Does your dog have an Instagram?
We’ve all seen and heard of pets with huge social media followings, and we’ve featured them on helloBARK! – but what about the rest of us?
How do you grow your dog’s Instagram account to at least a few thousand followers WITHOUT cheating, and WITHOUT paying to promote your post, because let’s face it, all your spending money is already earmarked for dog-snacks and accessories.
So here are my 13 tips and tricks to boost your dog’s Instagram.
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1) Decide on a Theme
Scroll through any successful Instagram account and you’ll notice that a theme emerges. There’s generally one thing they do well (landscape photos, close-up selfies, cute videos etc) and 80% or more of their posts will fit their theme. What you need to do is make use of your dog’s talent (cute videos, silly faces, wearing sunglasses, staring moodily into the distance, posing in front of touristic landmarks…). Deciding on a style of post helps people to relate to your account. Posts that don’t match your chosen theme should be used occasionally or kept for stories.
2) Be the Best
If it’s blurry out of focus and too dark to see what’s going on, then it has no place in your grid. You want to show the world your best shots. You don’t need a fancy camera, just a little patience and some luck (and dog treats – treats really help here!). See our guide on how to photograph your dog for some inspiration!
3) Find Your Voice
You can have the most stunning photography but 50% of an Instagram post is the caption. This is your chance to insert your personality into your posts. Captions can be a factual description of the photo, a short recap of your day, maybe tell a joke or make a statement. Remember that people scrolling through their Instagram feeds only see the first one or two lines of your caption so make sure to make those first lines attention grabbing. Also think about your bio. It’s the first thing people clicking on your account see so make it relevant.
4) Ask a Question
It can be difficult to think of comments to leave on other users’ Instagram posts. There will be people who aren’t engaging with you due to their shyness or inability to think of something meaningful to write. You can help increase your engagement by asking a question in your caption as this gives your readers a chance to say something specific in reply. It’s also a fascinating insight into other people’s lives and a way to make real friends from online acquaintances as you begin to reply back to their answers to your questions…
5) Post Regularly and Use New Features
Hearsay would have it that Instagram rewards regular posters and posters that adopt the new features Instagram rolls out with more prominent positioning of their posts in their followers feeds. What I have found is that each new post reaches new people, so if you want to grow your account frequent posting (ideally daily or several times a week) is a good idea. Also look at using Stories and use of music and stickers within stories, IGTV if video is your thing, and try each new feature as your account gets enabled.
Hashtags are the best way to get your post seen by people not currently following you. You’re allowed up to 30 per post so use them. Each post should have at least 20 hashtags. Use a mix of the most popular #dogsofinstagram and niche ones with less than 1,000 tagged posts. You can also use hashtags to draw in an audience beyond dog accounts. Use location, fashion, lifestyle, travel and adventure hashtags as appropriate on your post. It’s more work but tailor your hashtags to each post. How do you find appropriate hashtags to use? Look at other accounts and just copy the ones that you see other people using if they seem appropriate for your content. You can also change the hashtags later by editing the post so if you spot a new one that seems interesting go and add it.
Location tagging your posts will get you found by people interested in that area. You may wish to protect your favourite secret photo spots, so when this is the case, just tag the city or the country. But don’t lose out on this opportunity to get your account seen. Location tagging is a great way to make new real life friends for dog walks. Look at the most recent photos tagged to locations you visit regularly and leave a comment “beautiful dog! We walk here too, fancy a walk together sometime?” on any photos with a dog that looks a suitable playdate/walking companion for your dog.
8) Hubs and Brands
Look for repost accounts that feature the type of photos/videos you post. For example, if your dog is an outdoorsy adventurer then @dogsthathike, silly videos or cute faces are your thing, then try @barked. Remember that here at @hello.bark we have “dog of the week” so get tagging us on your posts! Also look beyond “dog” repost accounts, most fashion, beauty, tourism and street photography hubs are more than happy to feature doggy photos as long as they fit with the overall aesthetic of their feed, and it’s a brilliant way to reach new audiences. Following hub accounts also doesn’t hurt your chances of being featured! If your dog is wearing a collar or accessories then tag the brand. Brands are always on the lookout for photos of their products being used and enjoyed, and if they frequently repost your photos then it’s a good opportunity to ask about whether they’d be interested in sponsoring you to become their brand ambassadors…
9) Go Viral
This one is slightly controversial (I admit I’ve never tried it, but I’ve seen other accounts benefit). Follow trends in music, TV, films, sports or politics. If you can video your dog howling along to a popular TV theme tune/music video and tag their official account in your post then there’s always a chance that they’ll repost. Or dress your dog up in your football jersey on match day and tag your team in a good luck message… but be authentic. Only post if you are truly a fan of the TV show/pop star/sports team/political party you are targeting as otherwise their fans will quickly unfollow you if they realise you aren’t as committed as they are! Themed posts around holiday seasons also have the potential to catch a wider audience; you can increase your chances of being picked up for a repost by using holiday specific hashtags and posting slightly before the holiday date.
