Monday, December 2, 2013

SociaBulls: Making Pack-Walks Work in Your City

It doesn't seem that long ago that I used to enviously follow HikeABull's Facebook page and lament that we didn't have anything like that in our city. It was only after making this comment on one of their photos that their organizer asked "Why don't you start your own?".
Which made sense.
While it seemed a bit daunting at the time, we have figured out how to make it work for us (we wrote about it extensively in this post here.)
We are always so excited to hear about other people taking the plunge and starting groups in their areas. Though it seems like the biggest question is how to find like-minded members to join the group. While we were lucky that we already had a strong on-line community through our Two Pitties blog, we realize not all cities work the same way and it may be harder to find a dog-community in some areas. We had written this original post about ways to find members.
If those ways don't seem to work where you live, here are some additional thoughts we had for finding members specific to your city:

Finding the Formula for Your City
We think one of the reasons our group has become so popular is because most of us who own dogs don't have backyards. Chicago has a strong walking-culture where we are all used to taking our dogs on several walks per day. Part of the attraction to the group is that since we have to walk our dogs anyway, in all types of weather, it's much more fun to do it with a group of friends.
If you you live in an area that doesn't have a strong walking culture, think about what would make people want to come out and walk.
Is it having pride in your dog and wanting to meet new people? Is it a breed-specific club? Could you have a focus on hiking and have a hiking with your pup group? Maybe it's a focus on exploration and discovering new areas in your city. (I originally wanted to start our group as a city-exploration group!) Regardless of the main focus, the pups will still get the socialization benefits from the pack-walking and no-greeting structure you set up.

Finding the Dog People
Think about your city and where you will find like-minded dog people. Are there specific events that draw dog owners? When people adopt new dogs they are always interested in doing new things with them. Where can you find these people? Maybe you could talk to a rescue group or local shelter to see if they know people who would be interested and to help spread the word. Maybe there are volunteers at your local shelter who are interested in taking the dogs out for pack walks.

Becoming Visible:
From most of the groups we have spoken with, social-media seems to be the biggest way to spread the message. Having a Facebook page, with photos and information, is a good way for people to learn about the group and for you to communicate and email with potential members in a centralized location. You could ask rescue groups, local pet stores, or your veterinarian to share your Facebook page as a way for more people to learn about the group. Having a Facebook page also allows you to join in discussions on other dog-specific pages where people can find out about your group.
 Meet-up is another way people search for things to do. Having a Meet-up is a way to attract members and set up walks. We also meet people while we are out walking our own dogs, or on our SociaBulls walk, and we carry Moo cards directing people to our Facebook page so they can get more information about the group. Maybe you are at the pet store and you run into someone with a new dog, you can start talking to them and give them one of the cards with your group information.

We know it can sound a bit daunting, but starting our Chicago Sociabulls group was one of the most rewarding things we've ever done. We would love to hear from everyone else out there.
For those of you who started groups, how did you find members? 
For those of you who joined groups, how did you find out about the group? 
And those of you thinking of starting groups, what obstacles are you encountering?

Read how other cities made it work with guest posts from Seattle WalkABulls, Twin City Pack Walks in Minnesota,  Positive Pittie Pack Walks in New Jersey, and HikeABulls in the Bay Area.
How we found our members.

Check our Two Pitties in the City Facebook page for further comments.
To learn more about our group, join our Chicago SociaBulls page for more photos and updates. 


Taylor G said...

Good old fashion social media helped us find Sociabulls. These days if you dont exist on social media, you don't really exist (at least in my opinion). But even with a social media presence you need to be able to gain followers by spreading the word.

We have seen the Sociabulls group evolve over the years as well. What was once a small group is now huge and the rules/policies have changed during that time (for the better). The idea of starting your own group could seem daunting but starting small and adapting to change will make it obtainable.

Two French Bulldogs said...

It's amazing the popularity of your group and the way it had grown

Andrea said...

Thanks so much for posting this! A friend and I started a group in our city but struggled to find members. Our community is very dog friendly and also very active so it didn't even occur to us that we would have trouble finding members. People loved the idea but didn't want to commit to the walks. We ended up having to cancel the group because no one would show up for the walks. We are going to retry again in the spring though. We aren't giving up!

Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

We were selective about when we started the group. Since we plan to do the walks year round, we wanted to make sure that we had good momentum going into the winter season. We started in May (even though we decided to go for it in February!), when everyone is itching to get outside. Although our blog isn't SUPER popular, we made sure to post about it a month in advance.

We, of course, created a facebook page and prompted our blog friends to "like" our PEDs page.

We also made a little flyer and posted it to our local shelter Facebook page (they have over 9,000 likes!). I volunteered there in college, so they shared it for us as well.

Out biggest success, however, has been working with Mud Puppies - a popular local dog store (grooming, food, treats, training, etc.). The owner really bought into our idea and is a HUGE supporter - she tells everyone about it and shares it on her Facebook page. Because she holds training classes on-site, she gets a lot of people looking for help with an unruly dog. She immediately refers them to us!!

With all that, we had 15 people our first walk (seriously, people were ITCHING to get outside). Now, staring winter in the face, we have a solid 8-10 dogs each week!

Two Pitties in the City said...

From the Facebook page:
Emily Anne We started a FB page for our group and shared it with some key dog influencers in our city - natural dog food stores, dog bloggers, etc. We also started a meetup group to provide info about our walks - so anyone else on meetup could find us easily with our keywords!
21 hours ago · Unlike · 1

Wendy Chu I don't know of any pack walk groups here in New York city. I would imagine it would be rather challenging to do larger pack walks in such a crowded city. The closest would probably be the group in New Jersey that was featured on one of your blog posts a while back?
21 hours ago · Unlike · 1

Natalie Schun For us, business cards were key - and always have them with you! Reaching out to rescues and shelters, spreading the word at dog events we attend, and creating a FB group so that we can create events and track activity have all been uber successful. Our pack walk on Sunday had about 20 attendees.
19 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 1

Judy Ollerenshaw Sombar We don't have one in Pittsburgh but I'd love one

Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

Agree with Natalie - We had Mini moo cards made not too long ago. I am sure to always have a few on hand and have give a few to each of our members so that they can hand them out to people they come across that are interested.

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