I make part of my living with Instagram. Necessity required that I become a student of Instagram, and apply critical thought to all aspects of the social network. I made it my mission to discover why certain posts gain more attention than others. Why do some pages grow by 2000+ followers a day, yet other accounts posting virtually the same content only gain 50-100?
What took me two years of careful study, testing, trials, failures and ultimately “success” is now made available…to you. At no cost. From a credibility standpoint, the past two years I’ve built a network of pet-related accounts that reaches over 900,000 enthusiasts daily. Some of my accounts include:
By the end of this coming year, I anticipate my network will entertain over 1,000,000 followers per day (if not more). I’m very proficient at what I do, and can help you. Perhaps you’re aware of the very famous dog @zammypup on Instagram (Zammy, the Giant Sheepadoodle). Honestly, I just fell in love with this special gift to humanity because he truly spreads joy. I proactively reached out to Zammy’s owner and asked if he’d like help building Zammy’s Instagram presence. He did. And following my counsel, he’s grown from 18K followers to over 100K…in just five months.
How? By following 7+ important tips that I share here. These are “must know” / “must do” fundamentals that will keep you from becoming a rudderless ship. With them, your foundation will be strong and enable you to strategically build your instagram pet account.
Okay, I say there are 7+ tips because the ‘+’ tip is entirely basic, but needs to be addressed. Your account will only EVER be as good as the content. You really need to give some thought to “who” you are, “how” you desire to present your posts and consider “why” others would want to follow you. If you have a non-interesting pet and post photos intermittently that include treasured fast food pics from last night’s dinner;
if you shoot in horrible lighting situations and have blurry videos, well…I don’t care how many tips I provide, you’re going to deserve what you get.
Tip #1: Choose a Good Name
Consider the fact there are over 800,000,000 Instagram accounts, each uniquely named. Do you think “SpotTheDog” or “JackSpaniel” isn’t already taken? They are, trust me. Your pets name is likely presented already in with countless variations. Don’t become depressed, just get creative.
You want a name that is relevant. Preferably the breed is creatively integrated. I know of a German Shepherd named Zeus. Ever heard of Doctor Seuss? Well, Doctor Zeus rhymes with that famous book. So this new Instagram account owner named her IG account: DrZeusGSD (clever!). I know another account (very well – one of my clients) named ZammyPup. Zammy was of course already taken but…add ‘Pup’…and what do you know? It was available.
Try, try, try to keep it simple and try, try, try to avoid lots of underlines and special characters. For example, this would be a really bad name: Ginger____3.14.__Husky. Oh believe me, those type names are out there. These type of accounts are destined to fail before growth can possibly begin.
Imagine you have a really good post that major pet.themed accounts such as mine would like to post and tag the content creator. With some of these weird names, I just pass on posting because I don’t want to spend my time trying to figure out what the correct name is.
Take your time, be mindful and choose wisely. Show off your pet’s personality. One idea to consider is to think about your cherished pet and write down all the attributes that make your pet special…to you (and your family). Perhaps your puppy has one blue eye or a pirate’s patch…or is super-fluffy, wags his tail constantly, loves naps or is an athletic jumper. Patch.Pirate, Bluey.the.Husky, WagTheDoggy, KingNapperLou, etc. Once you have a handful of names your like, launch your Instagram account and begin your search. If the name is available, congratulations, it’s yours!
Tip #2: Create a Great Profile
Regardless of how someone finds your account, Instagram directs people to your profile, which will not only feature your name, but also your EXTREMELY IMPORTANT profile picture selection. This photo will become your ‘visual brand’. We all have a very small amount of digital real-estate to work with, so choose your profile photo wisely.
I’m going to again point you to the account @zammypup. As you will see, his one black ear has become his trademark. It was strategically featured as the profile picture because it’s such a unique close-up image. Check out the rest of ZammyPup’s profile too – it’s a case study on how to create a great profile. It’s interesting, informative, fun and succinct. It’s also visually interesting – note how he uses relevant emojis on separate lines to inform the (hopefully) new follower what to expect in Zammy-Land. He also nicely includes an external link to an article written about Zammy the Giant Sheepadoodle (we all get one external link in our profiles).
Search for other large pet-related accounts that might be related to your breed and study them. The nice thing is, you can edit your profile whenever you wish. So it doesn’t have to be “perfect” the first time you publish, but you need to give it serious thought. A great profile, combined with great content, proper use of hashtags and securing strategic shoutouts will all give you a head start to building “sticky” followers (ones who follow you and stay loyal to you…they don’t unfollow).
