What Instagram’s Famous Dogs Can Teach You About Social Media (and Life)

Author Nora Roberts is often quoted: “Everything I know I learned from dogs.” And we tend to agree. Where dogs are especially winning at life is on Instagram. A recent Barkbox study found that dog owners post about their furry friends on social media six times a week, and 1 in 10 dog owners has created a profile just for their pup. Since most of us seem to agree that the best things on the Internet tend to have four legs, we turned to Insta-famous rescue pets like Maddie Humphrey, the adorable face of @thiswildidea, supermodel @chloekardogian, and pawsh animal activists @toastmeetsworld, @muppetsrevenge, and @ellabeanthedog to glean insights on how to rock the ‘gram. Behold social media (and, it turns out, life lessons) from the animals that are lighting up our feeds.

Communicate who you are and what you want to represent

On Instagram, your bio description is a chance to set the tone of your account in a few words and drive your most engaged followers to one link you care about. Let’s take a look at how these celeb dogs position themselves on the platform:

Humor works well for these leading lassies who use their bio to highlight stats and accomplishments. You could also designate a branded hashtag here or use the space to communicate your external mission.

Instagram Story highlights, located on your profile, is an opportunity to save your best Instagram Stories past their usual 24-hour shelflife. Create verticals or themes around what you usually post or give more airtime to the projects or fundraisers you’re working on, like @Chloekardogian, who’s up for a Webby Award this year and is asking her fans to vote. Pro-tip: Create cover photos for each of your categories, like @muppetsrevenge does for her “Boy Problems” stories. Just share a graphic with text on it (Spark Post works great for this!) like you would any other photo in your stories, add to your highlights, and designate it the cover photo.

Go for the unexpected to slow the scroll

The aim of your every post should be to stop thumbs in their tracks. Maddie, the star of @thiswildidea, made it big for her innate ability to balance on precarious surfaces, which made for some unexpected photos and even inspired the book Maddie on Things.

But even if you don’t have access to an acrobatic dog, you can still surprise and delight. Professional photographer and Maddie’s human companion Theron Humphrey says he always looks for the offbeat or quirky when curating photos for his feed.

Explore universality and human connection

While we may never tire of seeing Maddie in all sorts of unusual locations. It’s really Maddie’s mellow sweetness that keeps people double-tapping. That, and her talent for taking every opportunity to lounge–wherever and whenever in whatever position she can mold herself in.

After successful photograph books Maddie on Things and the spinoff, Maddie Lounging on Things, Theron Humphrey says he’s shifting his focus to explore the the connection between Maddie and the people who love her. More humans have started appearing in his photos, including the rare appearance of Maddie’s main dude. The photos Theron chooses to post capture the quiet, everyday sweetness any animal lover can relate to, such as when Maddie needs attention but the human is otherwise occupied:

Relatability and universality are key to creating a connection with a wide variety of people while specificity and the unexpected will help get your content noticed. Ask yourself: what’s the most specific way I can express a universal truth?

Craft your voice and tone and remain consistent

While Instagram is certainly a visual platform, don’t overlook the caption as an opportunity to lend your voice to the photos. Often it’s what will set you apart from others and it’s the main opportunity to give your audience something to connect with–a way to see themselves in your content.

Take the famous dog family behind the accounts @toastmeetsworld, @underpantsthedog, and @muppetsrevenge. Each sibling has their own persona and the captions are unfailingly consistently in the dogs’ unique voices. Sure, a perpetually rogue tongue is likely what gets people to look long enough to read, but when you find out Muppet is a sassy single pup just trying to find love in the big city, you can’t help but root for her.

Consider context, timing, and consistency

One of our favorite things about pups Ella and Coconut (@ellabeanthedog) is that you can always count on them to pose for the puparazzi.

Despite their dog-about-town lifestyle, they’re surprisingly just like us! Are you waiting in line for brunch? @ellabeanthedog is probably in your feed posing with a trendy New York pastry, already.

Laying low on a saturday night? Ella and Coconut are too, in chic terry cloth robes, of course.

Social media is where people document their lives, highlighting everyday moments that make up the monotony—but also magic!—of life. Whether you’re posting for your business or your personal page, consider how you can invoke a lifestyle that reflects who you want to attract. It’s also important to consider what other people are likely experiencing and the context in which they’ll see your content. Time and weather is something we all have in common—are you posting content that reflects a shared context or experience?

Love your selfie

These dogs know what makes them different is their power. Embodying the irresistable rags-to-riches story of being rescue animals, these pups embrace their quirks, imperfections, and oddities. A representative for supermodel @Chloekardogian summed it up well when she said: “I think what makes Chloe successful is that she unabashedly loves herself more than anything else in life and that she thinks that silly face of her is a gift to the world. She teaches us all to make the best of what we have and love yourself for all your uniqueness.” If we can love an animal for its googly eyes and misplaced tongue, can we turn that unconditional acceptance onto ourselves?

Post with purpose

These animals aren’t just something to oogle—they’re using their influence and platform to support missions that are deeply personal to their own stories and lives—and the lives of other dogs not as lucky as they are. @Ellabeanthedog and the Toast family are anti-puppy mill activists, while @chloekardogian and Maddie encourage people to rescue animals by capturing the mutual love and support rescue animals and humans offer each other. Even if you’re not fundraising, you can still be a good digital citizen by putting quality content into the world that reflects your values. Besides, having a mission can do wonders for guiding your content and consistency. Studies show that what we see and interact with online has a profound effect on our wellbeing. As content creators or social media users it’s up to each of us to create a safe, accepting digital world.

Thank goodness for these dogs and their humans who make our feeds a little more pawsitive.