Entrepreneurs

How to build a huge social media following—from an adorable bulldog with 3 million followers

Manny is quite the modern-day social media celebrity. He has 1 million followers on Instagram, 1.8 million on Facebook and more than 20,000 on Twitter. There's swag emblazoned with his likeness (the baseball cap is currently sold out). He's something of a media darling — he's been featured in Buzzfeed and appeared on the Steve Harvey show, to name two.

Manny, by the way, is a French bulldog. A very cute 6-year-old French bulldog.

Manny the Frenchie
Manny the Frenchie

His humans, Amber Chavez and Jon Huang didn't intend for Manny to be an Instagram star.

In the beginning, Chavez and Huang were just looking to share pictures of their new puppy and thought it would be funny if their dog had its own Instagram page. But Manny has an adorable habit of sleeping in sinks and the pictures of it really started to take off on Instagram.

Friday nap time. Decided to try our other sink and it's just as comfy. Using a @iandloveandyoupet tshirt as a blanket. #video #Friday

A post shared by Manny The Frenchie (@manny_the_frenchie) on

"When ... those pictures went viral, media started picking it up," says Huang, speaking with CNBC Make It. "That helped a lot." The couple realized they might, with a bit of work, be able to grow a large following for their pup and started to be more concerted about their efforts.

Though Manny has the biggest following, Chavez and Huang also have social media profiles for another of their six dogs: Frank, a grey French bulldog. Frank has 423,000 followers on Instagram and 180,000 on Facebook.

I guess he was pretty cute. @frank_the_funnyfrenchie #littlebrother #tbt

A post shared by Manny The Frenchie (@manny_the_frenchie) on

They had to ask themselves, "What do you do now that you have this platform? What direction do you go?" says Chavez. "We've always wanted to help and raise money for charities so that's why we figured, 'Ok, I wonder how we can tie this platform and raising money [together]?'"

Chavez and Huang have leveraged their pups' stardom to give $200,000 to charity through a combination of corporate sponsorships and partnerships.

Huang still has his full-time job, but for Chavez, running "the Manny show" has been a full time job for almost two years.

Jon Huang, Manny the Frenchie and Amber Chavez

Even if you don't have a French bulldog who is a total ham, Chavez and Huang say you can still grow your own following. They have learned a lot about how to a create a social media footprint (or perhaps paw print) online. Here is their best advice.

Be patient — building a following takes time

It was two to three years before Manny had a sizable following on Instagram and three to four years before he had reached a critical mass on Facebook.

When they first started, Chavez and Huang targeted just the French bulldog community and they expanded to broader demographic groups slowly.

You have to communicate with your followers

"You have to be very proactive," says Chavez. You have to talk to your followers on each respective social media platform by liking and commenting on their content. And you have to post regularly.

Your story has to stand out

"Everybody has an adorable dog," says Huang. To really stand out, they had to highlight what makes Manny different — his love of sinks and the way he "talks" (he coos emotively). "Those two things kind of really caught a lot of attention from a lot of people."

Additionally, "Manny is known as one of the most philanthropic pet celebrities, so tying you know feel good stories and content like that helps a lot, too," says Huang.

Take on the right partnerships

"If we were to post every brand or product that came to us, he'd be flooded with advertising and we don't want to be flooded with advertising," says Huang.

Instead, they only partner with brands that they research carefully and would use themselves or for Manny. "I think our following has to stayed organic and people have stayed true to us because we don't just take anything and say, 'Buy this or buy that,'" says Chavez. "We're not just, you know, blowing smoke."