AKC Helps Dog Clubs Find Their Social Media Voice

illustration using social media terminology

I recently viewed the AKC’s webinar on “Finding Your Social Media Voice” which featured Brandi Hunter, the AKC’s Vice President of Public Relations and Communications. Ms. Hunter is clearly fluent in and enthusiastic about social media and covered a large amount of information in the hour scheduled.  I think I’ve got a fairly good grasp of the topic, and still felt like I was drinking from a fire hose of information. I am going to provide a broad overview of the webinar in this post, and plan to come back to it to cover more of the tactical details. I hope AKC Education will bring Brandi back to share more of her knowledge of this topic in future webinars.

SOCIAL IS BIG

Brandi shared that over 3.3 billion people use social media and the average person has almost 6 social media accounts. More than 4 out of 5 of small to medium size businesses use social media. She feels all dog clubs can benefit from using social media to reach out to their members, potential members, exhibitors, and the dog-loving public.

SEVEN SOCIAL TIPS FOR DOG CLUBS

  1. Start with one social media platform that best fits your content and abilities, but please create a social presence!  Social media is an important outreach tool, especially for younger audiences.
  2. Assign no more than one or two people to be the primary voice of the club so you have a consistent voice and tone
  3. Always be on the outlook for things your club can share with other dog lovers
  4. Social media is all about engagement, more important than the number of people who see or like your pages are the number of people who post and share your content.  Give them a reason to comment on your posts and encourage their interaction by asking for shares, comments, pictures, and videos.
  5. Post consistently, this can be one of the most difficult things for dog clubs who have one big event a year.  Share what your club and members are involved with throughout the year, not just leading up to or on your event weekend.
  6. Share relevant content from other places, the AKC has multiple social media accounts and plenty of content worth sharing.
  7. Make sure multiple people have admin access to the club’s social media, using a club email address as one of the admin accounts, for example, “social@myAKCclub.org” is a good idea to make sure someone from the club can always get access to the account.

THE SOCIAL BIG THREE

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the three most popular social platforms.  Each can be used to promote clubs and their events, and each has strengths aligned better with some uses than others.

Facebook LogoFACEBOOK

Sixty-eight percent of all adults in the USA have Facebook accounts, and it is the second most popular place to watch videos (after YouTube). Half of all Americans who don’t have Facebook accounts live with someone who does.

Facebook is the most versatile of the three platforms. It allows the use of videos, images and longer content than either Twitter or Instagram. You can create event pages, public and private groups and can live stream events through Facebook. Each of these tools can serve clubs to help build community and share news about their club and its activities. Creating a page for a specific event makes it easy to promote and also share content unique to that event.    Facebook is second only to YouTube in video views.   Clubs are encouraged to live stream events on Facebook as long as they are not duplicating a live stream that AKC is already doing.

Some of AKC’s Facebook Pages:  American Kennel Club, AKC Gazette, Canine Good Citizen, Family Dog, AKC Reunite, AKC Club Development, AKC Scentwork, AKC Sports

instagram logoINSTAGRAM

There are roughly 1 Billion monthly users on Instagram. Instagram is very visual, it is a great medium for promoting events and sharing short videos, but not links or long text. Instagram is owned by Facebook and has the youngest audience of the three social platforms discussed in the webinar. Brandi emphasized that Instagram users LOVE dogs and dog-related content.

The heaviest Instagram users are susceptible to Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO.) Sharing photos and videos of dogs and interesting events might trigger enough FOMO to get Instagrammers to check out your club and events. Brandi suggested that behind the scenes videos, for example, dogs being groomed, vendor spotlights, and juniors profiles were all great Instagram features.

Key to using Instagram is adding hashtags, which are keywords preceded by a # symbol.  Using 9-12 hashtags on your post is a good strategy, take some time to identify hashtags that are relevant to your club and events.  For starters, #dogsofinstagram, #dogs, and #puppies are relevant hashtags many people are following.

Some AKC Instagram accounts:  American Kennel Club, Museum of the DogAKC Sports, AKC.TV

twitter logoTWITTER

Twitter has 1.3 Billion accounts, but only 326 Million users, it has the lowest proportion of active users of all 3 platforms.  To use it effectively, you need to be one of those engaged accounts, a recommended posting frequency is 5 times a day; the volume of tweets moving through any given users feed is so high you need high frequency to get noticed.

This platform moves very fast and presents everything in chronological order, which can make it difficult to track and find tweets. It limits the length of messages to 280 characters and is not as easy to use for photos and video as Facebook and Instagram.   Twitter can be used effectively for customer service or event updates, where real-time information is important.

Some AKC Twitter accounts:  American Kennel Club, AKC Club Development, AKC Museum of the Dog, K9 Health Foundation

READY, SET, SHARE!

I’ve said this before, but I strongly encourage dog clubs to use social media to connect with their members, potential members, and the dog-loving public. The tools AKC mentioned in the webinar are all free to set up. Identify someone with the time and computer skills to set the accounts up, then work to find and collect content to share.  There is no doubt in my mind club members have lots of cute dog photos, pictures of club gatherings and other dog-related events stored on their phones and home computers, they just need to share the image files.

One way to make photo and video sharing easy would be to set up an account at an online photo sharing site like Google Photos. From there, members can share photos from their phones and computers so that your social media team can access and share them in club accounts.

I would love to see some club social links in the comments!

