Apparently, being on social media as my real self didn’t quite cut if for me; I now run an Instagram account as my dog. A few months ago, I popped off of Facebook because I was tired of the endless political rantings, mostly my own. I’d scroll through my newsfeed and feel my blood pressure rise. So at a time in my life when I seemed to be trying lots of new things – new house, new job, new pup – I jumped on Instagram as my dog, Chappy. My daughter had noticed all of my Almonds & Elephants Instagram posts were about Chappy, anyway, so helped me create @golden_chappy as a repository of puppy memories (we could blame her).
Little did I know I would be entering a world of other crazy and beautiful dog owners who all believe that their dogs are the cutest and funniest of all. Within a couple of months on “the gram” as my dog, I had befriended other dog accounts from all over the world: New Zealand (Bowie), England (Rifle), Canada (lots of those), Italy (Taquito), the Netherlands (Ginger) China (Sochan), South Africa (Loki), Israel (Archer), Australia (Kylo and Vader), Dominican Republic (Stella) and countless from here in the USA. I began having delusions of grandeur that I could start a Puppy United Nations and finally bring about world peace (#pawsforpeace is actually a thing).
I watched as my social media paradigm shifted from a heated and partisan political worldview, very specific to America, to one that involved sharing pictures of that in-the-moment creature with other people equally obsessed with their dogs. Rather than become inflamed over the news every day, I started having more fun adventuring with my dog and getting creative with posts. Don’t get me wrong; just because you’re a dog doesn’t mean you lose social consciousness. Dogs tell you to go out and vote on Election Day. They also pose in firetrucks and raise thousands of dollars for people suffering from wildfire damage in California. And they’re doing it effectively because they’re cute!
Chappy has yet to find his global purpose, but he’s just a pup so he’s still figuring it out.
Sure, go ahead. Call it a midlife crisis. If you’re on there with me as my friend and not a dog account owner, I get it. What 53-year-old woman do you know identifies as her dog, and then posts pictures and videos of him for the world to see? Um, well, millions of people do this, actually.
My family has had their moments of concern (please let’s not film Chappy stealing napkins from the table), and some friends have expressed concern about my sudden loss of the English language (humans are hoomans, chicken is chimkin — I don’t know, ask Tucker), but being a dog has been a nice break for me -- a time to refresh, be creative and live in the moment with creatures who have a lot to teach us.
Chappy is far from“Insta-famous” but, in addition to learning dog-speak, we have picked up some other tips if you’re considering coming over to the Fido side of Instagram:
1. Dogs Like “likes”: Dog accounts run by humans still have the same concerns human accounts run by humans have so it’s still all about the likes and followers. No getting away from that, I’m afraid, so all Instagram rules apply. Never buy likes. Instagram uses algorithms and will sideline your account if you do that. You can join pods on an app called Telegram where you “like for likes” with other accounts. It also serves as a meeting place to connect with other accounts. The Telegram thing can be tedious though.
2. Pet Follow Trains: A train is when an account sponsors and posts a “pet follow train”. Others join by commenting, tagging friends and following each other’s account. It’s an opportunity to meet other pet accounts. First of all, I don’t like the whole “follow to follow” idea because I might not want to follow a hamster. Second of all, there is a “follow to unfollow” behavior out there, which accounts use to boost their following so they follow you, get you to follow them and then unfollow you. Frankly, it’s all a bit much for me, but it happens so I don’t ride these pet trains. Lots of people, however, do love them.
3. Content is Queen: It’s fun and creative to plan any kind of Instagram page. Instagram historically has been considered the most creative social media platform with an emphasis on photography. No different in the dog world. Dogs are disarming, playful and beautiful so, as best you can, capture all the dog has to give and teach. Chappy hates the camera, and he’s still working on sit-stay, so I have mostly out-of-focus pictures.
4. Hashtags and Tags: Hashtags are fun because they’re a way to direct your posts to other like-minded groups. Instagram allows 30 so I max on every post. Some people use hashtags to get noticed. Others use them to find like-minded accounts. It’s all good. I discovered other #dogphilosophers and #naturedogs when using hashtags. Also, find the big accounts you love and tag them in your posts. Instagram allows up to 20 tagged accounts. These accounts may feature your pup, which reinforces your connection to other like-minded accounts again (see how this connection thing works?).
5. Features are Fun: It’s fun to get a feature on a big account, but it’s not fun when they don’t link back to your account. If you’re posting videos, put your Instagram handle right on the video. It distracts from photographs, but videos tend to go viral more so be sure to claim your content. I’ve had a couple of videos picked up by big accounts, but no credit was given. Watching them get 80,000 views is frustrating.
6. A Dog is a Dog: Not true! Just because you’re a pet account, doesn’t mean you have anything in common with other pet accounts. Some dogs are fashion-focused. Some adventurers. Chappy tends to follow more adventurous or peace-loving dogs around the world. Remember, these accounts are actually run by humans so…
7. Diarrhea on the Gram: Like the human world, the more authentic you are, the better. People like beautiful, but they also like real. Some of my most exquisite accounts have private-messaged me about chronic diarrhea their dog is having, or how their dog is overreactive to other dogs, but you’d never get that by looking at their fluffy portrait with buttery bokeh! People don’t want the dirty details, but they do seem to want authentic. One of my favorite accounts (Nala in Utah) shares a lot about her training, if she’s sick, etc.. plus she’s adorable so it works.
8. Purpose of the Account: Why are you doing this? Do you want to be an Insta-Pet sensation and end up prancing your pet around at big conferences? Opening a doggie business like my friends, Waggleview or Behavior Unleashed? Do you just want people to feel loved? Scout gives free hugs! Come on, what’s cuter than that? Or are you looking for a new social media outlet? Chappy’s account is a vehicle for me to up my game of creativity and to adventure more with my pup. I’m an idealist so I’m hoping to find a way to use this platform for good, in some way. To be continued…
Come and join the Insta-dog madness!