If you open just about any social media app, you’ll likely find a handful of cute pet photos within the first five minutes of scrolling. With “Insta-famous” pet accounts and hashtags dedicated to online pet communities, Instagram is playing a big part in the internet’s love of adorable pets. DOG & CO. is a specialty pet shop that has leveraged its (mostly) furry clients and contemporary products to amass nearly 43,000 followers on Instagram.
The online and brick-and-mortar specialty shop offers a curated selection of pet products with form and function in mind. While the store mainly carries collections from independent dog accessory designers, DOG & CO. welcomes pets of all species and their owners.
Owner Mindy Montney worked in the fashion industry for about 15 years before launching DOG & CO.
“After adopting my dog Cheeky, (I) was shocked at how hard it was to find cool, well-made pet products,” Montney said. “After doing some digging, I realized that there were some great brands out there but couldn’t find a specialty store that offered a curated selection of contemporary pet products. So, I decided to utilize my prior experience and launch DOG & CO.”
The store began as an online-only retailer in 2014 and two years later a brick-and-mortar location was opened in the TurnStyle Underground Market in New York City.
From the very beginning, Montney knew social media would play a big role in getting her specialty shop up and running. And her philosophy on managing DOG & CO.’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts has remained the same since then: keep it organic, fun and engaging.
“We are very proud to have grown our social media following in a very organic way,” Montney said. “While it took a lot of work, we knew that social media would be critical to launching our business as an online shop in 2014. Instagram, in particular, was an incredibly valuable platform, as it has allowed us to showcase all of the fun and merchandise-focused content that we create.”
Keep it organic
Instagram pet accounts with hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of followers have seen lucrative success with sponsored posts and paid partnerships. These pet influencers can earn considerable money per sponsored post, according to Loni Edwards, founder of The Dog Agency. Edwards’ company manages pet influencers, helping their owners book deals with companies beyond those focused on pet products.
But Montney cautions other specialty pet shops considering participating in social marketing campaigns that involve sponsored posts and paid partnerships.
“It’s funny. Working in fashion for so long, I saw the full evolution of celebrity product placement, from first being really impactful to sales, to later becoming something pretty ineffectual as the public became fully aware that celebs were being gifted all of the gear that they were wearing,” she said.
“I think it’s very similar in the pet world — having a famous pet wearing your gear is great for a bit of exposure but is in no way a make-or-break moment for a brand. Instead of putting money into sponsorships and the like, we prefer to focus on growing genuine relationships with our friends and customers and sharing content that’s organic and nonpaid.”
Rather than investing in sponsorships, DOG & CO.’s social media posts focus on sharing content that reflects the store’s unique personality and products. Montney’s social media strategy has worked well in converting likes and follows to sales and foot traffic.
“It’s a fine balance of posting fun, cute images and not over-saturating our followers with BUY NOW messaging,” she said. “One that is made even more challenging by featuring our designers, but not doing the advertising for them.
“Influencers” and paid advertising aren’t really worth it for small business, Montney adds. “But interacting with your customers will create genuine engagement and relationships. Have fun with it – try to show your shop’s unique personality and point-of-view through your posts.”
Overall, Montney said the shop turns online love from its social media following to in-store love by keeping posts fun, playful and engaging. She also features products from collaborations that benefit nonprofits in New York City.
“We love working with nonprofit organizations, both via social media and in our brick-and-mortar shop,” Montney said. “We work with rescues throughout the NYC area, and our amazing partners like PupStarz Rescue have become a beloved part of our shop. Nothing is more satisfying than when customers come in asking when we’ll have adoptable pups at the store.”
Just how social marketing trends in the pet products world have followed those for humans, Montney said product trends themselves do too.
“Trends in the pet industry — or at least in the merchandise that we sell best — really reflect the same themes that are trending in popular (human) culture. Blush pink, unicorns, all- natural organic treats … looking at human trends are really the best indicator.”
Montney encourages interested businesses to expand into the pet products category or to start a pet business.
“We’re at such an exciting time in the pet industry where new categories are arising and expanding, and there’s still room for so many new ideas and products. As long as you have the passion — and are willing to clean up some dog poop along the way — it’s a wonderful place to be!”