A word to the wise. Do NOT buy followers. If you do, you’ll run great risk of Instagram identifying you as a ‘bot’ and you will be entirely dismissed by their algorithms. Build your account organically, honestly, without falling for the false promises of thousands of new followers…for a fee.
Tip #3: High-Quality Content is KING!
First, know who you want to be. If your puppy is a German Shepherd, have your account be all about your German Shepherd puppy’s adventures of this wonderful new life. If you uniquely have three dogs, dedicate your account to enjoying their crazy, fun interactions together. If you are interested in “all things cats” and want to become an aggregator of great cat and kitty content, go for it. In all cases, adding a photo of what you had for dinner last night while vacationing in Cancun is a HORRIBLE idea. It’s like a dislocated joint. The world’s best burrito just doesn’t jive with the adventures of Zammy the Giant Sheepadoodle.
Understand that you have about a millisecond to capture the attention of the wandering Instagrammer. Thus, the VERY FIRST image someone sees will determine if they’re going to stick around and “pay your account some attention” or if they’re going to simply move on.
Therefore, the most important part of any post is the very initial image. So if you’ve captured video, trim the video so that the very beginning is visually appealing. You may have the BEST, most ultimately viral video in the world…but if it takes three seconds to “develop”, it’ll underperform.
Be mindful…ALWAYS…of your lighting when capturing photos or video. If the initial view is of a dark image, you will get very little, if any, engagement. If you are taking photos or video of a pet, it’s best to capture the moment in the morning our late afternoon hours…or indoors with good lighting. Why? Because when you take photos or video with the sun overhead, the content will be “blown out” and not visually interesting.
Capture videos instead of photos. Why? Because you can go back through your videos and then stop the video at that ‘perfect’ still (photo) and screen capture it. Then edit that photo to the perfect size (4:5 or 9:16 for stories) and it will look like you are a professional photographer. This is a big secret from the pros. You can turn a marginal video into a fantastic photo, but you can’t turn an ‘almost good’ photo into anything other than an ‘almost good’ photo.
Learn how to edit your photos and videos. Learn how to add music when appropriate and fun. BTW, people prefer videos to photos by a factor of 3 to 1. So post more videos than photos. And as we’ve discussed, the photos you DO post will have been ‘harvested’ from the videos you’ve taken, and then nicely edited. You can have a look at viral posts on other pet accounts with these tools.
Finally, be consistent with your posts. Post twice per day…each around the same time. Followers appreciate consistent postings. It gives them something to look forward to. Also, learn how to archive posts that didn’t perform well. Over time, you’ll end up having a page of the best of the best. You want that. Why? Because…HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT IS KING!
Tip #4: Using Hashtags Properly
There are many different views on Instagram hashtag strategy. This tip is not about which hashtags to use, but how to use them correctly. Until January 2018, hashtag selection was determined by quantity, not quality. It was not uncommon to find veritable diarrhea of hashtags under posts (within the comment section). And if one block of hashtags wasn’t enough, you’d often find a second, third and fourth comment that included more hashtags. “Unsightly” would not be a strong enough description.
Others adopted the strategy of placing their hashtags directly into the caption. Take a look at how @zammypup strategically places his hashtags within each post, adding a line of separation to make posts more visually appealing. Those who chose to include their hashtags within the caption section of their posts “won” with Instagram’s algorithm. They were rewarded with higher exposure. Those posting hashtags within recurring comments were penalized.
Which hashtags to use is an altogether different matter. You get a total of 30 hashtags per post (but within that 30, you must also count any ‘@name’ into the total). The selected hashtags must be contextual. Avoid selecting hashtags like #cute, #adorable or #love…because they are used so much you’re not going to compete for viewership. They’d just be a waste. However, if you own a Sheepadoodle, obviously you’d want to include #sheepadoodle in your list.
Research similar accounts to the one you envision growing and study their hashtags. Create several lists of 30 hashtags that are on target. Test, test, test. Have fun with it. At some point, when you start experiencing growth, you’ll end up with your favorite “go to” list that is relevant to your “brand”.
Tip #5: Utilize Stories
What originally turned Snapchat into a superpower of digital media was their invention of ‘stories’. You may be asking (especially if you aren’t a Snapchat user), “What the heck are stories?!” Well, they’re a unique feature that allows you to post an image or a video with a limited lifespan. They’ll disappear forever after a defined period of time. Stories empower Instagram users to keep their primary feed “on brand”, yet have some fun with all sorts of different content within the top section dedicated to short-lived stories.
