Marketing Dog Club Events with Facebook Advertising

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Social Media Training

In the spring of 2018, I attended a social media marketing workshop sponsored by Facebook at Ann Arbor SPARK. The course, which covered Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram promotions was underwritten by Facebook. The course covered the material and work necessary to receive a social media micro-credential. In Michigan,  sessions have been held in the greater Detroit/Ann Arbor area as well as in Grand Rapids. Each student needed to represent a local organization or business and we had quite a variety represented in our group, mostly non-profits, but also a few small businesses and a marketing consultant.  I represented The Bull Terrier Club of Metro Detroit, an AKC breed club that operates primarily in southeastern Michigan.  We also collaborate with the Midwest Miniature Bull Terrier Fanciers and the Miniature Bull Terrier Club of America during our fall specialty weekend.

Setting Up Facebook Pages and Instagram Accounts

The class was open to all, whether their organization had a Facebook or Instagram account or not.  Everyone in my class already had a Facebook page, but a number of us did not have an Instagram account. Our instructor, Lindsay Thomas walked everyone through setting up Facebook pages and organization Instagram accounts. She explained the difference between Facebook Pages and Groups and why Pages are better for promoting organizations.

Basics of Social Media Marketing

We learned how to create different types of posts and got tips for making them engaging.  Lindsay emphasized the importance of content that asks visitors to DO something, such as sharing pictures or commenting on a topic. Photos, videos, and links to your website are valuable to show people what your group does and can serve as an invitation to page fans to engage with your site.

Creating Facebook Ads

Every organization in the class received a Facebook advertising credit to help them get started.  We learned you can promote an existing post or event without creating anything new, or you can create an ad using Facebook ad center tools.     Once we decided which post we were going to boost, we had to select a target audience.   For my promotions which were for a local Bull Terrier specialty club, I decided to target men and women over 18 years of age, who were located in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, or Southwest Ontario (defined around cities in that region.)  I was able to browse to see what interests Facebook had identified that might be relevant.  I found I could target people interested in Bull Terriers, Bull Terrier rescue, and Miniature Bull Terriers, which was absolutely perfect for my club. Then you set duration and a budget (which you can pay through PayPal) and you are ready to go.

Instagram Advertising

We covered using Instagram advertising in the class, but to be honest I have not dedicated too much time to use it for our club.  The greatest hurdle to my adoption of Instagram for the Bull Terrier Club of Metro Detroit is that as an active exhibitor and club secretary, it’s difficult for me to both take a stream of photos documenting an event as well as participate in the event.  I can usually take some photos during setup and maybe awards, but the rest of the day I’m too busy to keep it up.

Does Facebook Marketing Work?

I do feel that Facebook marketing worked for our club.  I boosted our first post on May 2, 2018.  At that time we had 511 likes, up 110 from 401 likes the previous May.  As I am writing this in late February 2019, we have 653 likes, up 142 in just 10 months.  People who Like your Facebook page will be notified anytime you post an activity or create an event on your page, keeping your club top of mind. Boosting or advertising our page and events expanded our reach from the few hundreds that like our page to thousands of local people with an interest in Bull Terriers.  Facebook has an Insights section where you can view statistics about your page.    I can clearly see increases in both organic and paid traffic to our Facebook page around the time of each of our promoted events, our summer Bullyolympics, fall Specialty, and Winter Bull Terrier Fest.   I made a point of asking new people at our fun events how they had heard about the event, and each time I had at least one couple that said they or a friend had seen it promoted on Facebook.  We have had at least two couples join the club who found out about an event on Facebook, and overall our membership is up by 6 households (20%) compared to last year.

Is Facebook Advertising Cost Effective?

For our club, I think Facebook advertising is well worth the cost.  We are spending on average $25-$30 to promote each event for the month leading up to it, in a 4-state geographic area to people with a defined interest in breeds that rank 60th and 115th in popularity.  Other clubs with larger targets may spend more, but you also have a larger potential for return on your investment.

My Advice to Dog Clubs – Go For It!

I would highly encourage dog clubs to follow our example and try Facebook marketing.  Just starting with a page where you can show photos of your activities, answer questions, and promote your events will expand your reach to the dog-curious public.  Boosting posts is very easy, creating ads is not much harder.   For less than you’d spend on one dog show entry, you can reach a lot of people who may not even know there is such a thing as a dog club.  You can introduce the joy of doing things with your dogs to a lot of new people, gain members, and sow the seeds that will lead to more dog show engagement in the future.   Facebook-funded workshops are being held in many locations, search for the term “Facebook Microcredentials” with your location to see when there will be one near you.  Facebook also offers  free online marketing courses.  Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like help getting started. If your club has a Facebook or Instagram presence, I’d love to see it, please share a link in the comments section.

Cleo  Parker

Cleo has been showing Bull Terriers in AKC events and working with dogs and dog clubs since she was a teenager. Her professional career has been spent working in marketing insights and analytics in a variety of industries, including automotive, advertising, and pet specialty retail.

