We launched @Frenchie_Edition in May 2016 as part of a larger publishing project. The goal was to build a global community of French Bulldog owners, who can not only to learn what topics are of interest when it comes to their beloved little dogs, but also to find out more about how to use social media platforms like Instagram to generate funds and stimulate engagement between the community and other relevant channels.
A year and four months after launching the blog, @Frenchie_Edition grew and now has more than 74k followers. There were a few methods that helped us achieve this growth of followers in such short span of time:
Use The Right Hashtags
First, we looked up which hashtags Frenchie-owners used most. We selected the most popular hashtags and continue to refresh with other hashtags every now and then. To gain users from all over the world, we also tried to find out which hashtags were popular in different languages. At the beginning, we did all of this manually. Now, we use apps like Leetags to explore different hashtags.
We also make a point to avoid using hashtags that are unrelated to French Bulldogs. We rarely use hashtags like #love or #happy, because then you will only gain followers who won’t contribute actively to the French Bulldog community and won’t stimulate active interaction, which is crucial for legitimate growth and engagement.
Follow Similar Accounts
At the beginning, we followed accounts that directly related to ours, but we stopped doing this when we saw that the account was expanding the way we wanted. We also “liked” photos that interested us, and sometimes even asked the owners of the photos if we could feature theirs on our blog (with appropriate credit, of course).
Be Strategic With What Photos We Post
We chose not to post our own French Bulldog photos, but instead share photos taken by our contributors. People like to have their photos posted for different reasons. Some want to gain more followers, which naturally happens, since we always mention their username in our posts. Others like having their “fifteen minutes of fame”, to be able to showcase their beloved Frenchies to a larger audience, which they may not be able to reach so effectively without assistance from another account.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this strategy. The advantage of this is we have been able to convert these contributors into active “brand ambassadors”. This is also a great way to be able to engage with the followers within the community. We talk to them via private messages and work to convert them into our brand ambassadors. The disadvantage of this is we also get a lot of posts submitted to us that are of no added value, and therefore we cannot use. The process of selecting quality content is very time-consuming.
Know How Often To Post
We started posting 5 times a day, but now we only post about 3 times a day. Our largest audience is in the U.S., so it is important to post a new content on a frequent basis, and during peak hours, to ensure continued interest from our followers. More posts translate to more opportunities to engage with new followers.
Analyse, Analyse, Analyse…
With the help of Squarelovin, we found out which posts were the most successful in terms of engagement. Engagement is important to ensure our posted content makes it to the top ranking for certain hashtags. We discovered that puppies are incredibly popular, as well as photos of French Bulldogs playing with their owners. Furthermore, the tool gives a helpful overview of how the account is doing, which posting times are best (which we touched on above), and how much growth it has obtained. There are lots of other tools and apps that can do the same, and we tried out a few before we chose this particular one, because its features fit best with what we want to accomplish with our account.
In the beginning, the account grew quickly. Now, we see it’s more difficult to gain the same number of new followers every month. We know there is still a huge potential for growing our base, as evidence from the number of followers that other, similar blogs have.
Having an Instagram account sounds like fun, but is serious work. Luckily, we are not alone. The @Frenchie_Edition account is part of a larger initiative that was started by a team located in the Netherlands. Being a “mommy” to two adorable, but also very perky Frenchies named “Gucci” and “Truffel”, I realised that people who have other breeds do not necessarily like French Bulldogs.
Most blogs and websites focus on dogs in the general sense, which is why we decided to produce content for owners of specific breeds. In the Netherlands, we now have a blog about French Bulldogs (https://fransebulldog.hondenbaasjes.nl) and one about Chihuahuas (https://chihuahua.hondenbaasjes.nl). In Q4 of this year, we will launch our first website for the U.S. market, and hopefully follow with many other breeds and countries.
When the account achieved a substantial number of followers, we subscribed to services like Tapfluence, which are used by brands and agencies to find influencers. What we discovered is that the content we got from these platforms was low quality and could not generate revenue, because these platforms generally did not give us the opportunity to communicate directly with the advertisers. We were not able to advise on what would work better, compared to the content they proposed we use. In addition, we got an increasing number of e-mails from advertisers who found @Frenchie_Edition, just by searching on Instagram or through other online means. With these advertisers, we can make a custom plan, one that is more interesting and lucrative for both them and for us. We can advise them on the use of certain images, texts and hashtags that resonate better with our audience.
The pricing of the sponsored posts is always based on reach and impressions. We don’t work with affiliate propositions (pay-per-sale), because we believe that Instagram, at this moment in time, is more a tool for branding and awareness than for generating sales. This will probably change once shopping becomes more integrated into the Instagram ecosystem, but right now we feel this is the best system for us.
How Do Brands Track Sales?
The simplest way to track sales that come from influencers is by using Google UTM-URLs in conjunction with Google Analytics. If you give every influencer a unique URL, you can track things to the level of the individual influencer. Unfortunately, you can’t measure everything. You only can measure post-click transactions, but not post view, and it’s also difficult to measure across devices. For instance, if someone clicks on a link in the bio from Instagram, and later that day he buys the product via his desktop computer, you won’t know if this sale came from the influencer profile.
How to Maintain/Sustain Followership? And How Do You Monetize Your Offerings?
It takes a lot of effort to grow a follower-base and keep them engaged. You must keep posting regularly and keep trying new things. In the end, it comes down to always testing what’s working and what’s not. This also counts for monetization. You must be proactive when approaching potential advertisers. Whether you email them or find them in different Facebook groups, you must put lots of effort into it!
Our next step is to reach out to advertisers. At the moment, we are compiling a list of potential advertisers that we will reach out to with our standard advertising proposition.
Having Instagram, blog and related Facebook account means that we can start cross-promoting the contents on our Instagram. We will use the Instagram content on other platforms, and we suspect this will be an interesting proposition for advertisers, especially from the U.S., for whom we can post a product on Instagram and write a more in-depth article about their products on our blog. This is something we plan to figure out in the coming year.
Femke Marcar is Media Director at full-service digital agency MassMovement in The Netherlands. She’s specialized in digital advertising, social media, and content. Throughout her career, she has been working a lot with and for publishers, e.g. Sanoma, Telegraaf Media Group and more. Together with a partner, she started a publishing initiative in the pets industry. At this moment in The Netherlands, but next month the first platform will be launched in the US.