An extensive guide on how to stay relevant and stand out in a vast ocean of pet orientated Instagram accounts...
Firstly some info about Instagram in the last quarter of 2021...
What is Instagram these days?
Instagram has changed a great deal since the age of little white squares and dodgy filters. In those days though, it was much easier to connect with others on the platform and it felt much more intimate and 'real'. These days, with over 1.3 billion users, over 2 million influencers (with a following of 100k plus) and a rapidly growing network of specifically pet orientated accounts, it can be super hard to a) stand out and b) connect in a meaningful way with other like-minded users.
However, whilst the ocean of Insta accounts can be overwhelming - with such an influx of people and small businesses all competing for attention, this also means that it is absolutely possible to connect with very niche groups of people who can relate to your specific struggles, interests and life goals within pet ownership. You just have to spend some time digging them out!
Instagram used to be primarily snapshots with small captions of text, a quick 'Beach Life #dogheaven' underneath a photo of Rover holding a tennis ball on the sand, before ramming your phone back in your pocket and getting on with life. Nowadays it has become acceptable, and encouraged even, to document more of your everyday life than was ever expected before, which is leading to this huge overload of data and photos spamming our feeds, all wanting to be seen and acknowledged. I don't know about you, but I certainly find it all a tad overwhelming at times, as I scroll through my feed wondering if I'll every be able to truly 'catch up'.
Moving from primarily photographs to a multi-media sharing platform has been Instagram's biggest shift by far, in order to stay relevant you now really need to be making use of all the different sections they encourage you to share within. I'll cover these in more detail later but we are talking:
Standard single photograph with caption
Carousel post with 1 - 10 photos (commonly known as the 'photo dump')
Reels (short video or slideshow with animated text additions and music)
IG TV (longer video, akin to the Youtube vid), this can be saved from a Live session if you were to take followers on a walk with you (as one example)
Live session, up to four hours uninterrupted live streaming
Guides (used primarily by small businesses to promote outfits and styling ideas surrounding their products)
Stories (24 hour still photos or videos with ability to add text, stickers, additional photos, gifs, tags and music)
Story Highlights (ability to save aforementioned 'Stories' to little tabs on your main grid page)
The more of these features you incorporate into your overall account experience the better, it definitely helps to keep you relevant and Instagram will show your account to more users in your field of interest if you use multiple sharing methods. We'll get on to this later on...
What is my place on Instagram?
With all this background noise and all these competing accounts it's sometimes hard to think there could possibly be any room for you, right? Well the good news is that there is always always a need for genuine accounts and experiences on Instagram. No matter who you are as a person, what breed or age or colour your pet is or how experienced or amateur you are on Instagram there is always a place for you, so long as you stay true to you. There are many sheep accounts on Instagram that copy what's working for others and stray away from their own identities and what makes them, well, them! If you want to stand out, and connect with others in similar situations with similar interests you should aim to share in a way that is truly authentic and as raw as possible, think about what you would want to see if you were looking for an account to connect with - would you want them to be the same as everyone else, would you want them to be fake and share things that don't really interest them, would you want them to lie about who they are and what they want from life? No! So apply these principles to your own Instagram accounts. Do not be afraid to be different, we all are, and it is what makes life (and social media) interesting.
Tips for spicing up your Instagram
Make your bio stand out : Use short precise phrases, don't waffle. Think punchy! Make use of different fonts (you can find Copy and Paste Instagram fonts here), emojis and anything that makes your bio bold and memorable. Also, the top line of your bio, your 'name' section, is searchable so don't simply put your account handle there again. Write something that tells potential followers what your account is all about. Ie. if your account handle is @calliethecat and you post about your fluffy, friendly, trick performing cat then you'd write something like : Callie the trick performing cat.
Use a colour scheme: For your profile icon and highlight covers, make sure all your icons have the same or complimenting colours. You can make highlight covers for free on Canva. Keep these simple and bold so they pop.
Edit your photos: You don't need to have a fancy camera to do well on Instagram, but do be aware of dark images and busy backgrounds. Practice some simple editing on Snapseed or Lightroom apps, increasing your highlights to lift dull images and using Focos to add a blurred background. You can also buy or make your own presets on the free and paid versions of Lightroom which means you can add the same settings to batches of photos in one click (and then tweak each one slightly if they need it). Be careful not to over edit, no one likes an overly saturated or over/under exposed photo.
Post regularly but don't spam: The Instagram algorithm used to favour those who posted every day, however with the newest version of the algorithm it is recommended that photos are posted 3 - 5 times a week and a range of other media be shared daily to compliment that. By all means add to your stories, post a reel and share a photo post in one day, or go Live and share it to IGTV afterwards, just don't post multiple forms of the same media in any 24 hour period or else you will a) pee your followers off as they'll see a little toooo much of you in their feeds and b) potentially get yourself flagged as spam.
