Growing a kennel’s social media following is valuable in both the short and the long run. It allows you to showcase your work and results, your dogs, achievements, and also your struggles. You are a tap (or click) away from updating your entire network of current customers, friends and prospects. And whenever you’ve got a litter or other big news, you can announce it with a bang!
However, most dog breeders struggle with growing that social media following, you try to be everywhere (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube…) but you end up just in the middle of a vast social desert. Growing a social media account from zero takes time but you don’t even see a slight improvement.
It’s ok, we’ve got your back, an after reading this article, you should perform a lot better on the social media platforms you are involved in.
Be Focused: Get Rid Of Your Social Media Profiles
My first advice to you is to close your social media accounts in order to grow your social media audience. How crazy does that sound to you? Let me explain.
There is strictly no need for you to be present on every old and new social network. First because you are just a dog breeder and not a global corporation so you can’t hire a team just to look after your channels, and then because it will motivate you more if you get +10 likes on Facebook compared to getting +1 like on ten different sites.
By picking two platforms, or three, you can easily learn how each functions. Obviously, you’re not going to pick these social networks randomly, you must find out where is your target audience hanging out. Be where your audience is looking.
The Pitbull and American Bully community is young and from the hip-hop generation, they are massively present on Instagram. So if you breed bullies, get yourself an Instagram account and own it. Border Collies and most other classic breeds tend to have an older audience, less tech-savvy, so they are mainly present on Facebook. French Bulldogs or trendy toy breeds have a young female audience, clearly favouring Facebook and Instagram or Tumblr.
Define your audience, know where they virtually hang out, and be there. Close any other account.
Be Thankful: Engage With Your Audience
Before you start looking for new followers, are you keeping your current followers happy? Are they just following your Facebook page because they can’t be bothered to unlike it, or if you disappeared, would they actually miss your updates?
Having ghosts as followers is useful, you need to engage with them and make them feel like ambassadors. Naturally, they will then start to share your content and it will create a snowball effect. You must keep your core followers as happy as possible, they are the ones following you from the get-go, so be thankful.
It goes without saying that your must reply any comment you receive, even if it is just a simple “lol” on a picture. A casual “I’m glad it put a smile on your face today!” can go a long way in a social and attention-seeking world.
Branch Out: Chat With Your Breed's Community & Influencers
If you want like-minded people to follow you, you do have to follow like-minded people. Twitter, for instance, is a true social network on which you can reach out to influencers and sneak into any conversation. Simply search related hashtags (#americanbully, #pugsofinstagram, etc.)
Comment on other breeders and fanciers’ photos and videos, visit blogs and subreddits, and give a sh*t about what’s going on there. Do not be a creep commenting on every single update but pick and choose, add value, give advice, but never promote your kennel directly, this is what we would call a d*ck move.
Make a Google Search about your breed, click Search Tools and select the last three months. Visit each article or blog, contact the author, introduce yourself and propose yourself to write a great article or complement about your breed. You will be credited for the input and the author will obviously mention your kennel, website and social media accounts.
That way, you will become an authority, people will start adding you on Facebook, they will start following you, they will pay attention to what you are saying because they know you know your dogs, and your breed. Sure, it won’t triple your count of followers within 24 hours but at least, these followers are real followers, not contemptible e-people.
Facebook Groups: Share, Discuss & Promote Your Breeding Programme
A featured often neglected, forgotten or ignored of the key platform that Facebook is, are its Facebook Groups. Hundreds of thousands of Facebook Groups, created by individuals, and touching on about any and every topic you can imagine. Most of them are closed groups, so you must join them to see what’s going on in them. Joining is as simple as a click (or a tap, if you’re on your smartphone.)
Depending on your breed, there might be several active groups with more or less active members. Join them all and remove yourself from the boring ones after a couple of weeks. There are more specific Facebook Groups than others: Airedale Terrier Owners & Breeders of Arizona vs Chatting About Airedale Terriers. Both can be interesting, at different levels. You may meet people in real life in a geographically-targeted group, but the group itself will be less active. A general group may have more discussions going on, and more interesting topics touched. Mix it up!
Once decided on the Facebook Group you will be active on, jump in other people’s updates, ask for advice, discuss breeding matters, and so on. Here again, don’t join a group just to share your Facebook Page or mention your kennel right away. Don’t be cheap. Be interested into the various conversations going on, and at some point, it will feel right to share your kennel’s website, profile or just its name, so do it.
