Instagram has become a powerhouse for a lot of things. One of the biggest? Making everyday people pseudo-celebrities. From style bloggers to fitness fanatics, if you’ve got a specific niche with a consistently well-branded aesthetic, you can own a certain space on the Internet. Outside of people though, animals are creating a name for themselves thanks to tech-savvy dog and cat parents. Essentially the next iteration of an Instagram husband. Me? Yeah, I’m totally one of those parents, TBH ;)
Back in 2013 my boyfriend and I were searching for a puppy to call our own. We both grew up with dogs in the house and felt weird living together without the presence of a four-legged greeter running up to us excitedly when we got home from work everyday. Seriously, if you’ve never experienced this, what are you even doing with your life!? So we did a lot of Google searching to decide what breed we could both agree on. We landed on a Boston terrier as they are the perfect mix of what we were both independently looking for — I wanted a dog that would play; my boyfriend wanted one that would cuddle.
Once the breed decision was made, we found a breeder, picked out a puppy and put down a deposit for our pick of the litter when she was just four weeks old.
As we waited another month until we could pick her up and take her home, we mulled over the perfect name for her. Yeah, we made a list and edited it nearly daily. Isn’t that what you did for your own pet? Then we landed on the chosen one — half because I thought of a perfect alliteration Instagram handle and partly because it was not a typical dog name, while playing into our love of food and French culture.
And that’s how Brie, also known on the Internet as @bonjourbrie, was created.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “You chose your dog’s name based off of creating a social media account? Really?” Yes, we did… partially. The reason for that was strategic, and because we’re millennials. For one, I’m in marketing, so I wanted to have a side social media project to test out and creatively expand my skillset. We also didn’t want to be those annoying people on social media flooding their friends’ feeds with dog photos. If they wanted to see endless shots of Brie, they could follow her account. If not, we wouldn’t be harassing them with ’em.
Ever since we got Brie home, we’ve had a lot of fun putting her in adorable, funny and clever situations that has gained traction on her Instagram account far outside of our friend and family social media circle.
Since those early days, she’s been featured in People and Instagram’s calendars (among other things), has become a Barkbox-sponsored influencer and has collaborated with various brands. Oh, and she gets put to work when she comes into the Brit + Co office with regular photo shoot sessions.
So, while Brie is by no means as Internet famous as other Instagram dogs and cats, the 10 tips I’m sharing below are how I’ve been able to grow her following from zero to 7,000 plus. We’ll call that, C-list status in the scheme of things ;) Check ’em out, and become as obsessed with photographing your pet as I am. At the end of the day, it’s not all that bad to be a stage mom, I swear ;)
1. Build a Base: The first step to making your pet famous? Establishing a fan base, obviously. After all, what’s an Instagram famous pup without their loyal followers? Nothing, that’s what ;) To kickstart your search for Internet glory (for your in-house cuddle buddy, that is) you’ve got to follow other animal influencers. Pro-tip: Also follow similar-styled human influencers, too. Reasons for this are: You’ll create a curated feed to pull inspo from for your animal’s future photoshoots, you’ll learn secrets of the social media trade along the way (i.e. brand opportunities) and you’ll (fingers crossed) pop up on those influencers’ radar for a future collab.
2. Endless Creativity Is Key: No matter how out of control adorable your four-legged BFF is, no one wants to see the same photo every single day. Unless you want them to get bored and press the unfollow button. Let your own creativity shine by hopping on timely and trending events (holidays are an easy start) to insert your pet into social media conversations and allow you to break away from the stale (but, of course, cute) puppy-eye snaps. Switch up the location and take them out into different elements, play with camera perspectives by shooting them at different angles, play with product placement to show you can be of use to brands down the road. All of these different and creative visual elements will make your overall feed pop more and get interest from new social media users. Also (major key moment), don’t rely solely on creative images. To complete the total standout package, have some wordplay fun in the captions. Sometimes those stick out just as much, if not more, than the accompanying shot ;)
3. Invest in the Commitment: In time and money. If you really want to make your pet’s feed a success, you’ve got to commit to it. First, financially. Yeah, all of our smartphones have high quality cameras these days, but mirrorless and DSLR cameras still take the best snaps. So go a step above the other accounts, and pick out the real deal. And if you’re feeling extra fancy, amp up your arsenal with any additional bonus equipment you see fit. Oh, and have no fear if you aren’t a pro with the camera — we’ve got an online class for you ;) Same goes for editing those beautifully shot images. Skip the traditional — and kiiiiiinda minimal — Instagram (or VSCO + more) filters, and play with the pros by using Photoshop to perfect your adorable snapshots. Outside of being a financial commitment, making your pooch Instagram famous is also a time commitment. You need to stay consistent with churning out creative content so your growing follower base stays interested, active and engaged. The more active you are, the more engaged your followers will be, leading to expanding interest from new Instagram users.