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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Facebook Pages for Dogs

Dogs in Social Media Infographic

While strictly speaking this post is more about dogs in social media than marketing per se, I just couldn’t resist a post about an article on Mashable which reported on a Lab 42 study and infographic about the number of dogs on Facebook.  It seems that about 14% of the people in the Lab 42 study had created Facebook pages for their dogs,  consistent with a UK study also reported on Mashable, which found that 10% of all UK pets have some sort of social media profile, including not only Facebook, but also Twitter and YouTube.  No mention of dogs on Linkedin, I’ve seen a number of dog-business interest groups, but no canines yet.

When I first saw these articles, I wondered how this squared with Facebook’s Terms of Use, which I thought limited profiles to real people, who are also permitted create pages and groups for other entities.  When I read the fine print, it just prohibits people from creating profiles without permission from  the person being profiled; given the large number of dogs on Facebook, I assume they fall within the rules.

Checking a couple of the dogs I’m associated with on Facebook , Rufus has a personal profile, while Satchel has a page.  I’m also friends with a few profiles that represent Bull Terrier kennels, an entity that I think is more human than canine, but perhaps a gray area. The most popular Facebook dog with over 1 million fans for his page,  is  Boo the Pomeranian.

NOTE: I recently noticed a thread on the Facebook group “AKC Judges Report Card” discussing whether judges should friend dogs, specifically dogs that might be shown under them, on Facebook.  The thought that the dogs might want to be careful who their friends are never crossed my mind when I created this post!

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Walmart expands ASPCA partnership

Lend A Paw LogoWalmart is expanding its partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA.) In addition to a line of ASPCA branded products featured in the Walmart pet department in 2008, the companies recently launched a co-branded Facebook page titled Lend A Paw and are sponsoring a Pet Fair in Miami on May 1, 2010.

MediaPost writes about the ASPCA’s promotional efforts including the Facebook page and partnerships with multiple pet product companies to promote April as National Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.  Walmart’s move to associate itself with this well-known animal charity shows that the company takes the pet market seriously and is trying hard to position itself as a caring, pet-friendly company.  This reminds me a bit of Warren G Harding’s promotion of his Airedale, Laddie Boy, as the First Dog, which helped deflect public attention from some of the more colorful aspects of his family life.

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More Dog Humanization: Dog Beer

Chihuahua enjoying Kwispelbier
Chihuahua enjoying Kwispelbier

Latest sighting in the humanization of dogs trend – my latest Dogs in Canada newsletter has arrived with an article about dog beers.   The article profiles three dog-targeted brews, Kwispelbier from the Netherlands, Australia’s Dog Beer created by an enterprising pet retailer, and the US entry,  Bowser Beer.  Bowser Beer even has its own Facebook page. Producers of these beverages claim they offer the product to raise awareness of the hazards of giving beer to dogs and allowing people who just can’t resist sharing a brew with their dog a safer option.  My opinion? Your dog (and your pocketbook) will be better off if he or she drinks fresh, clean water.

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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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Petco is all over Social Media

Petco Logo
Petco Logo

An article from the San Diego Union Tribune talks about the social media strategies of two area businesses, one of which is Petco.   Petco learned that employees were talking about the company on both Facebook and Twitter and decided to leverage those tools for the brand.  On Facebook, Petco has both a fan page and a group; the group encourages people to become a fan.  Petco also has an official Twitter account a YouTube channel and a blog on their main site; links to their social media accounts appear on the blog page. Not only does Petco use popular social media sites extensively, they also promote a pet-centric online community with zootoo.com through the Petco.com site.

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HBH Pet Products Social Media outreach

Petfood Industry reported on promotional efforts by HBH Pet Products on behalf of their No Grainers dog treats. These include a photo contest  co-sponsored by WalMart which is offering a $200 gift card as one of the prizes. They also ran a Twitter contest; consumers who follow HBH pet products and re-tweet (RT) a message about the contest were entered into a daily drawing to win a clicker and some treats.   The company has also launched both Facebook group and a Facebook page, allowing consumers to join or declare their fandom, respectively. I know I’ve seen debates as to which is better for commercial promotion and MBH seems to have come down squarely on the side of trying – both.

At the time I checked, which was after the Twitter contest concluded, the company had 200 followers, 17 group members and 6 fans, so I can’t say they’re getting the word out effectively. I often see promotions like this mentioned in MediaPost, but this one I have so far only seen mentioned in Petfood Industry, which has deeper coverage of industry promotions, but I would not think is as widely read. Of course, pet treat BUYERS are the ones who really need to know in order to improve these numbers.

Putting my consulting hat on, I’d recommend creating branded identities for No Grainers apart from the manufacturer in social media and also putting more investment into mass media to get the word out to dog owners about the treats – and the contest.   Grain-free products are riding a trend in pet food at the moment so there seems to me to be an opportunity to better leverage PR in support of this brand even if ad budgets are limited.

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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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Social Dog Marketing: Oh My Dog Supplies

Oh My Dog Supplies Logo

I recently encountered an online dog supplies company called Oh My Dog Supplies on Twitter.  Since following them, I’ve been impressed by their use of social media.  I checked out the website, which features an interesting collection of  premium quality dog products with a guarantee that you won’t find any of their items at a pet superstore.  They sent me a direct message on Twitter inviting me to their Facebook site, then from Facebook alerted me to gender-segregated Manly and Sexy dog photo contests which even offer prizes on top of your bragging rights!  Since I’m pretty set in my ways and dog purchase habits, I think they’ve done a good job getting me this engaged. Time will tell if I convert to a customer . . .

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