Insta Fame?

I’m rather taken with Instagram. I find it far less political (so far) than other social media outlets, and the ultimate community building tool. As a long time fan of both leadership and cultural movements, I have been stalking Instagram from the moment I became aware of its existence. When we signed up to raise an officer and a gentleman, I knew he’d be the perfect tool for learning how to use the medium. (Sorry, little man. I just called you a tool.)

In the beginning, it was a game. How many followers can we have before Sherman‘s even born? How many can we have by the time he comes home? The dog community on Instagram is a whole lot of quirky fun. Basically, if it’s the dog’s page, it’s the dog’s voice. Millions are playing along.

About four weeks in to this, I had quite the revelation… I’m not talking to dogs here. These are people with plans, dreams, hopes, careers, disappointments, fears… and because of this cohesive focus on our dogs, there’s legitimate unity. My focus shifted a bit at this time. I began commenting more, joining some private message discussion groups, and caring as much about the people as I cared for their doggos.

Like most social media “families”, the dog world on Instagram presents both the good and the bad. The good is obviously community. We’ve seen people in our IG community base vacations around visiting with one another and their dogs. It’s changing the way we travel and the way we build friendships. I’ve hosted an IG friend in my home, and I have to say in a heartbeat they would all be welcome here… humans and dogs.

Feature pages offer dogs an opportunity to gain much broader exposure than their own pages allow. There are a couple of big ones on IG, and in the beginning I did tag them. Soon, however, I noticed I was a little obsessed with checking to see if my photo had been featured. As my goal had shifted from building a following to building community, I stopped tagging feature pages.  This is where I encountered my one and only instance of ill-will on Instagram.

When Sherman was only four months old he won a monogrammed bandana through one of the larger feature pages… a prize that never came in the mail. This spring, a year and a half later, our prize showed up on that page’s business feed along  with the caption: “Do you know a Sherman? We’re only human. Sometimes we make mistakes.” When a number of accounts tagged my Sherman’s page to win the bandana (for a second time), we found both our private and our community page (@bernerforum) blocked in response. Given the massive number of people using Instagram for connectivity I’d say being unable to win over only one individual in two years isn’t too shabby!

There are some huge dog accounts on IG… many of them have become my good friends. Most of them did not set out to be an influencer account. They may have a knack with a camera, a particularly silly dog, an unexpected dynamic duo (@beatrixandmidge) or perhaps a feature page adopted them as a favorite, sharing their photos early and often.

My takeaway remains consistent from the moment I discovered the richness of community that exists not only on Instagram, but also in Facebook groups. Go for the gold. Chase after community and relationship before chasing followers. At the end of the day, when you need to not walk alone… you’ll find yourself surrounded by a tribe of people who, oddly enough, know you.

Comments from one of Sherman’s earliest posts. These accounts are all still still IG friends! 
Miss June.jpg
It’s a common courtesy and nod to friendship to share another’s IG account on your feed. We shared this account in our “build a bear” mentality days, only to find Miss June’s mom was one of our favorite… people!!! It’s all about the community!


Noses for.png
Accounts on Instagram offer “noses for” dogs who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Sherman’s first nose was for a local little bernedoodle he was scheduled to have a first play date with but the little guy was tragically lost in a home accident. #nosesformonty

Published by: When Life Goes to the Dogs

It was my youngest daughter who introduced me to the Bernese Mountain Dog. That first boy, Hero, set in motion all kinds of crazy love. And now, at the end of the day, I often find myself asking... what do these dogs have that is so special? I'm raising three Berners now, navigating the world of social media for dogs, holistic health and raw feeding. Sherman has become a therapy dog; Zuzu may soon follow in his footsteps. Madi, as I like to say, is still cooking. I guess we all need something to put our hands to that makes us feel like we've made a difference in this world. Believe it or not, these dogs help me do just that.

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