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Hopping on The Canine DNA Test Bandwagon

wisdom panel logoI tested my dog Iris using the Wisdom 4.0 DNA test, which is marketed to people who are curious about what breeds make up their dog’s heritage. I was not surprised to find out that she was 100% Bull Terrier, and I was pleased that she wasn’t carrying genes for either of the two genetic diseases included in the test, but this was also no surprise as neither is a known issue in her breed.  The only breed-specific disease in Bull Terriers with a DNA test is Lethal Acrodermatitis, which has a single-gene test available through PennGen at the University of Pennsylvania.  Using the Wisdom Panel piqued my interest in the in-home tests and the reasons they are growing in popularity.

I tested Iris at the request of Dayna Dreger, who is a canine research scientist at Purdue University. I met Dayna early in 2018 at a dog show in Indianapolis where she was collecting DNA for a project involving canine feet.  She’s currently working on a dog color genetics project. Iris is black brindle but is starting to get more and more brown mixed in areas that used to be pure black, and Dayna noticed a photo of her on Facebook and wanted to include her DNA in  her project.   Check out a report on Dayna’s work identifying the relationships between dog breeds around the world, including some cool visualizations.

Popularity of In-Home DNA Testing is on the Rise

People are buying more DNA tests for their dogs, once again following a human trend to find ancestry and relatives through in-home DNA tests as shown in these charts based on Google Trends search data. Both types of tests see searches spike in November, suggesting they are being purchased as gifts.  (NOTE: The spike in general DNA test search in April 2018 may be related to DNA Day on 4/25/18 – the canine DNA test companies seem to have missed this marketing opportunity!)

 

Health Reasons to Test Canine DNA

Dog breeders should do relevant DNA testing, for heritable diseases to avoid matings that could produce affected puppies. Purebred dog owners can find out if theirs dogs are at risk for an adult-onset disease.   Many of the breed-specific tests are offered individually through universities, like the LAD test for Bull Terriers and Miniature Bull Terriers, but some also come bundled in DNA panel tests like the more expensive Wisdom Panel Health Test.  The number of tests and laboratories offering these tests is exploding, and canine health advocates are trying to help people find and select tests by creating a harmonized database of available tests.   Dog owners should careful when interpreting DNA-linked disease gene findings in breeds or mixes which are not the same breeds studied to initially identify the disease-linked genes.  Similar diseases in different breeds can have different genetic profiles, and misinterpreting a DNA report can have disastrous consequences for individual dogs.

Testing to Determine Parentage

Purebred dog owners can also test DNA to determine parentage.  The American Kennel Club requires that sires whose semen is collected and shipped for fresh chilled or frozen breedings be DNA tested so if there is any question, parentage can be confirmed. DNA profiles also come in to play for litters with multiple sires or in cases where purebred puppies’ parentage is disputed or unknown.  Yes,  there are scenarios in the purebred dog world that would be right at home on  Jerry Springer!  The AKC tests are used to determine parentage, or specifically to rule parents in or out, not to identify the breed of the dog in question.  The AKC tests are most akin to DNA tests conducted on crime scene artifacts and for paternity tests to identify parentage with confidence. AKC does some direct marketing of these tests to new AKC titlists who can receive a colorful certificate displaying their dog’s DNA profile.

Should You DNA Test Your Dog?

People who are curious about the breeds in your dog’s family tree have a number of commercial DNA test options, but results will not necessarily be identical across all the DNA tests out there. The number and breeds of dogs used to establish the profiles are not identical across all the tests, so results should be considered directional rather than definitive.  The Wisdom Panel has a fun quiz that illustrates how difficult it can be to guess which breeds are behind a given dog based on appearance.

DNA testing for dogs can be used to improve dog health, inform breeding decisions,  identify parentage or likely breed makeup for a specific dog.  Caution needs to be used using DNA to learn about dogs’ genetic risks; within a breed, consulting with your breed parent club can help you understand which tests are relevant and how to interpret results.  If you have a mixed breed dog, more caution is needed before interpreting disease gene data, as what is known within a single breed may not apply to other breeds or combinations of breeds.

 

Black Brindle Bull Terrier
Iris – GCH Ch Nuance Night in Tunisia, ROM, CGC, TKN

DNA Test result graph 100% Bull Terrier

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Research on Senior Pets and Overweight Pets

Packaged Facts announced the publication of a new report analyzing the need for products targeted at senior pets, overweight pets and special needs pets in the US.  The report notes that according to American Veterinary Medical Association and Association for Pet  Obesity Prevention research, the proportion of American pets in these groups is higher than the market shares for products targeted at them. This indicates an opportunity for product manufacturers and retailers who can convince these pets’ owners to purchase products addressing their specific conditions.

