How pet brands can best utilise social media

During lockdown there was a surge in sales for pet related products with new puppies, kittens, and everything else in between joining happy households right across the UK. Sales and demand for pet food and accessories have been strong, but for many brands (especially more niche ones) that poses a real problem: How do you cut through the noise, create traction and secure your slice of the market?

Knowing where to start can seem like a daunting prospect as most brands don’t have the multi-million-pound advertising budgets their national counterparts can splurge on TV and press campaigns. However, there is a commercially viable and extremely effective option that many businesses are either not aware of or don’t think is for them; namely creating online communities that are driven by a mix User Generated Content (UGC) and the brand’s own marketing messages.

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The last few months have fundamentally changed how we all consume media. This has of course been a growing trend for a while, but our continual shift towards social media has been getting ever stronger and has really picked up apace since the onset of COVID-19.

The vast majority of us now turn to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram before traditional outlets, so pet brands should be capitalising on this trend to their advantage by ramping up their use of UGC and creating their very own social communities. To clarify, social media communities are groups where members share common experiences and interests.

Social media has been serving up UGC for years and it has helped to deliver brilliant results for those who have been brave enough to try something they didn’t perhaps fully understand. However, the days of putting one video out per week on a simple branded page in the hope that it gets seen by everybody have passed. Consumers are now far more sophisticated and expect to be able to access new (and engaging) content every day on their favourite platform. They also want to feel part of something tangible with other people who share their passion, even though it’s online, and brands can be a central part in facilitating that.

So far so good, but brands are fighting harder than ever for our screen time so where do you even start? Well, the questions we get asked every single day are: Do I invest more on producing my own high-quality content? Or… Do I spend the same overall but in a different way by reducing production costs, utilising UGC more and then sharing that alongside my own marketing messages via a bespoke community that I have created?

My advice is clear: the latter, as trying to produce quality new content is often overrated and way too costly. This is because you can deliver incredible results if you have insight into, and knowledge of, what engages your target markets.

This is particularly pertinent to the pet industry as brands of all sizes should simply be tapping into peoples’ love of their pets as the core component of the online communities they create. You don’t need to be producing expensive videos as thousands of pieces of UGC are created every single day by the very people who you want to sell to. By using this content sensitively, brands instantly drive relatability and that’s a huge opportunity to grow engaged communities of real value who will ultimately buy from you.

Take dog lovers as an example; it’s a dedicated, passionate, and close-knit group with a real sense of supporting each other online. Brands should therefore be leveraging that notion of ‘togetherness’ by sharing engaging, relatable, entertaining, but also commercial content. The scope is massive; from funny and cute videos, to more serious healthcare, training, and nutritional advice. What you post and share will depend on your particular business – it’s just about getting the balance of UGC, your own marketing content and the tone of voice you create for your community right.

It’s not rocket science, the key is to be consistent, strategic, and use the great UGC that’s available to the best effect. It can be done, we did it successfully with Go Fetch. In six months, we gained just shy of 1 million followers on Facebook and we reached 75 million views per month.

To sum up, by creating your own community and giving them first class content and asking for nothing in return is by far and away the best way to create a brand your customers will actually want to buy into and be advocates for. You can’t ask for much more than that.

By Jay Manaley, head of partnerships at KOMI group

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