So your pet is cute. Cute enough to be an Instagram star? That depends.
With more than 1 billion active users each month, the social media platform has become synonymous with the influencer industry. These days, pets take a big bite of the money-making opportunities that come with Instagram fame — and they can earn $15,000 or more for a sponsored post.
But if you think you can just snap a few photos of your pet, go viral, and then collect all that money, think again. Experts in the world of pet influencers say they devote time to this endeavor each day, and they say finding an aesthetic and staying authentic are key to success. Here's why.
If you're interested in creating an Instagram account for your pet, figure out your brand, says Loni Edwards, founder of The Dog Agency, a management agency for pet influencers. Ask yourself what makes your pet unique. It could be something specific about your pet's appearance or how you photograph it.
For more tips about how to make your pet famous on Instagram, check out the video below.
It was all about appearance for Sigrid Neilson, who runs Brussels.Sprout, an Instagram account for her dog Sprout with 143,000 followers.
"We play up pouty Sprouty," Neilson says, pointing to Sprout's underbite. "He has a bit of a grumpy look even when he's happy, so that's sort of a really easy way to create content that is relatable to people, because he kind of looks like a little person."
Similarly, finding the "certain unique thing" was straightforward for Kathy Grayson, who runs BertieBertThePom for her dog Bertram, with 411,000 followers. "The hook is, people think he looks like a bear," says Grayson. A picture she shared in 2018 of Bertram dressed as Paddington Bear went viral, and has received more than 83,000 Instagram likes.
Even now, Grayson says, she can't always predict how posts will do. "Nobody can figure out how to make something go viral: It's like a magic sauce and nobody knows the ingredients."
Back when Gabriella Katia set up the RealDiddyKong account in 2015, monkeys were a novelty on social media. While she noticed that videos of her monkeys, Diddy Kong and Yeti Kong, "getting loved on" resonated with followers, in 2016 one such bathing video topped 45 million Facebook views. Today, "pampering is the aesthetic" she's after. Her account has 1 million followers.
For each of these pet owners, success came over time, though viral posts certainly helped. They all also had willing subjects who enjoy modeling sessions — and Edwards says this is important.
"Some pets love to have their photo taken, they love to create content, they love to get dressed up, but others don't," she says. "If your pet doesn't like it, then don't force it, because it needs to be fun for both of you."
In addition to focusing on your pet's personality, Neilson says its important that your pet enjoys what you're doing. "I think, to some degree, if you try too hard, it becomes inauthentic," she says.
Neilson, Grayson, and Katia are all working with The Dog Agency and now do sponsored posts for a variety of advertisers. The amount the humans earn depends on the number of followers, engagement, and how often they create content, Edwards says.
"The influencers that are in the millions of followers are getting around $15,000 per piece of sponsored content," she says. "The ones that are around 100,000 followers are in the $1,000 to $2,000 range."
Bertram has appeared in sponsored posts with brands like Swiffer and Clorox, Grayson says. Back when his account had 350,000 followers, she earned $3,500 per post. She has used the money to take him on vacation. "It's a shocking amount of money," she admits. "As long as Bert doesn't mind, I don't mind doing it."
Similarly, for Katia and her boyfriend, who manage the account for their monkeys, "the fact that we can make a little money off it is nice," she says. More important? "It's a really good time."
But Katia says many of RealDiddyKong's followers don't appreciate how expensive it is to have monkeys as pets: Their enclosure alone cost $10,000. You also need to spend a lot of time with them.
In the end, the amount Katia makes from the account isn't so noticeable because much of it goes toward the monkeys' expenses. "They can hold their own a little now," she says, laughing. "They can contribute to the family a little bit."
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