10) Engage with Your Followers
It’s not enough that people are starting to follow you. You’d like them to continue to engage with your account, so it’s worth taking a little bit of time to go through and like some of their posts, comment where appropriate, follow back if you’d like to keep seeing their posts. Like and respond to comments on your account and answer back non-spam messages.
11) Engage with New Accounts
If you’ve followed steps 1-10 then you’ll have a beautiful looking feed with some new followers coming your way through the hub and location tagging and hashtags that you are using. You can increase the rate at which people find your account by engaging with the Instagram community. Whenever you use a new hashtag or location scroll through and look at the most recent posts. Are there any that catch your eye? Maybe like 1-3 of their recent photos. Leave a comment too if you can think of an appropriate not-spammy message. You’ll find most people will respond and like/comment on your account. Follow/follow back accounts you particularly enjoy and engage with.
12) Keep It Real
Remember it’s not the real world, but behind each account is a real person. Be polite and if you’d find a comment hurtful then don’t write it. Try not to get caught up in viewing Instagram as a competition: more followers or likes does not make anyone a better person or a cuter dog. Use the block and mute tools to screen yourself from anyone who posts comments or content that you find upsetting.
13) Be a Force for Good
You’ll quickly find yourself being asked “can you share my Go-Fund-Me” https://www.gofundme.com, can you sign my petition, can you donate to my charity fundraiser for my favourite good cause? Learn to say “No” to virtually all enquiries otherwise you’ll be snowed under. Choose a few charities or causes that are important to you and show your support for them and politely refuse the rest.
14) And Three Things NOT to Do
These are the things I’ve found the most irritating and of very little gain. I’m aware that not everyone will agree with my point of view and these might be other people’s favourite features. So I’m going to make you aware of:
• Follow Trains and Comment Pods
You’ll see accounts advertising “follow trains/parties”, “like sprees”, and “comment pods”. The idea is that everyone involved likes/comments/follows everyone else. So in theory everyone benefits from increased engagement. In reality what happens is that the follower hungry accounts will take the extra boost but will quickly loose interest in reciprocating. You’ll be left following accounts that don’t engage with you and with which you’ve little in common.
• Follows and Shout-Outs
Similar to follow trains but on a one-2-one level you’ll find accounts asking “follow4follow?”, “can you give me a shout-out?”. This is time consuming and rarely results in increased engagement for you. I politely refuse requests. Also although people will do it to you in the hope you follow back, please don’t follow/unfollow accounts as this is simply bad Instagram manners.
• Competitions and Give-Aways
You’ll see many accounts holding competitions. To be in with a change of wining you usually have to follow the account, follow their friends, repost the giveaway post, tag your friends etc. The reason for all this is so that they gain more followers.
However, many people will follow just to enter the giveaway and then unfollow again, so while running a competition will give you a short-term boost in followers this is not long lasting. This is why you’ll see some erstwhile “popular” accounts running giveaway after giveaway – to keep boosting their following.
Read the small print on giveaways before entering – will you be liable for taxes and shipping if the host is in another country? Run a giveaway only if the prize is something you enjoy and you think your followers will also. Don’t count on it as a means to increase your following, but instead use it as a way to say thank you to your followers for sticking with you.
It’s not real life. It’s NEVER worth endangering your dog or yourself for a photo (step away from cliff edges unless you are mountaineers and even then be careful). Remember if you do become “social influencers” then you are that: an influence to other people. So use your platform to set a good example.
Don’t invade private property, be aware of leash laws where they apply, shout out the good causes close to your heart, and generally be respectful. And most importantly of all, have fun with your dog!
Wrapping up – our final thoughts
I hope you use these tips to good effect. Are there any I’ve missed? Do you share my dislike of follow trains or did they help you meet some genuine new friends? I’d love to know!
If you found this article useful or if you’ve got any Instagram tips then get in touch. Send @hello.bark a message on Instagram or come say hello on my dog’s Instagram @scotlandwithfluffywolf. Any dog or photography related topic I’ll be delighted to chat with you!