If you’re anything like me, you could probably spend all day just scrolling through Instagram and looking at pictures of people’s dogs. I love it so much, in fact, that I’ve become an adamant defender of the “pet account” specifically for these purposes – both here on this blog and to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In my time on my pup @brendatheshepsky’s account, I’ve learned some things—primarily, that there’s a huge InstaDog community here in Philly. Frankly, it’s overwhelming. These accounts aren’t just posting every so often. They are highly and aggressively active on these things. Growing their accounts, engaging, even making friends. It’s a huge community. And there has to be someone, or some brand, tapping into this community. Right?
Yep. At the center of it all, you’ll find The Dog Enthusiast, the dog-walking and pet-sitting service of one Mike Cardone.
Good luck scrolling through a Philly dog hashtag without running into his account or posting to one of these hashtags without finding him interacting with yours. Lately, if you’re a Philly dog enthusiast like me or Mike, you’ve probably even been served a number of his ads on both Facebook and Instagram.
Mike’s social presence is strong and—because of it—his brand is steadily growing stronger with it. The Dog Enthusiast employs a number of walkers and sitters to “keep your pet busy and engaged at all times, supplying them with exercise, structure, love and basic training.”
Not only that, but he has plans to further expand by opening his very own pet salon branded by The Dog Enthusiast on the back end of this year.
As both the dog and social media lover that I am, I was eager to chat with Mike to get a glimpse into the life of the guy that built this successful brand online. Here we go.
ChatterBlast Media: Are you from Philly? What do you love about it?
Mike Cardone: I’m actually from Maple Shade, NJ – It’s a small town right next to the Betsy Ross Bridge. As a child, I was heavily exposed to alternative music scenes such as punk, hardcore, thrash, etc. Since I was 13, I have spent most of my time on this side of the river. I love the huge family and network I created here over the years. I feel like any art, hobby, or job industry some one wants to indulge themselves into, in Philly, all have such tight knit communities and as long as you aren’t closed off to those social networks, it can be easy to gain a lot of support behind whatever you’re passionate about.
How did you get into the dog walking game, and how long have you been doing it?
I have actually worked professionally with dogs since 2009 and used to be a dog groomer for a company that I didn’t agree with on a lot of levels. When riding my bike into work one day, I was hit by a truck, putting me out of work for months. That gave me time to think a lot and I decided I wasn’t returning to my grooming job and instead picked up a job at my friend’s screen printing shop, Nationwide Printing and Signs, while I planned out my next move.
After posting a hypothetical on Facebook about starting a dog walking company, I received so much positive feedback that I put my two weeks in at Nationwide and started this path toward entrepreneurship.
Tell me about your marketing strategy. How did you get into social?
My “marketing strategy” isn’t as thought out as it is just me having fun. I love working with dogs and have had my dog, Rocko, for eight years. I am just trying to create the type of service that I would enjoy using if I were a client. I know a lot of my generation has dreams or a lifestyle that they want to follow and I can, firsthand, empathize with how hard it can be to follow your passions with the responsibility of owning a pet.
I’m just trying to create great experiences while making lives a little easier.
You mentioned some expansion. How has this type of growth been since getting on social and building that “strategy” out?
Social media (mainly Instagram) has really been helpful with making us a citywide recognized brand. We have actually gained most of our clients through our Instagram account. In short, social media has definitely played a big role in our current opportunities for expansion.
You post on Instagram a lot. (Almost 6,000 posts). What’s the thinking behind that?
I really just thought it was a fun concept for our clients to see their dogs featured on Instagram every day. I’m surprised by how many people choose to follow us, because I would imagine that our high volume of posting would deter most users from wanting to follow.
Do you take all of these photos yourself, or curate from other accounts?
All of the photos are taken and posted by our walkers and myself from our daily visits. I usually try to have every single visit posted daily.
So you would say that’s your primary platform.
I guess it is our primary platform. With growth, I’m sure we’re going to be leaning in far more directions, but what we’ve done with Instagram has been so effective that I’m in no rush to change it up.
There’s a pretty huge “Instadog community” here in Philly. How do you tap into that for business purposes?
We try to be interactive with our local “InstaPups,” which helps with relationship building. Aside from that, a handful of our clients have popular Instagram accounts, which I am sure benefits us on some level.
What are your big dreams and aspirations for The Dog Enthusiast? What can we look forward to from you?
We actually plan on having an active pet salon in Fall 2017. Two of our clients are opening Philadelphia’s first indoor dog park, BarkPark, and I will be opening a pet salon within their facility and branded by The Dog Enthusiast.
I feel my brand is very accessible, so I am constantly coming with random ideas that we can do, and a lot of those ideas I plan on doing in time. One day I would like for us to be more help for local animal advocacy/animal rescues.
If you’re ever looking for someone to take top-notch care of your pooch or even to just befriend it online, you know where to find The Dog Enthusiast.