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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Growing a Family Dog Event With Effective Publicity

Expanding on my theme of promoting AKC all breed clubs through websites,  I found a 2015 post in the Canine Chronicle written by then AKC Public Relations Director, Stephanie Smith.  In it, she talks to Dr. Alan Dorfman, a show chair associated with one of the Michigan dog show cluster websites I mentioned in my review of the AKC club website webinarThe Michigan Winter Dog Classic includes the Oakland County and  Livonia kennel clubs which hold four of the largest all-breed conformation shows in the state. Their January show weekend includes rally, agility and obedience trials and they share space with a changing cast of other dog events, including the AKC’s My Dog Can Do That program open to the general public, which the public loves, but which can be controversial among competitors.   Dr. Dorfman went into more detail about how they changed the positioning of the event from dog shows to a family event when they added the My Dog Can Do That activity in another Canine Chronicle article.

The cluster’s secrets to success include being open to new ideas and balancing the needs of both exhibitors and spectators to make it an enjoyable and memorable event for all. The event also has procured sponsorships with local media and a dog food manufacturer and engages in multiple advertising and public relations tactics to focus attention on the event in the month leading up to the shows.  Click here to download the AKC’s guide for promoting dog clubs, which provides public relations fundamentals and templates.  NOTE: The link to this document is broken in the Canine Chronicle article.

It is clear from my perspective as a potential exhibitor that the cluster website is targeted at the general public rather than the exhibitors or the event-giving clubs. There are at least 9 different clubs involved in the cluster, and none of them are mentioned by name on the cluster website, only links to outside sites that host information about entering.  The only service providers of interest to exhibitors that are mentioned by name are the veterinarians and clinics involved in the health clinics.  This is consistent with the cluster’s focus on presenting as a family event rather than a series of dog shows and trials, and looking at the gate vs entries figures presented in the Canine Chronicle articles, this strategy is paying off, as total attendance is more than a 3X multiple of  total entries quoted in the article.

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Promoting Michigan Dog Events, Products, and Services

The Michigan Canine Resource Guide is a unique publication targeted to dog owners in Michigan.   Beth Mitchell launched this guide to dog-related events, products, and services in Michigan in 2015 and it has steadily grown as more organizations and advertisers contribute.

Beth was inspired by the Arizona Equine Resource Guide,  published by her sister who is active in equine events in that state.  Beth didn’t have a horse, but she does have a dog, and she had spent a lot of time and energy finding the best resources to train her dog and resolve some behavior issues.  She thought there had to be other people looking for a central repository of information on dog events and dog-related services, so the Michigan Canine Resource Guide was born.

Beth started gathering content for the publication in 2014, creating a dog-themed cover and using her sister’s equine guide as an example of the type of content (with horses) that would be featured.  She had booths at dog shows and dog expos around the state and asked people she met at those events how they publicized their events, then explained how the Guide could expand their audience.  She also asked for referrals to other types of events and host organizations she should include.  She solicited ads from other event vendors and asked for referrals to canine professionals, retailers, and manufacturers to find other potential advertisers.  Many lunch hours on her day job included ad sales calls!  Event-giving clubs and organizations are encouraged to contribute dog events for the calendar to help make the publication as complete as possible; there is no charge for the listing.  Advertisers not only appear in the publication, their events are promoted through weekly emails, they are listed in an online directory, and they contribute articles and blog posts that appear in the publication, on the website, or both. Beth retains a creative director who produces ads and other content as needed and has several part-time ad salespeople recruited from the dog community.

The publication is still promoted through booths at select dog events, and every year Beth attends new events to reach a wider audience.  The guides are distributed free at dog events, participating businesses, and pet specialty retailers.  The guide can be viewed interactively online or downloaded in pdf format from the Michigan Canine Resource Guide website.   In addition to the guide itself, the Michigan Canine Resource Guide has an online calendar of events on their website, a directory listing for all advertisers,  and blog posts on a variety of canine topics.  The Guide also has a Facebook page as well as Instagram and Twitter (@MiDogGuide) accounts. It stays in contact with dog enthusiasts through an opt-in weekly newsletter and advertisers also have an option to send sponsored emails to subscribers.  As the publication has grown, Beth has upgraded her marketing tools and currently uses WordPress for the website and MailChimp to manage her email subscription list.

The Michigan Canine Resource Guide has grown steadily in event listings, advertisers, and circulation since its launch.  Beth’s goal is to provide all Michigan dog owners with the resource they need to find local businesses, services, and events that will enable them and their dogs to live a healthy, happy life together. The biggest challenge is getting ALL the dog clubs in the state to contribute information about their events in a timely manner, so the event calendar is as comprehensive as possible.  Beth hopes that as the Guide becomes more and more of a “must have” for Michigan dog lovers, every canine organization or business will feel it’s an important element in their promotional plan.

 

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Facebook for Dog Marketing

Facebook LogoLinkedin’s Pet Online Marketing Group started a discussion(join the group to see the full discussion) about members’ Facebook pages which as of December 31, 2010 had generated over 170 responses.   I spent some time reviewing the sites posted in the last couple months and wanted to post some general observations.

