Category Archives: Instagram

The Other End of the Leash: Life as Griff’s Mom

You know what they say: behind every great live mascot is a great Live Mascot Director.

In the case of Drake’s favorite bulldog, Griff, that’s Erin Bell. Here’s a look into Erin’s life as Griff’s mom:

Balancing Act

Erin is the mother of two kids (almost 3-year-old Carter and 1-year-old Sydney) and two bulldogs (Griff & Magoo) and the wife of Kevin. Along with being responsible for Griff’s social life, Erin works in Polk County as a public health nurse on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. She provides care to underinsured or uninsured adults in their homes.

Erin has officially held the Live Mascot Director position since October 1st, 2015; However, this isn’t Erin’s first rodeo. Her and her husband Kevin were the owners of Porterhouse—Drake’s beloved former live mascot.

Griff’s weekly demand varies throughout the year, but Erin estimates the pair are on campus about 4-5 times per week. “Some weeks are crazy busy and other weeks are not so bad, it kind of evens out,” says Erin, “it’s a balancing act for sure.”


Erin is the voice behind Griff’s wildly popular Twitter and Instagram accounts. Her approach to each platform is different. Erin uses Twitter to live tweet from the community events he’s at— “so if he’s got a commitment to be somewhere, that’s where you can see it.”

On Instagram, Erin tries to give the community a behind-the-scenes look at Griff at home (like when he naps on a pile of laundry). For her, creating the voice of Griff comes effortlessly. “These dogs have so much personality… I just tweet or Instagram what I swear he would say.”

One of Erin’s favorite Griff moments came from Drake University hosting the Democratic Debate last November. Griff and his patriotic tie effortlessly grabbed the attention of media covering the event on campus and the hashtag #VoteGriff started trending on Twitter.

How she shares the (Griff) love

Erin loves that Griff has the ability to unify the Drake community and thinks it’s important that everybody who wants to interact with Griff gets that opportunity. She explained, “I try not to say yes or no based on the size of the event.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re the Drake Men’s Basketball Team or a small on campus organization—if you request Griff, he’ll likely show up.

Erin proudly shared that Griff was certified as a therapy dog this past summer. Thanks to the certification, Griff is now able to interact with Special Ed students at Delaware Elementary once or twice a month.

After a long day…

When Griff gets home after a long day of charming those in the Drake/Des Moines community, his first thought is food. “He keeps us on schedule with that, he’ll start jumping around and dancing around the house trying to remind us to get him his food.”

Griff’s favorite food? “Anything and everything,” not excluding pacifiers.

Nap time is priority #2. Endurance isn’t necessarily Griff’s strong suit, so one of the first things he does when he gets home is head to bed for a good long nap.

For Erin? Well, there’s “usually about 100 other things that still need to be done” when she gets home. If only we could all live the dog’s life.

The best part about being Griff’s mom?

Erin loves that Griff has the ability to make people’s days by putting smiles on their faces and relieving stress. Seeing those candid reactions on campus and around the community is why she does it. “I think it’s really cool what a dog can do.”

She claims to be my number 1 fan. I think she just might be!

A photo posted by GRIFF (@drakeugriff) on

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The Tips to INSTAntly getting more like on Instagram


Everyone always has a mental goal for the number of likes that they want their picture to get when they post something to Instagram. Everyone has cringed as they don’t see the fury of notifications flooding their phone with notifications. Either you are happy when you get enough likes that all the names go away and just the number icon show up, or you are upset when you only get 100. Nonetheless, you always want to more to boost the ego. Follow along this blog to find helpful tips to get more likes on Instagram. Continue reading The Tips to INSTAntly getting more like on Instagram

10 People You Should be Following on Instagram

Despite the collective “ugh” that blogs like The Rich Kids of Instagram elicit and the advent of apps like Normalize which strip away photo filters, the popularity of Instagram shows no signs of waning. Here at Drake University, we’ve officially fallen down the beautiful rabbit hole and are definitely in no rush to get out. With over 1,500 followers on our university Instagram, we’re officially hooked. Continue reading 10 People You Should be Following on Instagram

Building a small creative business on Instagram

In the last decade, crafters and artists discovered blogs as a way of journaling their creative process and easily sharing their work with friends and potential customers. The blog platform gave them a much farther reach than many would have imagined and gave many a boost in building (and sometimes starting) their own small business. With the introduction of each new social media platform, leading artist, craft and DIYer bloggers are among the first to experiment with them to stay relevant, keep their brand fresh and expand their reach to find new customers or even a new demographic of customer.

