My family has a fluffy white cat that has an uncanny ability to win people over. Some people encouraged me to make an IG account for him, but I hesitated. "I already have a personal IG account, I don't need more of the same," I thought. My friends, however, kept asking to see more pictures of him; on one uneventful day, I finally caved.
Little did I know, I signed myself up for a bizarre educational experience.
By removing my personal identity from an IG account, I was forced to form a network from scratch. This new perspective made the platform's processes much clearer.
Lesson 1: Your account type determines your community. Creating a cat page is like opening a portal to some cat-filled parallel universe. Suddenly, there were cats EVERYWHERE- the Explore page was flooded with cats, exclusively cat accounts started following the account, and DMs from companies selling cat-related products started popping up left and right (well, upper-right to be exact). After posting some photos and engaging with other accounts, I learned that…
Lesson 2: Engagement on social media hugely impacts the content we see. At first, all I saw when I logged into the account was cats, cats, cats, and a rare photo of a puppy. Naturally, I was interacting with other cat accounts. One day, I decided to follow some of my (human) friends. After that, I immediately started seeing photos of other things in the Explore tab. Instead of seeing strictly cats, I occasionally started seeing Acai bowls and Angelina Jolie. It turns out that any small change in engagement makes a big difference.
Lesson 3: The Insta-cat community is very positive. Cat accounts were very generous with compliments and were quick to say things like “let’s be friends!” There was also a plethora of heart emojis in comments. This was all overwhelming at first, until I logged back into my regular account and came to the disappointing realization that making human friends doesn’t quite work the same way. I’m guessing this has to do with the “mask” that a non-human account provides, making people feel less inhibited in reaching out to strangers.
Lesson 4: My cat’s not the cutest cat in the world. Of course, my cat will always be the cutest to me, but I have to admit that there’s certainly no shortage of various adorable cats in the Insta-cat universe. This account showed me just how tough the feline modeling market is.
Lesson 5: Consistency is crucial for continued engagement. This can be seen with any account, of course, but an account whose following consists of more strangers than friends makes it much clearer. When I posted, liked, and followed regularly, I consistently got lots of engagement in return. If I didn’t post for a week or more, however, the visits to the page seemingly became less frequent.
Lesson 6: Maintaining a cat IG account is HARD. This is mainly because it takes up so much time, due to the consistent engagement that’s required if you want your cat to be on Doug the Pug level someday. Sadly, I eventually dropped the ball on posting because life got busy and I didn’t see this cat often enough to take new pictures regularly, so he never made it to celebrity status- but there’s still hope.
Lesson 7: Subliminal marketing is very much alive and well. The Insta-cat community has more shameless self-promotion than Times Square. Sometimes it is loud and proud, but at other times, it is
buried between the lines of a reflective post.