Find out Why This Pet Influencer Is Doing Better Than You on Instagram
If you’re anything like me, you probably follow at least one (if not several) pet influencers on Instagram. If you’re not, then you may be thinking: “Pet influencers?! What the fluff is she talking about?”
Move over humans! The new accounts to follow feature adorable creatures. From monkeys to foxes, including racoons, ponies, squirrels and hedgehogs, these pets have hundreds of thousands – sometimes even millions – of followers. Just like their two-legged counterparts, they create sponsored content, launch businesses, sell their own merch and travel around the world. Of course, there is one main difference: they’re not exactly responsible for their own success. After all, behind every great pet influencer is a great human.
How do animals rise to fame, and how much work is needed to get there? To find out, I interviewed Thomas Shapiro, pet parent to Tika, an Italian Greyhound whose Instagram account (@tikatheiggy) is followed by 61,9K people.
What was your initial strategy or content creation guidelines when you started Tika’s Instagram account?
Actually, I wasn’t thinking of something in particular in the beginning. I opened the account after my friends told me that I posted too many pictures of Tika on my personal account! The point was mostly to post cute photos of her while she’s having fun. I used a generic voice at first, but she developed more of her own personality over time. It happened organically. For instance, people enjoyed the posts where she talks about her favorite treat – chicken! – and it became “chickunz”, because she’s a dog and can’t pronounce it properly. I always look at it from her perspective, be it in the choice of the words, the tone, the content or the photos.
Tika’s first post was published on February 1st, 2016 and immediately received 865 Likes. How did you grow such a large following so fast?
Very early on, Tika posed with another dog wrapped in blankets as part of the #puppyburrito challenge. That photo went viral and was shared by several pet-centred accounts. It quickly grew her following. I also think that the timing was really good. When we started back in 2016, Instagram was well established and there were a few other pet accounts out there, but not too many. If you were to try and do this now, I’m not sure it would work out so well.
In your experience, what kind of content works best?
I pay a lot of attention to people’s feedback when I’m creating content. Based on that, I’d say that our followers love photos where she looks goofy or a bit derpy. She makes people smile or chuckle. The ones where she cries especially tend to make people laugh! Anything with her in the snow works really well too, when she’s wearing snow boots or a coat. Being an Italian Greyhound, she’s clearly not meant for the Canadian winter! It’s a bit ridiculous and it adds a lot of humour. People like it because it’s funny. I’ve learned over time that the best photos are not always the most beautiful or perfect ones. I usually take 10 to 15 pictures of her in a specific setting, but I’ve come to notice that the best-looking one will not necessarily get the most Likes. Often, people will prefer the goofy one. That being said, I always make sure that the photos are clear, focused, crisp and bright. I’ve never posted a blurry or bad-quality picture. The ones that don’t look good enough for her feed, I post on her stories.
Besides a good laugh, what do you think people look for when they start following Tika’s account?
Our followers usually don’t have a dog, either because they’re still in high school, they live in a small apartment or they simply don’t have the time or money to invest in one. But they love dogs and they want to see one everyday, or every other day, so they’ll follow a dog on Instagram instead. It’s easier!
Are pet and human influencers any different than one another and if so, how? What do you observe to be the main similarities and differences?
People don’t get bored following pet influencers the way they do following human influencers. The expectations are not the same. I think humans have it harder. They may appear vain or conceited posting perfect pictures of themselves all the time, whereas pets are just… cute. However, the level of commitment needed to grow a following is the same, no matter if you have a personal or a pet account. If you want it to grow at a steady rate, you have to keep at it.
What do you hope to achieve with Tika’s account?
At the moment, we’re looking into merchandising. We received a lot of feedback from people wanting to create products based on Tika, so that’s definitely on the radar. It should happen before the start of summer. I’d also like to put Tika out there, maybe attend a pet convention. Followers write to me sometimes when they’re visiting Montreal from Australia or Brazil and ask if they can meet Tika. We met a stranger once, at the dog park! It’s always fun to meet her online fans in real life.
So, why is Tika doing better than most of us on her social media? Well, let’s review.
She always considers her audience.
You can start laying the foundation for a solid social media strategy today by answering these questions: what do you have that your followers want? Why are they following you? What’s in it for them? Which of your content works best and which doesn’t? Analyze, accept and adjust.
She knows that the best picture is not always the perfect one.
Again, know your audience and consider their preferences. If they want to laugh, give them goofiness! But always aim for the highest quality you can achieve. Blurry or dark pictures are a no-go.
She creates unexpected content.
Like Tika the Italian Greyhound who’s not meant for the rough Canadian winter yet goes out in her snow boots for the sake of a funny picture, you too should be willing to take (reasonable!) risks to create interesting and unexpected content.