My impression was that the Page vs Group decision favored pages,  but there were a few businesses that had a group page and one that was using a personal page (named after the business). The best pages include customized FBML pages that hardly look like Facebook at all, frequent posts with relevant, engaging content that spawn discussions among their fans. The weakest pages  were those whose information tab consists of a single link to their business site, and who rarely post anything to the business wall and have several blank tabs.

The array of businesses represented by people commenting on that Linkedin discussion was quite wide including pet products,  pet services, books about animals, marketing services, retailers, media, artshelters, clothing (for pets and people), and of course the leading MLM pet product, Life’s Abundance pet  food.  I know that a number of national and franchised pet businesses have Facebook pages as well, so I think this mix reflects the membership of the Linkedin group, not all Facebook pet-related pages.

Facebook is becoming an ever more popular and effective marketing tool. In closing I’d urge all pet marketers to use it, but make an effort to fully populate your page, remove any tabs you don’t use, and commit to regularly updating the Wall content as a bare minimum.  The more web-savvy may want to explore customizing their page with FBML Another point to remember is that fan pages with 25 or more fans can create a custom URL in the form of www.facebook.com/fanpage which is easier for visitors to find than the default URL that includes this info plus a numeric string.

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Iams ProActive dog food with prebiotics

Iams ProActive dog food
Iams ProActive dog food

Brandweek featured an article discussing Iam’s integrated campaign for its ProActive pet foods containing prebiotics.  The food has specific ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and should be distinguished from probiotic compounds like yogurt which contain beneficial bacteria, which would not live through the processing required to manufacture dry dog food.

Iams enlisted two spokes animals, one canine, one feline to promote their prebiotic foods. The dog, a Bulldog named Munch, has a Facebook page which has attracted over 1200 fans. All of the ProActive health products carry a distinctive swirled symbol on the packaging, which is carried over into point of purchase and print displays.  ProActive’s marketing uses he theme line  “I am beautiful inside” which was used across online, point of purchase, and television advertising.

These products show the increasing interest in nutraceuticals in human nutrition, which has spilled over into the nutritional interests for our pets.  I found the Iams website very carefully worded in its description of the benefits of  these products, avoiding any outright health claims.

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Bottled Water for Dogs

Sport Dog Spring Water
Sport Dog Spring Water

I’ve seen dog sport drinks, dog beer, and now I’ve discovered a bottled spring water  marketed especially for dogs.  Sport Dog water, which launched in 2007 is available for order online through the Thirstmonger site and also has distribution in the Eastern US through Royal Pet Supplies.  This bottled spring water meets all FDA regulations for human consumption, so owners can share a swig with their pet.  At $7.99 for 24 half liter bottles  pricing is in line with the retail prices of name brand bottled waters, but well above the weekly specials on water at my local Kroger store, especially if you add in (for my location)  $7.95 to ship it to Michigan.   A bit of a silly product, in my opinion, but a healthy choice for dogs – and their owners.

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Petco Promotes Organic Petfood

Petco logo
Petco Logo

DMNews reported on Petco‘s use of email marketing, including the recent addition of  content promoting organic pet foods.  These emails are supported by in-store seminars about organic foods as well as the Petco-sponsored Facebook page, Generation Natural Pet.  The article goes on to describe more details of the Petco e-communications strategy including species targeting, pet birthday greetings, and product reviews.

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Purina Petcentric Portal

PetCentric Logo
PetCentric Logo

I recently got my first email from Petcentric with a link to their site, which launched in 2006.  In a 2008 article in Promo Magazine the site is described as a social network, however most of the content is provided by the site’s owner, Purina and select partners, such as Yahoo! Answers (pet section.) There is content galore, including news about pets, pet blogs, pet games,  reviews, a pet service locator and pet photos and videos, which include user-generated content.  The site also has its own Twitter account @petcentric There is very little overt promotion of Purina products, although Purina sponsored events are a rich source of content for the site.  Just further evidence of Purina’s commitment to digital media with this engaging site that supports pet owners interests and in turn the Purina corporate brand identity.

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Blue Buffalo vs Hill’s Pet Nutrition: By-Product Battle

Carefully worded True Blue Buffalo Promise
Carefully worded True Blue Buffalo Promise

As premium dog food brands which claim to use higher quality and more appealing ingredients grow in market share, some traditional market leaders are pushing back in court. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, which produces Science Diet brand pet foods, has been aggressively pursuing manufacturers which it feels have used deceptive advertising for their products.  Blue Buffalo is their most recent target; Hills objected to their use of the phrase “Contains no by-products” when promoting Blue Buffalo products which contain fish meal, lamb meal, and liver.  Hills claims that guidelines for the meal ingredients do allow parts of the fish and sheep in the meal that most consumers would consider by-products; they also consider liver a  by-product.  Based on the NAD’s ruling Blue Buffalo altered  its advertising and web site (note carefully worded promises in sidebar) to conform to Hill’s demands, but has not altered its packaging, claiming the agency to which Hills complained, the National Advertising Division (NAD)  did not have jurisdiction over packaging claims. Blue Buffalo has said it intends to appeal this decision which was announced in May, 2009.

Pet food nutrition standards and labeling requirements were developed well before the current surge in interest in “human grade”, “organic”, and “natural” foods. As a matter of fact, none of these terms has a regulated meaning for pet foods so manufacturers can use them at will, with consumers having to decide for themselves whether the description is accurate.

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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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