If you wonder about the pet influencers, something I’ve referred to in the past as “petlebrities”, one has to look no further than the crew of huskies who have taken over a massive share of the animal influencer market, Gone to the Snow Dogs. When I first took a look at their blog, I thought, “Oh cool, some popular dogs.” Once I sat down with Jessica, mamma bear of this motley crew, and learned the amazing story of the dogs that have made Gone to the Snow Dogs the brand that it is today. Read on to hear more about this incredible story, and find out what it takes for pets to draw millions of followers and become uber popular influencers. Oh, and I will warn you – if the story is not enough, the pictures are bound to melt your heart.
ZJ: Jessica – I feel like I stepped into your world reading and watching videos about your pups, it was purely magical. My first question for you is about your logo, which is adorable and brilliant – who designed it and when did you begin using it?
- GSD (Gone To The Snow Dogs leader, Jessica): We just had that logo designed for us! For the past 6 years, we have been trying to find something that we felt really represented us. The logo was designed by SiberianArt – Artwork by Amit Eshel who no longer does logo work, but he is a long time distant friend and he agreed to do one for us. It was designed to look like our first husky, Shiloh. We thought that was fitting since she was the Husky who started us on this path we are now on.
ZJ: I read your story about Shiloh and I admit I was brought to tears. So many things about this story moved me – your experience with the pet store, Shiloh’s life and passing. I would imagine that working at a pet store, both you and your husband have always been “animal people”. Had either of you owned pets before, and if not, why not? Can you share more about what it was like bringing Shiloh home at first?
Gone with the Snow Dogs
- GSD: I grew up with St. Bernards the majority of my life. My husband had a few dogs as a child too, one a wolf-hybrid, and another a Cocker Spaniel. Shiloh was our first dog as adults. We got her the year before we got married so she was our first big commitment together. Bringing her home was an emotional roller coaster. We were so happy to have her, but at the same time, she had so many issues that we were either happy or worried, excited or scared. She was a lot of work for those first few weeks!
ZJ: Shelby, Oakley, and Memphis joined your pack a little later on (2007, 2012, 2013). What did it feel like to have a full pack of huskies at home?
- GSD: We added Shelby to the pack shortly after we almost lost Shiloh. She had gotten very sick with a bad infection. Once she got better, my husband told me we should find another dog, so we added Shelby to the pack. Our house at that time was very small with a tiny yard. We knew two dogs was the limit there, so when we moved to our new house that had a huge yard, we started to search for another Husky to add to the pack. We rescued Oakley and became a pack of three. You would think that having three huskies inside your house is crazy, and well . . it is. . . but they really do fit right in. After Shiloh passed away in 2013, we were back down to 2, and the house just didn’t feel right. In May of 2013, Memphis became the baby of the pack, and we started to feel complete again.
ZJ: I read that you entered Shiloh and Shelby in the Bissell Most Valued Pet Photo Contest in 2011 and won! Is that when you began your foray into social media? If not, when did you start, on what platforms, and what prompted you to begin?
- GSD: Shiloh and Shelby both won in the weeks they were entered, and then Shelby took 3rd place overall in the finals! It was just before that when we had really started to get into social media. The dogs had their own MySpace account and had over 1,500 friends! We had a small blog where we would write stories about them, and over time, I just kept signing up for social sites, and their readers kept following them all over.
ZJ: Last February you hit around 90k subscribers on your blog. Where are you now with follower numbers, and what do you think about it?
- We just hit 225k Subscribers on our YouTube channel. It still feels like a strange dream. We are so humbled by the people who follow us. It’s so great to share our lives with them and hear their stories of how our dogs make their lives better by helping them to smile and laugh on days when they are down.
ZJ: When did you begin gaining massive amounts of followers on social media/ blog, and what did you think about it all?
- In May of 2015, we reached 100k Subscribers on YouTube and it created this trickle of followers on all of our other sites. Our Facebook page is our largest social media following with over 2.7 million likes! That page started growing like crazy once I started sharing more photos and stories regularly on the site. It still feels like a crazy whirlwind dream. There are days when I start reading comments from people all over the world and find myself sitting at my computer in a puddle of tears of joy, and tears of sadness. When our #Pawdience looses their pets and they connect with us with the loss of Shiloh, we feel their pain. We know what that’s like. When they celebrate, we celebrate, when they cry, we cry.
ZJ: Do you consider yourself a marketer?
- I do consider myself a marketer. One of my favorite job I ever had was in sales. I love to promote things I love. When I am passionate about a brand or a company, I want the world to know!
ZJ: Do you see yourself as an “influencer”, and if so, what does that mean to you?
- I do see myself as an influencer. When I find a company that I am passionate about I want to promote them, and spread the word about them to other people. And it’s not just brands. I think we influence people when it comes to pet ownership. We try to show people that a dog can be more than just a “dog” they really can be a part of your life. Take them with you. Dogs love to go on adventures, and to experience life, just like we do! I think we have influenced a lot of people to live their lives better with their dogs. Being an influencer to me means a lot of things. We have the ability to help change the world, one dog at a time.
ZJ: Is social media your primary job? If not, what is your main source of income?
- In December of 2015, my husband and I both left our very steady full-time jobs at a deli owned by our family to pursue Gone to the Snow Dogs LLC. It was a huge risk, and we had no idea if we could pull it off. 4 months later, we still feel like we don’t have a schedule down, and things feel like they are all over the place, but we are slowly getting the hang of it. People make like to make the joke that we are retired, but I think we are working more now then before. Doing social media full time literally means eating, breathing, and sleeping it. You never stop thinking about pulling out your camera for a cute photo, or a short video. It’s always running through your head! I should SnapChat this, or Instagram this, oh I have to tweet this! It”s never ending!
