I recently read an article in FastCompany called “Dog influencers are so popular, they need their own talent agency” and felt – OMG is this another ad for that famous celeb dog agency, or what? And indeed, it was.
You see, social media influencer marketing is a new frontier in marketing. It just at its beginnings. It’s very raw. So it is entirely excusable that people make some fundamental mistakes about it, especially related to understanding influence.
It is easy to understand why everyone is excited about dogs on social media. Dogs are an excellent choice to influence on social media (especially on Instagram) because they are super cute, wise, non-judgmental, not corrupt, and very photogenic. They are creatures sent from heaven to be our BFFs, and just seeing them makes people feel less stressed (by lowering the stress hormone cortisol). It’s also a fact that, as our best friends, they have had a huge impact on social media platforms – Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and yes, even on LinkedIn (how interesting is that!). Many of them are real influencers, that’s undeniable.
I have direct experience with the dog influencer world through my own dog, Mishu, and her DearMishu account.
From my experience as an influencer that works with brands, and as a brand owner myself, I believe that many in the dog industry still don’t have a good grasp of influencer marketing — and I’m starting to think that that’s what the dog agencies want.
There are four major problems with what we are hearing from the dog industry, its agencies and – yes – with reporters who write pieces like the one in FastCompany. Those issues are, in no particular order:
1. They’re stuck on celebrity marketing
Influencer marketing is often confused with celebrity marketing. It is not the same! We know by now that humans don’t need to be famous to be an influencer, and dogs accounts don’t need to be famous dogs that pose in human clothes like a Hollywood celebrity to be an influencer either.
On the contrary, any dog can be an influencer, as long as:
a) it owns a social media account (twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc)
b) the dog has a great relationship with its followers, almost on a daily basis (and sometimes at night!), and works hard to build that relationship.
Since what makes a dog influential are close relationships, influencer dogs do not need to have as many followers as celebrities do. Even a dog with 50 followers (that has great relationships with them!) will do!
I’ve tested this idea many times and I am confident that the number of followers does not equal influence, yet reporters repeat this fiction over and over, and dog influencer agencies repeat it again and again… in fact, dog influencer agencies use it as the standard to promote their clients. I wonder why.
Is it because they are too old school?
Is it because they don’t understand the name of the game?
Is it because they think WE don’t understand the name of the game?
Is it because they want the old game to stay so they can fool us?
Conspiracy is all around. lol.
2. They don’t understand that influence happens in a niche.
I’ve found out that it’s much easier to influence when you build your community/influence around a niche topic that you are crazy about. So – for my DearMishu – she is an Advice Columnist, from a dog’s prospective. That’s a niche! Or if a dog account focuses on different dog shoes, or socializing dogs, or dog anxiety — that’s a niche too.
This is really different than just selecting “general cute dogs in clothes” accounts to work with (unless your product is dog clothes).
When influencers are focused on a niche topic, it shows (but please don’t say they are “authentic” — PLEASE. Authenticity has nothing to do with influence).
The result is that their followers are here to follow them LONG-TERM, because they are crazy about that topic too (and the relationship). They wait eagerly to hear what the influencer has to say about the topic, daily
THESE are the Influencers who can bring new conversations to their followers* (as long as its related to their niche), but too many overlook this crucial factor.
*Such as a new brand.
3. They focus on dogs who act like humans
Many, many (although not all) of the dog accounts supported by dog agencies are focused on dogs dressing and acting like spoiled, snarky, lazy, or otherwise misbehaving humans.
I get it — dogs in clothes can be cute, especially if they are cute-ugly dogs. And humanization is a huge trend in the dog industry, meaning that humans treat their dogs like mini humans and want to care for them the way they would a human. But neither of those things require one to have dogs dressed as humans, acting like humans-behaving-badly, as so many of these accounts do. That’s so old school.
People who love dogs love them because they are loving, loyal, and live in the moment, among other things. More accounts that have humans acting like dogs, or dogs just being dogs, would be a better direction for the dog agencies. Do these people know anything about dogs at all, or even like them?
4. They don’t see dogs as content creators
After analyzing influencers for years, I’ve concluded that one of the major benefits of hiring them is the content they provide. (Good) influencer content is genuine, native, interesting, and pays great attention to detail. They fire up their base! They are experts at starting a new conversation! Once the brands hire their services (woof woof!), they’ll own that content, which they can:
anytime, anywhere, for many months to come.
It is true that brands have their own content people. But after a while the content becomes repetitive and somehow dull. Owning such new content is a goldmine, and has a huge ROI in and or itself.
And for some reason, dog agencies don’t understand that and don’t recognize that. For them, it’s all about the “dog as model” model, rather than the content creation.
Thank you for reading. LMK your thoughts?