We started Maya's Instagram account @minihuskyy back in October of 2016. I had seen other dog accounts (some big some small) and thought it was a fun, cute idea. I had only ever used Instagram to post personal pictures of my friends and I, so didn't have any experience using a public profile or interacting with random accounts. My motivation to start the account was my desire to share Maya's cuteness with the world and to get a little extra practice taking and editing pictures.
Fast forward a year and a half and we have ~57,000 followers on @minihuskyy, ~15,000 followers on our feature account @totuesday, we negotiate marketing deals, and we recently launched our blog (Paws Up Travel). This is NOT something I had ever expected to be involved in, but it has opened my eyes in numerous ways, has helped me grow as a businesswoman, and has connected me to a lot of cool people I would not have met otherwise.
How did we get to this point? There was no formula we followed, nor did we do much research on how to "grow" an account...it just happened, mainly through trial and error.
In my opinion, Maya is pretty darn cute, so naturally her pictures picked up some attention right away. We quickly grew from 100 to 500 followers and saw more and more likes and comments pouring in each time we posted. As I mentioned, a lot of it was trial and error, but we've narrowed it down to a few key factors:
1) Content Really is Everything - Having a cute dog is one thing, but taking high-quality, creative pictures boosts your account to a whole new level. To get high quality content, you don't need some fancy camera (most of us have those, but end up using an iPhone out of convenience). A very clear shot with some natural light goes A LONG way. Throw a little creativity into the mix such as a pop culture reference or a punny comment, and your photo will go much farther. If you want to get really creative, you can research different Instagram feed aesthetic strategies.
2) Pick a Theme - In today's Instagram world, it isn't enough to be cute. There are millions of cute dogs on Instagram, so you should pick a theme and create your brand/story around it. Maya's theme, for example, is traveling, city living, and she is always wearing something pineapple related. Try to pick a theme that will set you apart from the average dog account. Ask yourself, why would someone want to follow your account over another dog account?
3) Consistent Engagement With your Followers - I can't stress enough how important it is to consistently interact with your followers. This includes posting daily or every other day at the same time (6:30 AM CST has worked best for us), publishing Instagram stories, using Instagram LIVE, using the polling feature, and using any other feature that may intrigue your followers. Use these features in the morning when your followers are first waking up and checking their social media, throughout the day if possible, and at night as your followers check their phones one last time before bed. The more you engage with them, the more they will engage back with you. Follower engagement will help your photos and profile be exposed to users that do not follow you and the hope is that they will follow you after they see how cool your profile is (content is key).
4) Get Featured - The best way to get new followers is to get noticed by those who don't follow you. A great way to accomplish this is to get featured by other accounts with a large following. Their followers will be exposed to your content through a shoutout or feature post and hopefully, they will follow you after seeing your awesome content (again...content is everything). To get featured, tag "feature accounts" in your pictures. Be wary of automated feature accounts though, as many of them have fake followers and sometimes post pictures without credit (no benefit to you). A few feature accounts we tag include @dogsofinstagram, @mydogiscutest, and @totuesday. Tag, DM, and email to submit your pictures to these accounts for a potential feature (check their bio for specific submission instructions).
5) Make some IG FURiends - Try to build a network of some dog accounts that you interact with every day. Instagram (supposedly) only initially releases your photos to 10% of your followers...if the photo does well it will be released to the other 90%. Having a handful of other accounts to comment and like your pictures once you post them will help trigger the release of your picture for other accounts to see (this strategy is also known as forming a "Pod" - finding a group of dog friends, starting a DM group together, and sending your pictures to each other every morning to like and comment (4 word minimum or it doesn't count)).
6) Host a Giveaway - Giveaways are a great way to gain followers, but they need to be executed well to be worth it. Make sure you pair with a company that is offering a good prize (nobody wants the lame plastic glove that is supposed to take all the loose fur off your dog, but doesn't actually work...). The best way to announce a giveaway is to take a picture of your dog and the prize together, but if this is not an option, be sure to take a high quality, creative shot of our dog with some way to announce the giveaway in an obvious way (a sample of the prize, text over your picture, etc.). If it is not obvious, people scrolling past your post quickly will not realize it is a giveaway. Make sure your rules state to follow you and the partnered host, tag a friend in a comment (we usually say unlimited tags, 1 tag = 1 entry), and any other contest specific details (i.e. USA only). To choose the winner, log onto Instagram on your computer, load all of the comments on the post, copy and paste them into a random picker online, and pick your winner (we always pick a few just in case the first winner does not claim their prize or did not follow the rules).
As many of you know, Instagram is constantly changing their algorithms, which absolutely affects your posts (who can see your posts, how many people it gets released to, the order on a user's feed in which it shows up...). You are not alone! All bloggers and Instagram stars (of all sizes) struggle with this. The best we can do is to try to keep up with the changes and find new techniques to engage our followers. I constantly remind myself why I started Maya's Instagram to begin with - it was not to get 5,000 people liking each of my posts - it was because I wanted to share her with the world, create more smiles, and practice my photography skills.
If you have any additional questions or input, please comment below :)