Write engaging captions: I'll cover this in greater detail in another blog post soon, but basically you need to speak to your followers as though you are talking to them one on one. The first part of the caption should be attention grabbing, a quote, a joke, a bold statement or a pun. Always ask a question as this encourages people to comment and engage with your posts. Use your own voice and get across as much of your personality as you can. If you have wit, use it! If you are a good writer, story tell. Etc
Don't be too positive if you're not genuinely feeling it: There is a trend of positive toxicity circling on Social media at the moment, which can be described as the 'rose tinted glasses'. Everyone has ups and downs, struggles and wins... be sure to share bits and pieces from both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between. You'll find that others will relate to this much better than if you make it seem as though your life is perfect. Some of the very best influencers are super honest about the lows in their lives and the problems they face and it's what makes them so relatable and much more approachable.
Find your niche: So, you're not a business, why would you need a niche? Because, with so many accounts out there, finding your corner is a great way to find your social media 'tribe'. Use hashtags that fit with your niche, as well as a couple of generic and popular hashtags so that likeminded people can find you easily. An example is: You live in the UK, have a German Shepherd dog and you enjoy going on adventures in the moors near to where you live, your dog is reactive to other dogs and you are using an R+ training method to help with this. Talking about these points frequently in your stories and grid posts, as well as using relevant hashtags such as #adventuredog #ukdogs #rplustraining and asking for input in your captions from other people with similar experiences helps you to a) stand out from others and b) find people with a similar vibe to yours who will be most likely interested in what you have to share.
Reels: For short form video content it can be useful to go through what others are posting and what's trending in your niche. Use trending music but make the video content your own, so that it stands out from others. The first 3 seconds count the most for grabbing attention so make those 3 seconds super intriguing. It can be difficult when you're new to it so just have an experiment and see what works for you and your followers. You can even ask your followers what they want to see by putting a question box in your stories. An example here is: You have a white dog who is a rescue and is now very much loved and pampered. You can hop on to any trends which highlight rescued animals, true love, dogs, before and after, white dogs in particular etc. You might want to use heart felt trending music, or you might want to use empowering music, whatever helps to tell your story in a way that is most relevant to you and your followers.
Hashtags - what's the deal these days?
30 hashtags used to be almost imperative to fast and effective account growth. You could blow up your account by using the right hashtags with some simple hashtag research. However, the last Instagram algorithm has changed this. It is now recommended to only use a sprinkling of hashtags, but use those wisely. The general rule is to use 2 or 3 very niche hashtags which describe your content very precisely. Then 3-4 hashtags that are more general but still inline with your post subject. Then 1 or 2 trending and widely used hashtags, again still within content's subject area. Ie. You live in the UK and post a video of your cat performing a simple trick, it is then rewarded with a piece of fish. You might use the following hashtags: #catsdoingtricks #catlearnstrick #cattricktraining - those are your niche hashtags and may only have a few 100 posts on them. You might then add #ukcats #clevercats #mycatcan #circuscat - these are a little more generic and will have more posts on them, but are not massively popular. Then you would add your highly popular and more generic tags #ilovemycat #catsofinstagram #cutecats. This combo would be more effective than adding 30 hashtags just for the sake of it, as was once the best method. So use those hashtags wisely!
Have fun with it! If Instagram begins to feel like a chore, take a break, come back to it with fresh eyes. The good thing about all social media is that it will still be there when you feel ready to dive in again!
The most popular and buzzing accounts are those who have passionate creators behind them. You do NOT have to be positive and fresh all the time, but try to make your time on Instagram and other social media platforms as enjoyable as you can, the minute it becomes a negative experience that's a sign that you need to take a break from it.
And one more thing...
We've pretty much covered all areas you can work on to get your account and content to stand out from the crowd. But we haven't yet covered how to get the best out of Instagram for you as a consumer...
You do NOT need to follow or engage with accounts that give off bad vibes or make you feel bad about yourself. It is absolutely okay to hit the Unfollow button and even to block accounts if they make you feel down or triggered.
Also, try not to compare your account too much to other accounts, even those who are similar to yours that you perceive as doing better... You never truly know how well others are doing and whether their engagement is real or comes from pods etc and also everyone is different and at different stages of life etc.
Cut who you follow down to only those who inspire you and those engage with you in a positive way that makes you feel good. Your feed should be full of interesting eye candy that covers areas that interest you and make you feel inspired and happy.
Last but not least...
If you're not sure how to start the next chapter of your new Instagram life, why not Archive your previous posts, start a new account with a fresh look, or post three images consecutively as a barrier between your old Insta journey and your new!
I hope that you found this useful. You can subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the loop with special discount codes, notifications of new blog posts and for tips and tricks relating to all things pet, human and home!
The Collective Wolf