Instagram App Image

A business that relies heavily on the visuals of their product will most likely thrive in visually-based social media platforms, like Pinterest and Instagram. But it is work; succeeding in social media doesn’t just happen.  Contributing good content on a consistent basis, staying true to one’s brand, thinking strategically about when and what to post—it’s a great deal of work and takes time.  If you are the owner of a small creative business, and you want to start using Instagram to build your business, check out these great tips for using Instagram for business.  Or, spend some time perusing the blogs and Instagram accounts of these 10 small business artists for great examples on how to do it right:

IG Screen Shot

10 Creative Businesses Who Do IG Right

TheAlisonShow  – She calls herself compulsively festive. Agreed. Great style shots with a good mix of family life. She does a great job (as do many of the business women listed here) of following the 80/20 rule.

Better off thread  – Sewing, quilting, family life. Janice has fewer followers than the others on my list, but she provides great content and beautifully inspiring images.

A Crafty Fox – Amanda started using IG in early 2012. She finds that the biggest benefit for her is the positive energy and support she receives from her followers. Amanda says “IG is much more personal and almost ‘team’ oriented…and I love that aspect.” She also follows around 500 people on IG, and enjoys having that pretty inspiration at her fingertips all day long.

I have to add, as a creative business owner myself, we often work at home, alone, which isn’t always the most motivating of situations.  Being connected to others who are either admiring our work or process, or sharing their own creations, can be very motivating and inspiring!

French General – Known for their vintage notions and textiles; their stunning shots of antique tools, craft ideas, vintage textiles, and fabric projects with the occasional family photo mixed in to show their life outside of work. It’s just a beautiful feed worth visiting regularly. These ladies have built a very successful business in multiple industries including scrapbooking supplies, fabric design, and notions.

Geninne – I only recently discovered Geninne. She lives in Mexico, paints amazing watercolors of flora and fauna, and shares lovely shots of her artwork, her stunning journal pages, a beautiful shots of her everyday life surroundings. Geninne admits to “HATING Instagram” when it was first introduced. While she relies more on her facebook page for promoting her business, she has come around to the charms of IG and “loves the immediacy of sharing photos with her readers.”

Jessica The Sewing Rabbit – Jess is a sewing mama, she designs for children, and refashions/repurposes clothing for both children and herself. Her blog and SM support an etsy shop and a collaborative online pattern business, 5 & 10 Designs.

Mypapercrane – Heidi is a self-taught artist who creates plush and 3D soft sculptures, designs fabric and provides wonderful DIY tutorials. Her Halloween posts, alone, are worth checking her out.

Noodlehead – Anna joined in on the IG fun fairly early, and she finds it a “great way for creatives to stay connected.” She designs sewing patterns, and when her customers show something they made via IG, admirers of the pattern/design can find her and her site with a few clicks. She says she has “gained inspiration, friends, and a sense of community” through using Instagram.

Petitapetitandfamily – Celina sews for her children (probably the most stylish children around) and can even make old-school crafts like pompoms and clothespin dolls look hip! She’s been using Instagram for about a year and finds herself posting more and more as the weeks go by. IG allows her to show a more “personal touch” than she does on her blog or other SM platforms, primarily because of the immediate feedback and interaction. Celina also mentioned that she has made contacts with a very different demographic of followers than she had before joining IG, which is leading to new collaborations and projects.

SkiptomyLou – Cindy’s blog has a little bit of everything craft-wise, and she has built a following by employing many great contributors and covering several mediums. Her IG account is always full of fun family and work photos, and inspiring crafts!

A Few Tips for Boosting Your Biz Through Instagram:

Consider boosting your creative business by sharing a photo or video of a product demo on Instagram; a video of what is great about your product can go a long way.

Think of your IG feed as a real-time portfolio. It can change and refresh as often as you want, and the older content is archived right there for surfing and browsing.