This is where an accounts personality can really come to life. Have fun with it. Post a random photo or video. Add some text. Include some effects. Edit with filters. Some larger accounts use their stories to monetize their account. They’ll dedicate a “story post” for 12-hours to another user who wants to advertise their product to a, for example, pet-related audience. It allows the viewer to “swipe up” and be linked to an external website.
I know through talking with the content provider of @zammypup that he goes back to old videos, imports them into the app “InShot” and then edits them slightly (keeping the new video 15 seconds or less) and then has new, fresh content to post within his story. Instagram considers the new post “captured” within the past 24-hours. It’s sort of a way of “tricking the system” so that you can harvest old content for current use. This becomes especially helpful when you are traveling and just don’t have a lot of current content. Just an insider’s hint.
Get comfortable with using the story feature of Instagram. They reward accounts that take advantage of their service – they’re very proud of it. Instagram selects lots of content from stories to be featured on their ‘explore’ page…where people search for certain hashtags and terms of interest. So regularly posting stories only increases your odds that Instagram may pick you up and, thus, turbo-charge your following base.
And here’s an important hint. Use the ‘Poll’ function within stories. This leads to quality interaction and a greater reach. You want your following friends to be “sticky”…and they love providing their opinions. People like polls. If you need some start-up support, take a look at the blog post by “A branch of Holly”
Tip #6: Engage with Your Following Friends
ESPECIALLY in the beginning. If someone comments on one of your posts, there’s NO EXCUSE of not “hearting” them back. For especially thoughtful comments, go ahead and respond back. This lets followers know you’re real…and are grateful for their engagement. When someone comments on a post and you “heart” them back, your acknowledgment will appear in their Instagram feed. It’s like, “Hey, thank you! I notice you! I care enough about your engagement that I will acknowledge your comment.”
This is how you create “sticky followers”. It’s really not that hard. But you’d be AMAZED at how few Instagram accounts (especially ones that grow rapidly) don’t practice such acknowledgement. Just think about your own experience. It’s human nature to get a little boost of Dopamine when someone positively acknowledges you.
Moreover, you’ll find along the way that you’ll create some wonderful friendships. These friends are likely to suggest to their network that you are a worthy follow. Momentum breeds momentum. Leverage that fact of life.
Also, when you hit certain benchmarks like 1,000 followers, 2,500 followers, 5k, 10k, 50k, 100k, et cetera, take a screen shot of that new benchmark from your profile and then post it in your story with a special acknowledgement, “Thank you @benji.the.doggie for becoming our 5,000th following friend!” Learn how to present ‘copy’ within your stories without it looking visually unappealing. Do the research. There’s lots of tips online.
Tip #7 Secure Meaningful Shoutouts
This tip is mission-critical for growth. It’s gained in importance as Instagram’s algorithm has evolved. But first, what is a ShoutOut? It’s when a ‘contextual page’ (in my case, pet or animal related) shares a post from another page and marks it in the form of a ‘tag’ or a simple annotation in a caption. This results in many new visitors to the profile and, subsequently, leads to an increase in followers.
With the explosive growth of Instagram accounts, it’s practically impossible to achieve a large amount of followers without Shoutouts from larger accounts – even with excellent content. With key, strategic, contextual Shoutouts, you can provide a kickstart to your following base (if new) or break through the inevitable barrier of stagnation (if not new). There’s nothing more frustrating than almost achieving an important benchmark (such as 10K, 25K or even 100K followers) and then plateauing. Shoutouts provide the solve.
So let’s discuss how to secure the all-important Shoutout. In the beginning stages of growth, the least expensive is to secure cooperation from accounts of similar size. This is simply good old-fashioned networking. Following other accounts and direct-messaging them suggesting to provide them a Shoutout on your page and ask them to do the same. You’ll pick up some followers. However, as a general rule, Shoutouts from pages under 10K followers yield minimal new growth. It’s free, but as they say, “You get what you pay for.” Your posts will never go viral, which is the key result we all try to achieve.
There is simply no secret hack that will boost your account immediatly to a large following. Take care of these seven simple tips and build a sustainable audience with a great engagement.
Do you have more interesting tips to grow an Instagram pet account? Feel free to add them in the comments!
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Just write an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.