4. Network: Just like your professional and personal life, it’s vital to your pet’s budding Internet fame to get out their and hawk the hell out of them — digitally and IRL. Head to dog park meetups, attend social media conferences and talk up their Instagram handle whenever you can — like when someone stops you on the street to pet (or just straight up oogle) your dog ;) Also, have some fun with commenters, and reply to people online. 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, in the long run.
5. Become a PR Person: Similar to networking, if you want your fuzzy friend to be a star, you’ve got to present them to the people who can help them get there. Seek out PR contacts, whether that’s in the form of email addresses or social media handles of editors at various media publications. Introduce yourself and your pet’s handle, and make the hard sell that you’d be a great partner for campaigns, or would love to get featured in a roundup or an Instagram shoutout. Even work your way into a social good charity campaign. Whatever angle you can play, do it. However you want to do it, and for whatever outcome you want to do it for, pitch your pet and you’re sure to eventually get some interest.
6. Train: In order to make this fame-seeking task easier and more efficient, you’ve got to teach your pet to actually enjoy posing for the camera. Use treats, toys, squeaking a ball, calling their name and making weird noises. Whatever works to get them to do what you want in front of the camera, that’s the secret training trick for your little guy or gal. If you share parenting, or at least Instagram responsibilities, utilize that assistant to get your dog’s attention while you snap away for even simpler attention-grabbing photo sessions. Oh, and if your pup is not in the mood for a shoot when you are, don’t force ’em to pose. Play with them a little, cuddle them, do whatever they’re currently wanting to do, then circle back later. The photos will turn out better for it — trust and believe.
7. Play the Hashtag Game: Same as with creativity, use hashtags to grab attention during trending topics or to make a name for your pup’s self within a specific breed term (i.e. #bostonterriersofinstagram). But, please (please, please, please), don’t go overboard with that pound sign. Use ’em wisely and sparingly to attract a little extra attention and follower boost. No one wants to see desperation (or feel it exuding from all those # # #).
8. Test Out Different Platforms: Yes, Instagram is the hub of too-cute animal-related content, but why not switch it up and play with other social media platforms to grow your fanbase, or to capitalize on a void in the ‘gram pet space. Think you could turn your pup into a hilarious copywriter that attracts thousands of followers on Twitter? Go ahead and tweet like your dog. Do you personally love to make videos and think your canine would translate better in moving moments versus still images? Give Vine or YouTube a shot. Or go for real time moments with Periscope and Snapchat. Making a social media account is free and easy, so why not test ’em all out to see which one you can capitalize on the most, and go for that one full-force?
9. Be Genuine + Authentic: To really resonate with followers, you’ve got to showcase as real of moments of your dog as possible. Yeah, occasional staged shots are fine, but make every photo feel as natural as possible. Followers should feel like they’re getting a peek inside your dog’s fab life. The less staged and the more real, the better. The more personality you showcase, through both visuals and copy, the more people will connect with your pet. Capture hiking adventures, playtime at the park, cuddle sessions, restaurant visits and more. Whatever your dog’s day to day life is, try and snap a photo of the most engaging moment of it on a daily basis.
10. Become Your Dog: Last but not least, in order to make your pet Instagram famous, you’ve actually got to start acting like them. Yeah, you. They aren’t the ones that are going to be running the account, obviously. So, get a schtick or a gimmick that you can run with, whether that’s a signature pose or something else that makes your pet unique, or a style that’s consistent (i.e. high fashion pup) and run with it. That will make it more entertaining for you as your dog’s social media manager in the long run. Also, people need something special to make them remember your pet, and you’ve got to be able to really get into the character and have fun with it without it becoming burdensome for you and your followers to stay consistently invested. I mean… haven’t you always wanted to be a dog in another life, or is that just me?
BONUS: Always reward your budding Instagram star for their hard work with treats, toys, clothes, walks, playtime, etc. (even if they don’t cooperate in a shoot) aka… let them be the dog they are ;) Now go put these tips to use, and make your pet a social media star.
Got any other tips for making your pet Instagram-famous? Let us know on Twitter.
Photos via @bonjourbrie
Photography: Kurt Andre
Modeling: Sean Griffis + Brie