Ever thought your pooch was destined to be a star?
That’s what Loni Edwards thought back in 2013 when she set up the Instagram page @chloetheminifrenchie to show off her adorable french bulldog.
Her photogenic pup became a social media sensation, leading Loni to open her own doggie talent agency in 2015.
Now the pet guru, 37, is sharing advice on how you too can make your pet an instagram celebrity in a new book, How To Make Your Dog #Famous.
You studied law at Harvard so how did you leave your career to pose with a dog?
I’d given up corporate law and was running a fashion tech company when I found a French bulldog puppy on a US pet finder website.
The second I saw her photo, I thought, ‘This is my child!’ I fell in love the moment I met Chloe and she 100% changed my life.
Initially I started an Instagram account to share sweet photos and videos of her with friends and family.
I wanted to document my experience of getting my puppy and bringing her home, and share the joy that oozed out of my pictures.
As my following grew, I started being approached by brands and realised there was a whole new world of pet influencers.
I helped other animal owners with their contracts, using my legal background, then in 2015 launched The Dog Agency – the first talent management agency for pet influencers.
You’re on the lookout for wet noses, floppy ears and big soulful eyes to sign up?
I get thousands of emails every day and we start considering accounts that have at least 50,000 followers – that’s roughly our starting point. Once they are signed, our job is to help them grow their business.
It’s an incredibly happy industry because people love animals and they are so grateful they can make money and be creative.
Also, pet influencers are safe – they don’t say offensive things. Everyone loves them. Our talent management agency represents about 150 pets and their people exclusively.
Is there any breed that works better as an Instagram or TikTok star?
Anything can work and any breed or mixed breed of dog will do. It’s about creating something that makes people laugh or be happy, or gives them some sort of value.
So it doesn’t matter if your dog is big or small or blonde or black. Yes, dark dogs
can be harder to photograph, but I’ve included a chapter in my book on finding the correct lighting for a black dog.
Certain breeds can have ‘character’ faces. Goldendoodles, dachshunds and golden retrievers have all kinds of expressions, while my current French bulldog, Emma Bear, literally smiles.
Loni’s top tip for making it big on Instagram
‘Work out what interests you and make that your friend. You need your pet Instagram feeds and TikTok videos to be fun and rewarding so you don’t get bored’
What advice would you give someone who wants to launch their pet as a star?
People don’t realise you’re building a business – coming up with the brand, creating content, editing photos and videos, responding to comments and coming up with ideas – so make sure you have time for it. If your pet doesn’t like getting dressed up, don’t push it.
But once you’ve established your style, you need to respond to your online community, show your audience you care about them and build relationships online by responding to questions.
Be prepared to go on adventures with your pet. A lot of the accounts go out to seek cool scenery and different backdrops. It’s a good way to keep the account interesting.
Is there a trend for animal Instagram stars?
You can go in different directions but I always advise people to make it authentic because enthusiasm and passion really come over in the content.
So if you love cooking and food, make the Instagram account about your food travels with your dog as your critic. @popeyethefoodie was started by Ivy Diep and her mongrel dog, Popeye, who pulls incredibly humanlike expressions around food and has more than 406,000 followers.
He loved to dine out with Ivy so the idea grew from there. Meanwhile, Italian greyhounds are a breed that has to be kept warm, and Tika had just one red sweater and a black collar when her Instagram account started.
Now, @tikkatheiggy has 1.1million TikTok followers, has posed in knitted snoods and knee-high boots in Vogue, and last year her ‘Love it, Couldn’t Wear It’ TikTok video was shared by Oprah.
What happened to your beloved Chloe?
I lost her when she was four years old and she underwent a procedure at the vet’s but died from a mistake. I was devastated and I took a two-year hiatus from Instagram.
We had been such a team – we were recognised on the plane flying to Europe and stopped by fans in Starbucks. I have Emma Bear now but I post less with her.
Mistakes, you’ve made a few?
I learned in my early days to pay attention to scenery. I’d do photo shoots and take 50 different snaps, then go home only to realise – too late – that the dog’s ears were cut off or there was an odd shoe walking into shot or Chloe had a lamp post seemingly growing out of her head. So I realised you have to take shots and examine them closely.
What it’s really like to work as a pet influencer
Regular hours: No. Post and engage followers all the time. The great thing about this job is flexi-hours.
Salary: Influencers with 100,000 followers are getting a couple of thousand dollars per post, and those with millions of followers fetch £10,000 per post, with more money from branded ads, merch, licensing and book deals.
Short and sweet advice Pets are unpredictable so prepare.
Has the Instagram pet industry grown since Covid?
Massively. When lockdown happened more people were getting dogs, they had more free time and they were forming closer bonds with their pets, who in many cases were their only companions.
Now you’ve written a guide to making your dog famous…
Writing the book was my dream but I never had time and then Covid happened and the publisher approached me in early March 2020, and I had time to do it because the world was on hold. The rise of TikTok upped the appetite for cute pets.
Loni Edwards’s How To Make Your Dog #Famous (Laurence King Publishing) is out now, £12.99
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