Promote Yourself: Link Your Different Social Media Accounts
Running several social media accounts at the same time isn’t easy but there’s a perk in that: you can promote your other social profiles on each platform. There is nothing wrong at kindly informing your Facebook fans that you have a cool Instagram account. Or tell your Twitter followers to watch your last video on Youtube.
Again, be smart, do not just put a link “Follow me on @welovebreeding on Twitter & Instagram” — you’ve got to make them want to do it because of what you offer on that other account, not just force them!
Ideally, you want to promote a photo-based account on a text-based network or, a video-based social media profile on a photo-based account. It translates to promoting your Instagram on Facebook or, introduce your Youtube channel on Instagram. That different type of content will entice your followers to make the leap and follow you everywhere.
Respect The Platforms: Each Social Media Has Its Own Specificities
This is linked to promoting yourself as if you want people to follow you on all your accounts, you have to give the respect each social network deserves.
A massive error that has been done by 90% of the World’s companies is to simply copy and paste your status update on Twitter, or on an Instagram photo, and this is it. Well, this would kill your audience and you will end up alone.
Each social media platform has its own particularities:
- Twitter is all about micr-content, short messages, straight to the point
- Instagram is all about visuals, eye-catching content
- Youtube is all about videos, short and long ones
- Periscope is all about live video streaming
- Facebook is more for polished content, more of an official page
There are many other social networks such as Snapchat or Pinterest, but you get the idea. If you are on a platform, you must obey its codes which translates into creating content that fits the platform’s spirit. If you can’t produce all the content needed for the several platforms you are on, just quit a few platforms and focus on one or two only.
People on these social media networks expect to see a particular type of updates, and if they don’t see that, they’ll ignore. Bottom line, don’t be ignored.
Differentiate Yourself: Do Better What Other Dog Breeders Do Well
Take a couple of days, a pen and a notepad. Visit a few social media profiles of other dog breeders or even dog-related accounts. See what they are doing, see how many people react to it, how many people comment on it. In other words, note what works and what doesn’t work for them.
Once you’ve got a good list of what seems to work with their audience (that should be similar to yours), see what you are the best at, and do it better. If your target audience likes pictures of Border Collies herding sheep, or Rottweilers with kids, take some of these pictures and make them look better. If they like tweets about a medical condition specific to your breed, find more information and share it using different ways: on pictures, just in text form, in a video where you quickly explain what you’ve read, etc.
Do not just copy what others do, make it better, so much better that their followers will then start following you instead.
Innovate: Invade Whitespace & New Platforms Before Everybody Else
If you are adventurous (and clever), you should perhaps spend less time on noisy social platforms and devote a lot more of your free time on new and trending platforms. The risk is that the platform shuts down eventually after few months and you would have worked your ass off for nothing but, if you move at the right time, you will be amongst the first dog breeders in there, and people will have no other choice than following you.
One example, you should go right now on your App Store or Google Play Store and download Periscope. Create an account right now. It is a simple app backed by Twitter that is all about live video streaming. Meerkat is a competitor but Meerkat is losing the battle (and the war.)
Otherwise, Snapchat is a must-know platform if you are breeding dogs that appeal to the 18-25 generation. It is video-based and forces the viewer to look at your video so it has all your attention. Video can be viewed for 24 hours maximum and cannot be saved.
Youtube although extremely famous and popular isn’t actually used much by dog breeders and I believe every single breeder should be on it, uploading videos on the kennels, the dogs, the competitions he or she is involved in, etc. And the good thing is that you don’t have to show your face necessarily, people want to see your dogs!
Video Is The New Photo: Use And Abuse Live Or Recorded Video
Blogs, Myspace and Facebook all started as being text-based social media channels and have now evolved. Newcomers in the social network app world are very photo-focused (Instagram, Tumblr…) and now, more video-focused (Instagram Videos, Vine, Youtube, Snapchat, Periscope, etc.)
It is moving slowly because people suck at taking good videos and smartphone only just now improved their camera for high-definition video shooting, but it is coming. It is up to you if you want to be part of it and move first or if you prefer to watch other succeed and be late at the party by joining in five years later.
Video does not mean showing your face speaking. Video means you talking over a footage of how your dogs behaved and ranked at a dog show, or just a guided tour of your kennel. Video can be you posting a weekly update of the life of your breeding programme (a video blog, called a vlog) or several 15-second snaps of your dogs’ lives. Video can even be something new that you create yourself, be creative, be free, try and make errors, and keep on doing what works for you.
Inform & Entertain: Post Original, Unique & Valuable Content
Your audience and people in general wants one of these two things: escapism, or value. People, when clicking on your post or paying attention at what you say, want to escape their daily routine and be entertained, or they want to know more. Knowing more means several things: they can just be curious and interested in what you say because they learn stuff, or they just want to know what you dog, and how you do it.
