Community - the Missing Ingredient

Before you’re able to grow your community on social media, you’ve got to figure out two essential things:

  1. WHY  do you want to grow your community?
  2. WHAT does community mean to you?

Ask yourself WHY am I spending so much time on social media posting picture and videos of my adorable dog? Maybe you’re there just to share pics of your adorable pooch with friends and family? Maybe you want your pup to be the next Jiff Pom or Doug the Pug? Or maybe you’re sharing training or grooming tips, promoting your pet apparel business, demonstrating your best DIY recipes, or trying to meet other dogmoms in your area? All legit reasons to be in the pet industry, right?

But if your WHY includes being a pupfluencer and monetizing your account, your growth strategy has to include building a community and not just an audience. The difference may seem obvious, but a lot gets lost in the constantly changing social media landscape. Just like your dog is chasing her tail in circles and getting nowhere fast, you might be doing the same thing on social by focusing only on the number of followers and not on your relationship with followers.

The point is that the old “if you build it, they will come” simply doesn’t work anymore. Your content might be top notch but if you only have followers and not a community, then you will not be able to grow your engagement rate as quickly as you’d like. And even if you’re not focused on becoming an influencer, community still matters because let’s be honest, it’s no fun spending time perfecting your content, capturing that perfect picture or creating the perfect video to hop on the latest TitTok or Instagram reels trend, only to hear crickets when you drop your post.

Focusing on WHAT community is and why it matters is critical to growing your engagement rate on social. This is way different than simply growing your account. So, what is community?

Community is a sense of belonging. It’s a place where people have shared values, common interests, and goals, and where they go to feel:

  • Welcome
  • Safe
  • Comfortable
  • Happy
  • Loved
  • Accepted
  • Supported

To figure out what your community is, think about what are you interested in? Do you want to connect with people who support rescue agencies, travel with their dogs, or have the same breed that you have? Once you decide what you’re interested in, start by following a couple small and medium hashtags that relate to your interest to find other dog accounts with similar interests.

For example – if you are into raw feeding, then follow some hashtags in that industry like #rawfeddogs or #rawfeedingcommunity. Then look at some of the top and recent posts on those hashtags to find other accounts who share your interests. When you find an account that seems like a good fit, start supporting them by following them and slowing start engaging on their posts.

Do you make people feel welcome when they comment on your post? Followers are looking for a place where they belong and even though most connections made on social media are only virtual, you can make real connections with people and build your community. The key is to start by engaging with others in a genuine way, and welcoming people into your community with your comments and responses. It's a good idea to send new target followers a DM and say thanks for following, what can you do to support their account? Don't be afraid to share the spotlight with other accounts that you're engaging with. By lifting others up rather than tearing them down, you will build your community of loyal followers. 

PRO TIP: Building your online community does not happen overnight. It may take months to get to know people or to get someone’s attention. Don’t bagger people by sending them DM’s all the time or forwarding your posts by DM, especially if they don’t reply. And don’t send DM’s to other accounts asking them for a “follow for follow” or to share your post when they don’t even know who you are. A better way to get their attention is to follow them and build a relationship gradually by commenting on their posts and stories.

Here’s an example - If you’re into hiking with your dog, then you’re naturally going to gravitate to other dog accounts who love the outdoors as much as your do. Start with people in the same geographic region where you live. Read their posts and make a meaningful comment. Rather than saying something like “we love to hike too” which elicits almost no response, ask specific questions like “do you have any recommendations for beginner hikes that we can do in a day?” or “does Cooper ever have trouble getting up steep slopes?”

And if you have 500 followers, don’t expect someone with 50K followers to respond to all of the comments on their post, or every question you ask. Start building your community with similar sized accounts and get to know people with similar interests by interacting with their posts and stories.

Once you build your community, you’ll have the benefit of devoted followers. That’s the key difference between a community, where followers are loyal to you and support you, and an audience, where your followers will get up and walk out if they don’t like your latest post!

Stay tuned for our upcoming Blog posts with more tips on BUILDING YOUR COMMUNITY and HOW to grow your Instagram account and your brand by Introducing You!