I’m a dog. Or more precisely, I was born in the Year of the Dog.
Being a Chinese, I’m excited about the upcoming Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays where we celebrate the arrival of the Dog Year (15 February 2018). I felt that it may also be instructive to sniff around the qualities of a dog, and what made them such runaway successes in the animal kingdom.
Popularly known as “man’s best friend,” dogs are one of the most well-liked animals on the planet. These canines are ubiquitous and can be found on virtually every continent and island on the planet, accompanying humans wherever we may go.
Unlike other animals, domesticated or wild, dogs come in a wide range of shapes and sizes – from the highly energetic Siberian Husky, diminutive Chihuahua to bear-sized Tibetan Mastiff. Bred and trained around the world, they act not only as household pets but perform important jobs in protection, search and rescue, narcotics busting, bomb and gun detection, sled pulling, sheep herding, guiding the visually impaired and a whole lot more.
As a social media marketer, I’ve always been curious to know why dogs are so successful online. Just scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed – chances are that you’ll see a dog video, photo, meme, gag, or metaphor on any given day.
On the Internet, every dog has his day. And then some.
Why are dogs so “pawesome” online? What lessons can we learn from these adorable animals?
#1 Be Adaptable
From rescuing climbers trapped in the snow-capped mountains on the Swiss Alps to sniffing out criminals in a Police unit, dogs are highly flexible and trainable. They can adapt to virtually any role entrusted to them.
In the always changing world of social media algorithms, we social media marketers need to be as adaptable as our canine companions. Even old dogs (like me) can learn new tricks.
#2 Focus on Others
Unlike aloof and self-centred cats, dogs are all about giving. They give you their fullest attention when you return home from work or school, and love to be around humans.
Greatly communal in nature, dogs love to hang around in packs. They are also great listeners, even if they can’t really understand what you are telling them.
Being customer-centred is a key success factor in social media marketing. Often, we are so fixated with our brands, companies or products that we fail to listen to and respond to our online communities.
Like a dog, let us perk our ears (and eyes) to focus on our customers, and train ourselves to serve their needs.
#3 Offer Variety
As I’ve mentioned, dogs come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and dimensions. Don’t believe me? Just look at the poster below to see the amazing range of dog varieties on every land mass.
Courtesy of Amazon
Beyond their physical dimensions, dogs can also perform an amazing range of tricks:
- Play Dead
- Roll Over
- Respond to Name
- Lie Down
- And a whole lot more…
Like our canine buddies, consider how you can use different tricks, tips and tactics to engage your social media audience. These may include user tips, motivational quotes, fun contests, customer stories, “live” events, Q&As, product spotlights and others to continually excite them.
#4 Be Responsive
Trained well, dogs are highly responsive pets who can provide companionship to pet owners young and old. Gentle and loving, they charm us with their energy and enthusiasm at virtually all hours of the day.
Similarly, consider how you can respond to your fans on your Facebook page, or reply to every Tweet – be they positive, neutral or negative. Where possible, establish SOPs so that there is little ambiguity on how these should be done by your team.
Being responsive also means that you are constantly attuned to the needs, wants and interests of your community. Monitor what works and what doesn’t using social media analytics, and tweak your content accordingly.
#5 Foster Loyalty and Trust
Supremely loyal to their owners, dogs have been known to wait for their owners day after day at the same place during the same time.
The story of Hachiko the dog has captured the hearts of millions in Japan and around the world. Immortalised by a statue beside the Shibuya Train Station in Tokyo, Hachiko (or Hachi) was fiercely loyal to his owner Eizaburo Ueno. Every day, Hachiko would wait for his owner at the Shibuya Train Station after he was trained to do so.
Unfortunately, his owner Eizaburo died from a brain haemorrhage just two years after Hachi was born. Despite having new owners, Hachi faithfully continued to visit the train station morning and afternoon each day for 10 years, waiting in vain for his original owner to return.
Hachiko’s story was so moving that a Hollywood movie was made to honour Japan’s most famous canine.
Like Hachiko, you need to be dependable and loyal to your online communities.
Provide regular updates to your social media pages and accounts, and faithfully devote time to curating and creating content that educates and entertains your fans. Commit yourself to making time for them each day, week, or month.
#6 Be Helpful
Dogs are amazingly helpful, and have assisted humankind in so many ways throughout our existence. From protecting our homes, shepherding our livestock, to sniffing out illicit substances, dogs are indispensable companions.
Equipped with superior hearing, sense of smell and eye sight, service dogs have been employed to help their less mobile (and often elderly) human owners with the following tasks:
- Alerting their handlers to household sounds and possible dangers (for deaf and hearing-impaired owners)
- Guiding the visually impaired or blind owners to navigate around obstacles in their daily lives
- Assisting with physical tasks like stabilising a person while walking, turning lights on and off, opening and closing doors, picking up items
- Moving heavy items across snowy terrains, eg sled dogs like Alaskan Malamutes or Siberian Huskies
- Medical alert dogs which can help detect owners who may have fits or seizures, and are trained to seek help
Being helpful on social media means providing greater utility to your audiences. Identify your customer’s unique needs, research on how those needs can be met, and provide content (and apps) that teaches them to overcome those needs. Examples include the following:
- Clorox’s myStain application helps consumers to get rid of inconvenient stains wherever they are;
- Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s highly useful Car Seat Helper app;
- Greg Ng’s Freezer Burns – a video blog dedicated to reviewing frozen foods in the US; and
- Meijer’s Find-It app which allows shoppers to find products anywhere in the store using indoor mapping technology.
#7 Have Endurance
Certain breeds of dogs have amazing grit and stamina. The best examples are probably the sled dog breeds – Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. These heavily built “wolf-dogs” have been known to cover almost 1,800 km running in thick snow from Anchorage to Nome in Alaska in just nine days.
Beyond physical endurance, dogs are also known for their staying power – the story of Hachiko above is a clear example.
As I’ve previously shared before, social media marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. You need to equip yourself to pull your “social media sleds” along and to brave the “snow storms” which may assail you along the way.
To do so, ensure that you provide sufficient resource, time and energy to continually create and curate fresh content for your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn account, Pinterest account and others.
#8 Provide Protection
Fiercely protective and loyal to their owners, dogs have been employed in the police, armed forces, and security agencies for centuries.
Beyond possessing sharp canines (which is what they are named after), these carnivores can be easily trained to maim their opponents should the need arise. By doing so, they provide a sense of security to their owners and handlers.
Like a guard dog, you need to protect the interests of your communities and customers. Put in place the right customer policies and include areas such as product and service warranties, guarantees, and goods return policies. Ensure that the right security and privacy measures are in place too.
#9 Be Playful
Finally, we enjoy the company of our fur kids by virtue of their playfulness.
Dogs, especially puppies, love to scamper around the house, poke their heads around corners, and dig around the gardens. While such behaviours may sometimes be disruptive, owners of dogs readily forgive their canine companions.
Playfulness is lacking in our always-on digital world that is obsessive-compulsive about success. While it is great to provide useful tips, tactics and templates to your social media community, do also consider how you can inject some lighter moments in your content.
This may take the form of comics, jokes, gags, stories, and other bits of snackable content that entertains and delights your audience.
Doggone it! I’ve come to the end of my list of “paw-sible” ideas.
Do you have any other canine concepts that may help social media marketers to be the leaders of their pack? I’d love to read your thoughts.