The Creators is an editorial series presented by GLORY Media that focuses on the career paths, strategies, and tactical advice of today’s most compelling social media entrepreneurs.
In the fast-paced realm of viral sensations, few have left as indelible a paw print as Tika the Iggy. Since her social media debut in 2016, this Italian Greyhound, with the charm of a thousand canine influencers, has wagged her way into the hearts of millions.
Behind the lens is Thomas Shapiro, once a web developer turned digital and social strategist. Making the leap to full-time influencer in 2021, Shapiro transformed Tika’s account from a casual photo diary into a powerhouse brand that has worked with the likes of Dior Beauty, sat front row at fashion week, and even published a book.
What kind of content do you create and why did you decide to focus on your niche?
Thomas Shapiro: I make fun videos of my dog Tika, and her sister Kala. Our niche is that Tika is a fashion icon; not only does she have fantastic outfits (and models them well) but she’s sat front row at fashion weeks in New York, Milan, and Paris. Tika wears clothing year-round to protect her from the elements so she’s a natural when it comes to wearing clothes.
What’s your unique perspective on your niche?
Thomas Shapiro: There aren’t many animals who can wear clothes the way Tika can, so this allows us to really have fun with some cool designs and designers. I think people love seeing a dog model these garments, but it also makes fashion more accessible and fun.
What kind of skill set do you think is required to be a successful content creator and influencer?
Thomas Shapiro: Patience and perseverance. It’s rare for an influencer to grow overnight, it usually takes months and years of hard work and consistency.
What is a skill set that every content creator needs to have to be successful
Thomas Shapiro: Video editing. Your videos can’t look too amateur, but also not too professional. Either can turn people off.
What are three underrated tools (apps, tech, equipment) that you use to create, plan, distribute, or monitor the content that you swear by?
Thomas Shapiro: UNUM, InShot, Photoleap—they are all editing and planning apps that I can use on my iPhone or iPad. UNUM to help plan out my feed, InShot for video editing, and Photoleap for photo editing.
Do you utilize a content calendar? If so, what is your preferred way of organizing it?
Thomas Shapiro: I have a list of ideas I want to do, but working with a dog requires me to go by her schedule. Some weeks we make four to five videos, other weeks we make zero.
What is something that most people get wrong when it comes to their social media strategy?
Thomas Shapiro: People can tend to overcurate their social media. It’s really great to have an aesthetic and look for your social pages, but if your rules (that you create for yourself) are too strict, I think it prevents any growth or creative freedom. Also, people want to get to know who they’re following. The idea that a social media presence should be overly curated is very 2018.
What piece of advice would you give someone who is looking to build an audience for their pet?
Thomas Shapiro: Everyone thinks their pet is the cutest, so if all your account is about is how cute your pet is, you’ll fade into the background. There are millions of pet accounts, so yours needs to stand out.
What is your “unpopular opinion” about content creation?
Thomas Shapiro: You don’t have to post every day; quality over quantity.
What is a lesson that brands and businesses can learn from influencers?
Thomas Shapiro: A successful account will be very engaged with their audience, and have their trust. This can be very valuable to brands that are a good match with the influencers to reach audiences.
What have been some of your biggest brand deals and partnerships?
Thomas Shapiro: Dior Beauty was one of our favourites; Tika was the first ever four-legged Dior Beauty girl! This just shows that even if the product isn’t at all for animals, an animal such as Tika can be an excellent “spokesperson” for the brand.
Do you have a dream partnership?
Thomas Shapiro: Jacquemus—those tiny purses just scream “Tika the Iggy”.
Being a pet influencer is a unique experience. How did you first realize that Tika had the potential for this kind of career?
Thomas Shapiro: My initial idea was just to post cute photos of my dog online. I never knew it would reach this level, so watching this career slowly unfold has been amazing. The opportunities that have come up because of my adorable dog have just been insane. I think a lot of people are now realizing you can create fully fledged online characters of your pet, and people are tuning in almost like they would to a traditional sitcom.
Tika has merch and even a children’s book. What dictates the brand opportunities you pursue in terms of expanding the business?
Thomas Shapiro: Our new book, Tika the Iggy: Lessons in Life, Love, and Fashion, came out on October 10th this year. It is by far the biggest project we’ve worked on. We’re doing an 11-city book tour and so excited to meet all of Tika’s fans. When it comes to merch, there are a lot of things that just make sense and are easy to integrate, such as caps, mugs, and sweaters. Each season we come out with new designs and they’ve always sold really well! After our son was born we wrote an illustrated children’s book, which then had a lot of people asking for a coffee table photo book, and that’s where we’re at now.
Tika is usually shown wearing beautiful fashion pieces. Who creates the looks?
Thomas Shapiro: Tika has worked with many designers, such as Dior, Valentino, Christian Siriano, Tory Burch, etc. But most of her outfits are made by designers who specialize in Italian greyhound garments. Some of our favourites are Jade and Coral, Shantell Designs, and Grig Paris.
What are some memorable celebrity interactions you’ve had with Tika?
Thomas Shapiro: Brooke Shields, Whoopi Goldberg, and Drew Barrymore are all big Tika fans, but I think our favourite so far was when Brazillian pop sensation Anitta invited us over to her Manhattan apartment to have lunch the day after her VMAs win because she wanted to hang out with Tika and me. It was so fun and surreal.
What are some unique considerations one should have when owning a pet influencer?
Thomas Shapiro: You have to work at their pace. Some days Tika is full of energy and ready to work, other days she’s just in the mood to rest, and I have to respect that. We always go at her pace.