Today’s the day! You’ve decided to start an Instagram for the cutest animal on earth, your pet! Or, maybe you started an account for your pet a while back but you’re struggling to grow. No matter where you’re at, finding your pet’s voice can be the key to growth and quality engagement on social media.
In a sea of cute and funny pets on Instagram, it can be difficult to figure out how to make your pet stand out. When I created a page for my cat Mikita, I thought about what name I wanted to assign. I kept it simple, combining the city we live and our black cat, Mikita. @chicagoblackcat was born! The options for an account name are endless. Get creative or keep it simple, but make sure it fits your pet. In an effort to create a personality for Mikita I decided I’d post mostly from his perspective. I wanted his audience to get to know him the way I know him. For me, it was a creative outlet, not a dump of my camera roll. I knew I’d be selective in my photos and videos as well as my copy. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Get in the right mindset
Think of an Instagram page like a cocktail. There are a million out there that range from absolutely terrible to perfectly balanced and delicious. But, not everyone will agree with what is good. Your pet’s page can’t be the right cocktail for everyone. So don’t try to be. Figure out who you are, what you want to say and be open to refining the recipe as you learn what your audience likes. Always consider your audience. Although it’s your page, it’s not entirely about you. Just because one cocktail works for one Instagram account doesn’t mean it’ll work for yours. Identify your strengths, your pet’s strengths and work those into your page. Take note of your weaknesses and learn how to work around or strengthen them. Using your skills, carve out your own niche in the market and bring something new to the table. A good cocktail will have you saying, “I’ll have another, thank you!” You’re probably going to tell your friends about it too!
Set yourself up for success
Engaging with other accounts is a must. Genuinely liking, following, commenting and being interested in other pages will show that you’re an active participant. We can’t control the algorithm but we can control the quality of the photos and videos we share as well as our own interaction with other accounts. Follow accounts you like and don’t follow ones you don’t. Be authentic and don’t feel pressured to fall into the “follow for follow” trap. Focus on being an account worth following.
Manage your expectations
If your main goal is “GAIN FOLLOWERS”, you are in for a frustrating journey. It’s easy to buy followers. Don’t do it. Having fake followers on your account puts you in an immediate deficit. Instagram is constantly working to delete fake accounts so the followers you bought today might not be there tomorrow. Instead, make a list of ideas for fun photos and videos. Create copy inspiration so you can easily hop into creation mode when your pet is doing something cute. Remember, no one loves your pet as much as you do, so posting a blurry photo from a hilarious moment probably won’t play out on Instagram. People are scrolling fast so grabbing their attention is important. Personality, style and quality draw people in. Accept the fact that growth will often be slower than you want but creating a relationship with your following is a much better investment than quick, meaningless likes and follows.
Establish how you and your pet talk
If your pet will be doing the majority of the talking on Instagram, what are they like? Are they funny, sarcastic, poetic, sophisticated, stoic? Mikita typically narrates in the feed copy, but stories are from my point of view. When we adopted a second cat, I decided to try and differentiate Dahlia’s narration from Mikita’s. There is no right answer here but consistency helps make things easier for the viewer to follow.
Although completely optional, showing more than just fun photos and videos is a great way to add depth. Standing for something can provide the option to scale your account into a business if you so choose. Showcasing your skills as a photographer can demonstrate your ability. Spending time on creative copy can be valuable for someone looking to share their writing. Fostering, demonstrating and providing education on your account are all ways to add value. Be mindful, though. Adding substance needs to make sense for your account. Too much substance could water down your content and make it spamy.
Take good photos
We’re not all photographers; but the good news is, you don’t need to be! Clear photos with personality can be done using a phone. Focusing on the eyes immediately connects with an audience. Asking your pet to sit still is easier said than done but its essential for taking a good photo. Find the areas in your home with the best natural light. Teaching them some easy commands will help you communicate with your pet, leading to better photos. I discuss the many reasons we have taught our cats certain commands in “This Cat Knows How to Fist Bump, and Yours Can Too.”
Editing photos and videos
Using natural light whenever possible is helpful but adjusting photos within the Instagram photo editor is easy and can take your photos up a few notches with some quick edits. Be careful not to over-edit.
Hashtags are important for discovery on Instagram. 30 hashtags are allowed per post, but it’s important to vary them up. Having a set core group of hashtags saved in your phone’s notes is a time saver, but don’t forget to add some new ones on each post. Make sure you’re only adding relevant hashtags or Instagram might see you as spam.
One of the things that many people miss is engaging with your followers. When people comment, respond back to them. When they DM you, send a message back. Post photos and videos that ask for responses. This helps to engage with your audience while learning about them, too. By engaging with our followers, we not only create a fun space for everyone to feel welcome, but we also show Instagram that we’re an active account. This is helpful for making sure we’re being noticed by our current and potential followers.
Stories are fun and easy because they’re essentially a place to build the personality of your account. It’s less polished than the feed so you can try new types of videos, have fun with filters and interact with your audience. Use features like “Poll” and “Questions” to find out more about what your audience wants to see. Trim your videos so that no one has to wait 10 seconds for your pet to do that one funny thing. People are moving through stories quickly. Make sure they want to come back for more!
This one is hard for many people. It feels like a lot of pressure, but it can be fun! Going Live is a great way to interact with your audience and find out what they want to see more of. When going Live with pets, have a bag of treats nearby. Answering questions while your audience gets to see your pet is adorable!
When your photos and videos pop up in someone’s feed, you want them to know it’s you pretty quickly. Take note of the types of photos and videos that are well received. This will help when you’re feeling stuck. If your pet has a certain behavior or habit that plays out in a photo, show it to your audience on occasion. Rotate through these common behaviors to build recognition and personality. But make sure not to overuse your best content. Vary it up. Mikita likes to sit on his butt and clean his thighs. It’s adorable! His audience has gotten to know this about him so I am sure to post these types of photos and videos from time to time.
Don’t get discouraged
Growth is hard. Putting in the work and engaging with other accounts is a must for growth. But sometimes an account might grow and then slows down. Engagement may be skyrocketing and then it tanks. It’s easy to blame the Instagram algorithm. This may be partly true, but, I take poor engagement as a reminder to freshen up my content. Don’t get discouraged, and remember we’re all on social media to be entertained and maybe learn something, too.
Incorporate something new
Creating new content is fun! Sometimes, when engagement is low we need to step back and take a look at our account. Start a list of fun ideas including images, videos and creative copy. Change up the scenery. If you’re always filming in the living room, create a new area for your pet and snap some photos there. Or, go outside and incorporate the seasons. Show your feeding and treat routine. Take your audience behind the scenes. Teach your pet a new trick. Freshening up your account can also freshen up your relationship with your pet. They’re usually down for trying something new!
Remember that every day is a new day. It’s a chance to try something new on your account. Be patient. It will take a bit to find your groove. But don’t forget to listen to your audience and have fun! Your phone is filled with photos of your pet anyway, what are you waiting for?!
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