ZJ: What is your favorite part of working as the pack leader and manager, shall we say, of Gone to the Snow Dogs?
GSD: I think my favorite part of all of it, is we now have the chance to spend so much more time with our dogs. We have the opportunity to travel for longer camping trips, explore more places, and experience even more with them. I love that I basically get to be a stay at home dog mom .. . but still have to work. .
ZJ: Do you work for brands? Can you give us an example of sponsored posts you have done as an influencer?
- We have worked with many different brands over the years, both big and small. Last year we did a really fun post for GoRving.com. Just recently we worked with Petco to help promote their Star Wars line of toys. We also work with an amazing company called Spirithoods who Is probably our longest brand partner to date, and those are just a few. We have a big project with Pergo Flooring coming up in the next month as well! We have also worked with Dyson, Dr. Tim’s Dog Food, LootPets , PawPack, Pridebites, and many others!
ZJ: Some of the photos of your pups just kill me, like Shelby in the husky hat! How do you come up with these ideas? Do you plan the videos and photos, or do the dogs run the show?
- That husky hat is a Spirithood, which as I said is probably our favorite Brand we have ever worked with. I have always been the type of person who doesn’t plan a lot of things. I think life is the best when it’s real. When I have an idea for a photo or a video, it’s usually just that. A small thought, that I just run with. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I feel like the more spontaneous things can be, the more real it is, and the more people connect.
ZJ: Nearly 150k followers on IG, over 222k on YouTube, over 2.7 million as verified Facebook entertainer(s), and a million subscribers on your blog. What would you attribute most to your success on social media?
- Well, I think having these adorable huskies helps out a lot, but besides that, I think communication. We try very hard to maintain communication with our #Pawdience . For the longest time, I responded to every single YouTube comment we got. Sadly, we are so much larger now, that’s just not possible, but my husband and I still read them all! We respond when we can! We try to keep those lines of communication open. If it wasn’t for our #Pawdience , we could not do the things we do. They so important to us, and we need them to know that!
ZJ: What is your favorite part about doing what you do?
- My favorite part is being able to spend so much time with my husband and our dogs and really experience and enjoy life. We only have one shot at this, and sometimes you have to take those big risks, to be able to get the most out of life. I get to spend every day with my husband and my dogs. I could not be more thankful!
ZJ: Who do you most admire in the world?
- I don’t even have to think twice. My parents. I know everyone thinks they have the best parents, but I really do. My parents always believed in me. They never doubted me. They have always told me I could be anything, and do anything, and they always made me believe that was true! It was my mom who really helped push us to take the leap of going full time with this company. She kept telling me that she knew big things were going to happen! And within 30 days, huge things were already happening! We were signing contracts with companies for videos, getting invited to Pet Expo’s and Summits, she was right. My parents taught me that anything in life is possible if you try. They taught me that things might not happen overnight, and they do take time, but if you want something bad enough, it can happen. They support everything we do, no matter how crazy it sounds, they are always right there cheering us on! I know they will read this. Mom and Dad, thank you for believing in us. I Love you!
ZJ: If you were to give someone advice who is thinking about getting into social media and the world of influencing, what would it be?
- Stop focusing on the numbers! Find something you are passionate about and share it with the world. Don’t let those numbers consume you! I think a lot of people get into this thinking, I can do that, and then their numbers stay low, or grow slowly and they get discouraged. I am here to tell you, ever single one of us started out at 0. If you are passionate about something, then share it with the world. Eventually, people who are passionate about the same things will find you! Never give up, and most of all have fun! If it’s not fun, then it’s work, and when it’s work, you lose your spark!
ZJ: General words of wisdom you live by?
- Stay Positive and Dream Big! I say it at the end of all the dogs videos! And also, Believe in yourself.
ZJ: Favorite quote?
- Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, Keep pretending. We’ve done just what we set out to do, Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers, and you.
ZJ: What is your favorite thing to do outside of your life in social media?
- There is a life outside of social media? Just kidding! I love being outdoors. We love taking our Jeep out in the middle of the woods, down a two track dirt road to the middle of nowhere and just experiencing nature. We love camping, hiking, and exploring new places. I always have a camera on me though, and always a thought in the back of my mind of how can I use this in a video/photo/post .
ZJ: Tell me about a time when you really impacted someone’s life with your social media content. What was the result?
- I have had so many letters written to us by people who have told us that we have helped them with depression, kids who have said they are bullied in school and our videos are the only things that make them smile, letters from parents of children in the hospital for various things (terminal illnesses, cancer and so on), who write us and tell us their kids watch our videos on their mobile devices and it brings them joy. I get messages and weekly letters about how we have impacted peoples’ lives. We have used our outreach to help raise money for Animal Shelters, dogs in need of care, spreading the word about animal causes. I wish I could pick just one. I have boxes of letters and drawings. It’s just unreal.
ZJ: What is your biggest dream in life?
- My biggest dream of the moment, would be to find a nice piece of property, where we could build a house more fitting for our dogs (nothing huge, just a better layout than our current home), with trails on it so we can go dog sledding in the winter and biking in other seasons. We would have a nice Class C RV, big enough to tow our Jeep Wrangler, and have the ability to travel the country with the dogs. My dream property is currently up for sale, but it’s not the right time for us to buy it, but we can still dream! It doesn’t sound like much of a “big” dream, but it’s my dream.
ZJ: Do you have any upcoming events or announcements you wish to share?
Follow our social sites for our events! We hope to do more meet and greets this year with the dogs!