if you post a close-up of your dog’s face, next try to post a full-body or action photo. Once you have been posting content, you’ll also be able to look back at your dog’s profile and make note of your content trends and gaps and then plan for future posts to keep your dog’s content fresh.
The key to success on social media is to make connections with other people and their dogs on the social media platforms of your choice. When building your dog’s profile, it’s important to engage with other influencers/creators by following other dog accounts. In addition to following, you also want to regularly comment and connect with their content. You don’t have to follow everyone back, but it is helpful to engage with the comments that your dog gets. People like content creators they can connect and engage with and the more you engage, the more your dog’s followers will feel like they are actively building a relationship with your dog. That connection is what will keep them coming back.
When building your dog’s account, focus on organic growth and connections and stay away from “follow for follow” threads. That way, you’ll know the followers your dog has are there because they are dedicated to your account.
Hashtags are a searchable way to both connect with other platforms like yours, and also allow people to find your dog’s posts. They also give the platforms more keywords to use in their SEO machine to circulate your post to more people who will actually care. A great way to start experimenting with hashtags is to look at the ones that other dog accounts are using and the hashtags that you enjoy following. For example, on Instagram you can use up to 30 on each post, but it’s generally suggested to use around 10. An easy way to keep track of hashtags is to use the notes section of your cellphone to keep a list of different dog-related hashtags that you might want to use in the future. Then when it’s time to post, you can just copy and paste them. Look for dog-themed hashtags that are popular, but also try to mix in some of the less common ones — 50/50 is a good split between things like #dogsofinstagram and #dogagilitytraining. That can be a great way to get your dog’s content to stand out since it won’t be “competing” with so many other posts.
When I started my dog Sirius’s Instagram, I just wanted to share pictures of her—I had no intention of her becoming an influencer. It never occurred to me that someday I would become her manager, or that I would someday open a merch shop to sell shirts, cups, and stickers with her face on them. I never predicted that I would regularly find myself fielding business inquiries from companies wanting to partner with her. As your dog’s platform grows, you will start getting outreach from a lot of dog-supply companies. Unfortunately, while there are many legitimate opportunities, there are also a lot of scammers targeting dog accounts.
I advise ignoring and deleting the comments of the spam accounts that will comment on your photos asking you to DM them. Similarly, I encourage content creators to avoid partnering with any company that asks them to spend money to move forward with the partnership. Companies should be paying dog influencers either in cash and/or in product to work with them. You shouldn’t ever be going out of pocket to work with a brand, and it’s a red flag if a company asks you to pay for anything, including shipping.
It’s good to be picky and not say yes to every offer that comes your way. Overloading your page with sponsored content is a surefire way to diminish your engagement rate and lose followers. You also want to make sure that, if you partner with a brand, it’s a product you and your dog will actually be excited about. This is a win-win for you and the brand. If your dog likes the product, the content will be better and feel more authentic to you and your account. In addition, the brand will get plenty of realtime feedback from you and your audience. My dog has had the opportunity to partner with some fantastic brands, but I say no to far more partnerships than I agree to.
The Business Side
As your dog’s social media profiles start to grow and you begin thinking about partnering with companies, make sure you have read and understand the terms and conditions of whatever platforms you are on. Some companies will ask for the photo rights in perpetuity in all forms. You will need to be very careful about handing over the ownership of your dog’s likeness.
One example of this is if your dog is receiving products for free—you need to disclose that it’s a brand partnership when you post about those products. You’ll also want to have a conversation with an accountant about what you need to be tracking for your taxes in terms of money you are paid that will need to be filed as income. Similarly, you may need to keep track of products your dog is sent, as those can also be considered income and may need to be disclosed on your taxes. Additionally, when you are negotiating with companies, make sure that you understand what is being asked of you in terms of the kind of posts, how many, and when those posts need to happen.