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How to make your pet an Instagram influencer

Turning your pet into a bonafide Instagram celebrity is hard work, but it can be lucrative if you can pull it off.
Credit: 9NEWS
An orange tile that looks like the one used to promote the Fyre Festival.

All this week on 9NEWS Mornings, we're highlighting some of the unique Pets of Instagram. Watch us starting at 4:30 a.m. on 9NEWS! 

KUSA – If you’ve seen the Fyre festival documentaries, you might be a little wary of the whole “influencer” thing.

But this isn’t a story about an upper-class version of “Lord of the Flies” or the horror that could result from gourmet cheese sandwiches. This is a story about the type of Instagram celebrity that we can all support: animals.

RELATED: These 21 stories about how 9NEWS viewers met their pets will warm your cold, dead heart

Everyone loves a cute dog or cat – and animals on Instagram with upwards of 100,000 followers can net up to $5,000 for posts that shill brands. Some of the most famous pets of Instagram can earn $15,000 for cute photos that also happen to have a little bit of product placement.

But, according to some online research, the animal influencer market is getting a little bit competitive. What does this mean? Well, if you’re hoping your cute dog is your ticket to an early retirement, becoming an influencer is basically a full-time job – and even hours of work doesn’t guarantee success.

Step 1: Have a niche 

There are lots of pets on Instagram. Your dog might be a special, beautiful, glorious treasure that is near and dear to your stage-parent heart, but it takes more than just being cute to make it in the cutthroat influencer world.

The most-followed animal on Instagram is Jiff the Pomeranian, who is basically a model and is famous for being able to walk on two legs.

His fluffy head also adds to his influencer status – and prompted Ke$ha to refer to him as her boyfriend on Instagram.

And, look no further than Grumpy Cat as a model for success: His humans were able to leverage his uniquely angry face into icon status.

Jiff has seven million followers and grumpy cat has 2.4 million, but there are plenty of pets with unique niches and 100,000 followers, from Simon the backpacking kitty to Ludwik the Guinea pig, a bald creature who touts going from an abandoned pet to an Instagram celebrity in a year. 

One piece of advice learned from a New York Times writer? Don't try too hard with your niche. Pets are cool. Pets and food? That might be too much, and overly segment your audience. 

Step 2: Building your following 

There are few success stories when it comes to buying followers. What does this mean? You don’t need to shell out tons of cash for your pet to become an Instagram celeb, but you do need plenty of time.

Experts recommend a consistent posting schedule -- and a uniform visual look to your posts. This could involve investing in a high-quality DSLR, or at least making yourself better at your iPhone camera.

And when it comes to the posting schedule, optimize it for the most engagement. This could mean posting first thing in the morning and then at midday, depending on your audience’s habits.

Next, research hashtags to ensure that people can easily find your pet. This means the usual ones – like #cute or #catsofinstagram – and ones that are more niche and have less competition, like #dogseatingfood.  

The next step is engaging with both the people who follow your pet as well as fellow influencers. There’s a reason why the Fyre festival became a thing: It leveraged the power of people discovering content (i.e. those orange tiles shared by models) through people they trust. 

Basically, if you can get Kendall Jenner to share your pet’s photo, you’re in the clear.

Step 3: Start monetizing 

Once you feel like you have a solid following, it’s time to start reaching out to brands and sharing how you can help them.

Start small: Maybe it’s a picture with some boutique pet food in exchange for a free sample. A cash flow probably won’t come until later, when the big brands want to interact with you.

When that happens, previous articles claim that being a big-time pet influencer is a full-time job, with extra focus on the copy of various posts and the style of the brand placement.

It’s a hard job, but no one said being a pet influencer was easy.

Step 4: Think outside of Instagram 

Grumpy Cat now gets paid tons of money to attend conventions. There’s merchandise and calendars, and he even has his own emoji.

Of course, it took hard work to get to the point where Grumpy Cat became an icon … but he’s shown that anything is possible.

Good luck influencing!

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