Use hashtags strategically to make you and your work easier to find. Are their events or locally used hashtags you could be using to lead potential customers to your business? Are you providing your customers with hashtags to use when showing what they make from your designs?

Build excitement and interest with process photos, sneak previews and before & after shots; both photos and videos can be a great advertising tool.

IG Process Photo Image

A special thanks to Anna, Celina, Amanda and Geninne for taking the time to talk with me about using IG for their business!



Andrew Lindmeier – YouTube Sensation, Twitter Wreck

There is always that one kid in your class who is a total goof and has no idea what is going on.  For our Social Media Strategies class, Andrew Lindmeier seemed to be that kid.  He started the semester knowing absolutely nothing about social media, and yet he was hiding what he thought was a deep dark secret; he already had a YouTube video go viral!

For this class being a journalism elective, Andrew was already the odd kid out, because he was the only non-journalism major.  He will be graduating from Drake University later this month with a double major in Business Management and Marketing.  He only took this class because he thought it would be beneficial for him at some point down the road, since his marketing classes had already mentioned social media a bit.

Coming into the class, Andrew was only on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  He was already a YouTube sensation (THE Video)!  His video is nothing crazy, just pictures he found amusing with music, yet it has over three millions views! Wait, what?

Despite somehow being an entertainment on YouTube, Andrew never quite grasped the concept of Twitter.  For our class we were supposed to tweet twice a week with #DrakeSocial, yet Andrew tweeted thrice this semester and only one included the hashtag and one was a retweet (of me!).


For his social media experiment, Andrew thought it would be cool to try and get some of his favorite athletes to retweet him.  He tweeted at them for a week, and unfortunately got no retweets, favorites, or mentions.  “Obviously it was a rousing success,” is all Andrew had to say about that.  After class Andrew quickly deleted the tweets, because he thought it was embarrassing to have “Hey @AwesomeAthelte! You’re so cool! Retweet me!” on his twitter page 50 times.

After taking this class, Andrew is now on Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, and Google+!  From this class he says he learned to effectively use social media, whether he actually applies to his life or not, from a business standpoint.  He now understands the benefit to building your personal brand through social media, and is trying to do so now with his LinkedIn page (THE LinkedIn Profile).  He understands engaging and interacting with customers on social media is a huge deal, and it truly does differentiate successful businesses today form the unsuccessful ones.  Speaking of which, check out this blog post I found that Andrew wrote regarding “no no’s” for businesses on social media: Andrew’s Blog Post.

Despite me poking fun at Andrew Lindmeier, he truly did put in effort for our class when he had to, he just didn’t want to embarrass himself, which is understandable.  He also brought a new dynamic to the class, and was never boring.  I just found it amazing how someone could have a viral YouTube video and not know the ins and outs of any other social media platform.  Good luck with your future endeavors, Andrew, and I hope you one day decide to use social media for your own benefit!

Instagram’s newest star

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 11.43.28 AMInstagram has a new star, Sir Charles Barkley. Not the ex NBA player either. Sir Charles is a French Bulldog from Seattle, Washington. He was born last May and has gained 9,000 followers on Instagram since. His owners, Melissa and Paul, post pictures of Charles onto his account. Melissa and Paul wanted to avoid flooding the newsfeed of their followers with mass amount of pictures of their pooch. They tend to post pictures of him at least once a day. The photos average about 700-800 likes.

After the creation of Sir Charles Instagram, Paul and Melissa made him a Facebook. The Facebook is not as big of a hit as the Instagram. Sir Charles only has about 1,000 likes. The activity on his page continues to grow though.

Even though I have not seen as many Instagram profiles for pets, many people make Facebook profiles for their pets. Do others find this interesting or annoying? When my newsfeed is flooded with status updates from animals I often get annoyed but when my newsfeed has adorable pictures of the pet, I think it is extremely cute and I enjoy it. It definitely helps if the photo is well shot and the animal is doing something.

An example:

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People will like this photo and maybe even share with friends. However, if the dog is just sitting there doing nothing people may not be as interested. Paul and Melissa do a good job of capturing Sir Charles doing something creative and interesting, and that may be the reason his profiles do so well.

Follow author Caitlyn Snitker on Twitter.