Your content, if similar to what every other breeder posts, will be boring and certainly not entertaining or informative. It may not even be noticed as nowadays, more than ever, people scan their feed and screen and automatically detect what they want to focus on. So you must be original and unique in what you offer. That is just to reach the first step of grabbing your audience’s attention on the spot.
Once they pay attention to you, oh god, do not disappoint them! You are a tap away from falling into their oblivion. The substance of what they lay their eyes on must be worth their time. It must be funny, or exciting, or interesting, or just awesome enough to make them feel like you were worth their attention.
There is no miracle content strategy because each audience is different. American Bully breeders tend to post a lot of close up photos of their dogs’ musculature because this is what their audience wants to see. Breeders of working dogs post dogs in the action, be it herding cattle or guarding a home, because their fans want to see that. Others pug breeders will be funny pictures of pugs because pug lovers tend to enjoy these. And so on.
Don’t be boring though, because a picture did well, it does not mean you need to post a similar one every day. Good things require rarity to keep their value, so find several things that work and alternate them!
Be Consistent: Have a Regular Posting Schedule
Although not vital, you want to post regularly and the ideal frequency depends on the platform. Twitter is so busy that posting five times a day is pretty normal, while Facebook shouldn’t be more than 2 updates a day on your Facebook Page or Personal Account. Instagram is less noisy than Twitter so you can also post several times a week without any problem.
Make sure you don’t harass your followers because at best, they will ignore your future updates and at worst, they will unfollow you. Better post one update of really high quality than five crappy updates.
This is why it is good to vary the types of content over the week (long form text, short form text, quotes, videos of yourself talking, videos of your dogs, photos of other people’s dogs, etc.) so your fans don’t just know what to expect and lose interest.
Set a content posting schedule on your phone calendar and stick yourself to it. Don’t post more, don’t post less, just do it for two weeks and then check how it went and adapt. And repeat.
Give It A Boost: Use Paid Ads Because People Follow People
When you start and only have your mom, dad and closest friends liking your page or following your account, it can be demotivating. Even if you post a top quality article, photo or video, you’ll only yield a couple of likes at best. You’ve got to keep doing it, every single day, swallow your ego and repeat that every single day.
Trust me, we’ve all been there and we all know how hard it is but you’ve got to keep going and keep posting quality updates. Simply because the people who start following you will check your other updates and if they are of low quality, they won’t confirm and just leave.
The only way you can give it a boost is using Facebook Targeted Ads, they are relatively cheap and you can target a precise audience using several criteria: home town, job title, interests, favourite dog breeds, and pretty much everything you can imagine (or almost.)
The more you target precisely a group of people, the more expensive it gets. But it can help you reach a decent amount of followers when you get yourself started. Just post a few updates on your page so it doesn’t look empty, start a campaign on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and grow your audience.
You will look a lot less needy for organic visitors and they will be easier to click and follow you.
Be Human: Capture People's Attention By Sharing Your Stories
Ideally, you should speak about your dogs, your kennel, your past customers, your other friend and breeders. Too many dog breeders just become self-obsessed and only post pictures of their dogs and their litters. People don’t follow you because you are a store front. They follow you because you are doing a superb thing that breeding beautiful and healthy dogs is.
Be human in your updates, share your current difficulties and your struggles as much as you want to share your perfectly shot new puppy picture. Sharing a quick 30-sec video of you saying how hard today was, how you wanted to give it up because of this and that reason, will surely yield a lot more attention than posting the tenth picture of your own favourite dog this week.
Don’t bang on and on about your formidable self, show weakness, say what no other breeder would say, be genuine. It is hard, but trust me, you will feel so much better after you started being that open with your audience. And I am telling you now, they will love it and you will be surprise at how many of them will try to motivate and help you feel better,
Ask: Find Creative Ways To Ask Your Audience To Share Your Content
Lastly, and it has to be done rarely, you can simply ask those who follow (and I guess love) you to share and spread the word. Don’t be silly and just have a straightforward update “Please share my page with your friend!” but do it visually with your dog showing a paper on which you wrote a little call to action.
Post a video on Facebook where you ask for some support and you would appreciate your current audience to share it with the people they think will enjoy what you are posting.
On Instagram and Facebook you can ask them to tag their friends in comments so their friends get notified and look at the update you posted. They normally then look at your other stuff and there’s a great chance of this new person following you…… if you’re good! Because yes, no marketing tips will fix a broken product, so be good, and all the above will work for you.