According to the most recent research by the AVMA and APOP, over 40% of pets are either over the age of 6 or overweight, their studies did not indicate what proportion of pets fall into both categories.   In a related story, Petfood Industry magazine reported on a study which found that Beagles who were allowed to overeat a diet that included human snacks re-gained weight at much lower caloric intake levels than those required to gain weight in the first phase of the study.

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Nutro dog food plans Meetups

Nutro dog food logo
Nutro dog food logo

Petfood Industry reports that Nutro has partnered with Meetup.com to sponsor 60 Meetup groups. The sponsored groups include a variety of  existing dog Meetup groups across across North America, including specific breed groups, rescue groups and the Denver Yappy Hour all-dogs social group.  Nutro is hosting a kick-off Meetup on September 16, in New York City which features an appearance by celebrity veterinarian Dr Marty Becker. It’s not clear how the groups were selected for this promotion, although I do see that groups can signify that they are seeking sponsors and Meetup will facilitate the process for sponsors wishing to sponsor 50 or more Meetup groups.  On the promotional webpage for its Meetups, Nutro also mentions its Facebook fan page however, I see no mention of the Meetup there.

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Taco Bell Spokesdog passes

RetailWire alerted me to an LA Times article reporting on the death of Gidget, the Chihuahua best known for her role in the  Taco Bell “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” campaign which ran from 1997-2000.  Gidget was 15, and suffered a massive stroke at home.

This Taco Bell campaign became a cultural icon, despite  criticism both for perpetuating Latino  stereotypes and promoting impulse purchases of Chihuahuas.

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Dogtime Media’s Save-a-Dog Facebook app

MediaPost reports that Dogtime Media has just launched the Save A Dog Facebook application with the support of Frontline as its exclusive advertiser through September. The application allows users to check out adoptable dogs by breed and location, and then virtually foster, walk, and send dogs to their friends. Points are earned for downloading the app and all virtual interactions with the rescue dogs.

For every 2500 points earned, DogTime will donate the equivalent of one cup of food to rescuegroups.org, a technology provider which creates online solutions for rescue groups and will use the funds to lower the costs of their services to those groups.  This is the first time I’ve seen an organization looking for volunteers to provide technical services rather than the traditional food, toys and pet supplies for rescue.

A comprehensive campaign is planned utilizing DogTime’s network of advertisers, bloggers, and newsletter subscribers as well as its Twitter stream. Partners Frontline and rescuegroups.org will also participate in campaign extensions.

A personal criticism of the application’s functionality: The breed selection tool could be better, as my search for Bull Terriers near my zip code yielded hundreds of pit bulls, but I saw no actual “English” type Bull Terriers such as I own. Which reflects the balance of those breeds in rescue, I’m sure, – I just wish the listing “Bull Terrier” was better targeted to match the dogs.  This problem may be limited to breeds with similar names, but it reduces the attractiveness of the app for people who can’t find dogs like the ones they own to send to people who also own those dogs (who happen to make up the majority of my Facebook friends.)

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Dog Product Placement: Master Dog food

Ad Age shared a report from Martin Lindstrom regarding a clever dog food product placement in Venezuela.  Master Dog food was a sponsor of the reality show La Granja Vip –  a version of an international reality format known as The Farm. They wanted to integrate their brand with the show and decided to have a dog representing the brand’s signature breed, the Golden Retriever, appear as a contestant on the show.  The dog, named Master, became an extremely popular character on the show and in turn a highly sucessful promotion for the company. Martin says Master worked so well as a product placement by meeting all three goals for product placement:

1. Make sure the product is relevant and necessary to the plot

2. Make the brand the hero

3. Ensure the product image remains the same across all  touch  points

The dog, which appears on on the brand’s site and many of its product labels as well as in the show, satisfied the goals on all counts.

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Dog Breed Owner Reviews

I’ve been thinking about launching a website as my own educational playground and have finally landed on a topic – reviewing tough dog toys – and purchased a domain name.  So I’ve been tooling around the web looking at review sites looking for design ideas.  Couldn’t find any dog toy sites that really stuck my fancy so I decided to check out baby toy sites and ended up on a general review site called Viewpoints.  Baby pages featured a classic review/ecommerce site design, then I noticed they had a pet section, so I clicked to look at that (exact same layout, naturally.)  But here I found something interesting – dog owner reviews of  their dog breeds.  The sidebar promised there were 232 reviews, but clicking on it revealed these were spread across just 38 breeds.  What I found interesting was that on a 5 point scale, the lowest score was a  4.0 – for the  “Shitz Tsu” (people who correctly spelled the breed name, Shih Tzu scored it at 4.64) and most were around 4.8.  I guess no one wants to spread a cautionary tale – or kept a dog they’d rate lower than a 4.0.  Actually I noted some of the lower ratings were by people who didn’t own the breed, but knew someone who had one they didn’t like.  The most reviewed dog was the  American “Pitt” Bull Terrier with 37 reviews, for the most part glowing reviews with quite a few pit rescuers represented.

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