a peek inside the fishbowl

15 Sep, 2015

Instagram tips I learned from our dog

Posted by andrea tomkins in: dog stuff|The business of blogging

Some of you already know about our dog’s Instagram account. It is a multimedia project my family and I started awhile back. I liked the idea of a family Instagram account because it involves two things I love: photography and storytelling, and I think these are skills that are worth cultivating. (Sidebar: this is an ideal introduction to social media for kids are who slightly too young to venture out on their own.)

I first mentioned it in this post over at MediaSmarts.ca and then here, but I wanted to expand upon a few things I’ve learned along the way.


Piper’s Instagram account has seen steady growth these past few months. She’s almost at 900 followers, which eclipsed my personal account a long time ago. Here’s why I think that is:

1) She is much cuter than I am.

2) There are a lot of dog lovers out there.

3) We don’t post too frequently on Piper’s account, or at least we try not to. This is something I learned from our own teenage Instagram users and from my own personal experience as an Instagram user. For me, Instagram represents a brief glimpse into someone’s life, not a photo dump. Posting too frequently overloads your followers’ feeds and can be annoying. So how much is too much? In my view the threshold is 3X/day. Upload more frequently than that and you’re running a risk of losing a follower. Less is more… but,

4) Regularity is welcome. We usually post one photo to Piper’s account every day. It’s usually in the morning, but time of day is something that is worth experimenting with, especially if there are followers who live in different time zones around the world.

5) We don’t go overboard on the hashtags. Using a hashtag will allow other users to find your photo easily but there is a lot of conflicting information out there about the “correct” number of hashtags to use on each Instagram photo. I’ve heard anywhere from 3 to 20. Some recommend creating a list of suitable hashtags and copy and pasting them into the IG caption every time. I think that anything over 10 is going overboard. I use 3 or 4, sometimes none at all. I like to use one for comic effect – even though it won’t result in any additional traffic –  and the others for findability. So for example, if Piper is playing with one of her toys I like to add the hashtag: #squeaktoymurder. This is unique to her, and it’s her “voice.” Otherwise I use #wirefoxterrier and #terrier.

Is it better to use a hashtag with over a million photos attached to it, or less? #Dogsofinstagram has over 19 million photos attached to it today (I just checked), which makes me think Piper’s photo is likely to get lost in the shuffle. #Wirefoxterrier is better suited. There are only 86,000 and the people following REALLY love her breed of dog. The people following #wirefoxterrier are the people who are more likely to follow Piper’s account.

6) Piper is on topic, all of the time. The expectations are laid out in her bio, and she delivers. It’s the Piper show, and we make sure that she is always the main focus. To this point: I uploaded what I thought was a funny video of a dog (not a fox terrier) trying to capture a tetherball. I thought it was hilarious, but it did not get the kind of traction that I thought it would.

7) Piper’s fan base really started to grow after she crossed the 500-follower mark. Maybe it’s a mental thing. Instagram users who find Piper’s account through a hashtag (see #5) are more likely to follow her if they see 499 other people have already done so. A higher follower count subtly says: this is an account worth following.

It’s been a very fun project, and I think I’d like to take it to the next level and maybe publish a book about Piper’s daily diary. We’ll see.

2 Responses to "Instagram tips I learned from our dog"

1 | Stefania

September 20th, 2015 at 9:28 am


What I learned:

1. Piper has an Instagram account (will follow)
2. Piper is a girl

Too cute

2 | Abril

September 30th, 2018 at 7:43 am


can you translate this to italy

comment form:


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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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