Getting more engagement on social media is one of the top things people say they want to achieve in their pet businesses.
The more people we can reach online, the better, and standing out on social media can lead to publicity opportunities.
Helen Motteram is a dog behaviourist from Social Paws – specialising in treating shy and nervous dogs.
She has nearly 5,000 followers and I connected with her after seeing one of her posts two years ago, just after losing my dog Daisy.
Her words stood out because as the former owner of an anxious dog, they had so much warmth and empathy.
I felt she understood what I’d been through and I interviewed Helen for a blog post, then a newspaper article, and we’ve spoke for a number of features since.
Helen spoke to me about how to make your pet business stand out on social media, and how to build powerful connections with pet owners.
You can listen to this as a podcast on the player link below, or read Helen’s expert advice as a blog post.
Helen is a dog behaviourist and business coach based in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire and started her career as a pet professional working in rescues.
She volunteered at a local shelter before studying animal behaviour at University and setting up her dog walking and training business.
Soon, Helen found she had a connection with nervous and shy dogs, and slowly began to niche into this area.
Finding her voice on social media
It was finding her voice ten years ago and creating posts that made an emotional connection that led to the success of Social Paws.
Helen explains: “I started sharing case study stories about the nervous dogs, then began putting these on Canva.
“I would have a photo of the dog and a message, and this seemed to speak loudly to the owners. It would stop them in their tracks.
“If you see a photo with words on it’s powerful. When I started to be relatable, things began to take off.”
Helen says the strongest messages were those with the words anxious dog owners hear or think themselves, like ‘It’s ok, my dog is friendly,’ and ‘Your dog is not a monster.’
And she says empathising and making the owner the hero of the story made people relate to and share her content.
Growing her audience and her business on social media
Now Helen has 5,000 followers on Facebook. Her training business is full and her husband Tristan now works with her too.
Helen says there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to social media and it’s important to have a balance of posts.
She said: “Share educational and inspirational posts, but not just inspiring quotes. Let people into your world.
“So case studies of successful clients, videos of you doing the training, and find a writing format that works for you. Don’t try to be polished, just be yourself.
“Use photos of you and your dogs and your client’s dogs. People want to see your face. Use your face as your avatar or profile photo rather than a logo.”
Try to walk in your client’s shoes in you social media content
Helen says when she’s writing, she tries to walk in the shoes of her clients and draws on her own personal experiences.
And keeping it simple is key as is how you lay out your content.
She says: “Using jargon is off putting. Keep it simple. Words are powerful and how you present content is important too.
“It’s not like writing a book. You need certain words and sentences to pop out, so titles, sub headings, short sentences, powerful headlines.
“That catches people’s eyes, stops them scrolling and makes them more likely to share.”
Look at common themes you see as social media inspiration
Helen finds lots of ideas by noting regular topics that come up as questions and comments on her Social Paws page.
She looks at groups, what’s happening in the news, and also researches Amazon book titles for ideas.
“One is ‘Don’t shoot the dog,’ which absolutely makes you want to pick up the book! I also ask in my group what people want to learn about,” says Helen.
“Ideas are everywhere, don’t feel like you’re copying because you personalise that idea and make it your own.”
Invest in yourself to improve your social media
Helen has a business mentor, Robin Waite, and she regularly invests in content creation training.
She follows Dan Meredith and Jon Buchan and continually looks for new ideas to get her message across.
Don’t be afraid to market yourself on social media
Lockdown coincided with Helen launching her membership and she says she ‘felt pretty crap’ promoting at that time.
But she says she got over it by giving extra calls, more value and says: “We shouldn’t feel bad about selling because we’re giving people an opportunity to improve whatever element it is in their life that we support them with.
“If I want more business, I go to a business coach. If I want Russell to be happier, I’ll find an animal expert who knows more than me.
“It’s not about selling, it’s about opportunity, and you can craft your posts so they’re not cringy, you just show what it is you do.”
Gaining publicity opportunities through social media
Helen’s content has led to media opportunities including appearing on This Morning, BBC Breakfast and several national newspapers.
She said: “It started with me sharing a video of me training Russell which was picked up by the BBC, then it went on Twitter, then This Morning invited me on.
“Then the actor Russell Crowe retweeted it. Local media got in touch, and then I started talking about my work as a dog behaviourist.
“Now it’s not just local media, it’s national print, online and radio, and I often get calls for radio interviews because I’m on their books.
“Last year I talked about anxious dogs at Christmas and that was amazing. That initial push to get your name out there, and articles on Google, is worth it.”
Don’t be afraid of niching
Helen says to follow your passion and to niche into what you want to be known for.
She explained: “Look at your best case studies and the animals you enjoy working with.
“With me, I really enjoy working with the anxious dogs. At the beginning, I did generic training but that never really came to anything.
“But when I started working with the shy and anxious dogs, the nervous dogs, the message really seemed to resonate.
“Ask your friends or followers what you’re known for, what they think of when they think of you.”
Remember no-one can copy YOU
Helen says it’s important to share your stories – they define you and no-one can do things the way you do.
She said: “Don’t try to be something you’re not. There is only one you and it’s far better to share your own experiences than generic posts.
“Put your personality out there and this will help show the difference between you and your competition.”
Pet Professional Network
Helen runs Pet Professional Network, a business support group and education platform for people in the pet industry.
She focuses on teaching how to deliver long term support programmes for pet owners and has over 400 members.
Helen is hosting an online event in September to give a taster of what’s inside.
For more information, contact Helen on social media or on the links below.
Follow Helen’s Social Paws page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/socialpawscheltenham/
Pet Professional Network on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/petpronetwork/
Pet Professional Network free group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/592717694264410/
Pet Professional Network website: https://www.petpronetwork.com/
Helen’s publicity opportunities
Helen on my pet blog – our first interview: Expert advice on supporting your anxious dog with Helen Motteram
Helen’s interview in the Sunday Mirror: Dogs heading for mental health crisis
Helen on anxious pets at Christmas in The Sun: Christmas stressful time for pets
If you found this blog helpful, you might like to read Getting started with Facebook Ads with Jo Francis or Setting up your pet business e mail list with Catherine Gladwyn
Other links mentioned in this blog
Find out more about Robin Waite: Robin Waite’s website
Jon Buchan: Charm Offensive
Dan Meredith: Coffee with Dan
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read: Building a community on Instagram with Helen Perry or Getting started on LinkedIn for your pet business with Helen Prichard
And for support and inspiration in promoting your pet business, check out my mini-membership Is my Pets Get Visible membership right for you?