5 things my dog taught me about social media marketing

Managing a dog’s Instagram profile may seem far removed from the world of B2B marketing, but both are focused on creating and distributing engaging content that builds followers, engagement and reach. This blog outlines the social media marketing principles I now apply in any context, thanks to my experience playing the role of content ‘mumager’ to one very socially active pooch.

As a dog lover and content strategist, creating a social profile for my dog brought together two of my favourite things. Having spent most of my career focused on ‘serious’ B2B content, setting up Hugo’s Instagram account provided a completely new creative outlet to stretch and test my social media marketing skills. A couple of years in and a few thousand followers later, what started as a fun way to document Hugo’s daily life has turned into fertile learning ground for what works and what doesn’t in the ever-evolving social media space. 

What does it take to build an engaged social media following?

Here are the top 5 social media marketing principles I’ve distilled from both my work and dog-profile managing experience:

1. Know your audience

In the case of a dog, this is quite easy – Hugo’s audience is either other dogs with Instagram accounts (with the occasional cat in the mix) or people who love dogs – so we play to that crowd. 

Making it work in business:

In a business context, there are some more detailed steps involved in honing in on your audience, but a good place to start is by sharpening market segmentation and mapping buyer personas and journeys.

2. Establish your brand identity – and stick to it

Hugo’s online persona shows an extremely sociable dog who loves playing at the park and beach, people-watching from under cafĂ© tables and hating on Mondays. His posts frequently include internet speak or references to memes, and include common dog-isms like the words ‘hooman’, ‘pawsome’ or ‘pawfect’. Obviously, Hugo himself doesn’t know what a Monday or a meme is, but the important thing is that his narrative is consistent and reliable.

Making it work in business:

When marketing a business on social media, it’s important to convey a consistent brand identity that followers can rely on. Get clear on your brand guidelines and ensure that your social media campaigns align with them. It’s also important to know the types of topics your business is prepared to cover and those to avoid. Refer back to tip #1 and know what your audience is looking to your business for commentary on. For example, you might choose to avoid engaging in political debates or current affairs if those topics just don’t relate to your business. It’s usually a good approach to stick with what you know and do that well.

3. Manage your visual identity

Except on rare occasions, gone are the days of text-only social media posts. Visual elements play a huge role in conveying messages and building identity in social media channels. In Hugo’s case, I aim for clear visuals that aren’t over-engineered, as well as avoiding including shots of people in his posts so his content can feel relatable to a broad audience.

Making it work in business:

Each brand’s visual identity will vary, but the goal should be to stay true to brand principles and find a way to make those work to your advantage across social media channels. Consider ways you can make your social media feed more interesting with visual content, be it with photographs, videos, infographics, animated gifs or something even more creative.

4. Build a community

With Hugo’s account I’ve always aimed to respond to comments on his posts, as well as actively liking and commenting on other accounts we follow. This has helped to build a sense of community and we now have a regular stock of accounts that we engage with, sharing comments and likes back and forth, mutually helping engagement across accounts.

Making it work in business:

It’s easy to get caught up in building out a schedule of posts to ‘push’ out to your audience, but it’s just as important to consider how you can ‘pull’ followers towards your account. Put this into play in a business context by observing social profiles that are complementary to yours and aim to build online reciprocal relationships. This could involve commenting on, liking, or sharing each other’s posts. When your target audience see interaction between your business and other businesses or influencers online, it provides a valuable form of social validation that is hard to achieve with a ‘push’ social media strategy alone. 
5. Harness the power of earned media

Hugo has gained broader exposure and new followers by ‘earning’ features on other social media profiles. In one example, he was featured by a digital media brand with a social following of over 18 million – garnering him a massive uptick in exposure. In a matter of days, a compilation video based on content from his Instagram profile garnered almost half a million views and over 13,000 likes, 2,400 comments and 2,000 shares – way beyond his standard reach.

Making it work in business:

Earned media (i.e. publicity gained through promotional activity) can really pay off in terms of gaining greater reach for your brand without eating into your paid media budget (advertising) or being limited by the reach of your owned media channels (social media accounts, website, email marketing etc.). This means it’s worth making the effort to identify media outlets or other organisations that might be interested in featuring your content and building a relationship with them. The key to earning the opportunity to get featured is producing engaging content that resonates with your target audiences and that other parties will want to share with their followers.

Taking steps to social media marketing success

Overall, social media should allow you to test and experiment a little with content in a channel that provides real-time results and feedback. The list of 5 tips here is by no means exhaustive and there are multiple strategies you can employ to enhance your business’ social media reach and engagement, but this is a good foundation to get started with and build from there.

Want to learn more about content strategy?

Read our blog on developing a successful content strategy or find out how Blackdot helps businesses deliver the right content, in the right place, at the right time.

Worded by Jacqueline Garcia.