Evan Antin always knew he might want to work with animals, but it wasn’t until part way through college that he made up his mind. After ruling out both business and human medicine (“too personal,” he says), he set his sights on veterinary school, where he packed his course schedule with exotic animal electives in addition to learning to care for dogs and cats.
Since he graduated, he’s been big on travel -- and on social media. He often picks a country based on its native exotic animals, then reaches out to a wildlife rescue sanctuary there with an offer to donate his time to gain some experience with new species.
“I didn't have a big following when I first graduated,” Antin says of his Instagram account. “Now, organizations have started reaching out me to work with them and help out their animals or help their cause, largely in part because of my social following.”
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Antin built his following -- up to 1 million on Instagram today -- with purpose. He saw an opportunity to be a public figure of sorts, teaching the world little-known facts about all sorts of animals, including man’s best friend. In the process, like many Instagrammers, he realized that the key to success on the platform would be to offer something unique and of value (in his case, expertise from a vet) interspersed with personality and lifestyle content.
Scrolling through his feed, you’ll find everything from a photo of his 21-year-old self sporting a mohawk hair style more than 10 years ago to images of his present-day, vet version of McDreamy self holding a puppy. Or, you know, just him shirtless, sans animals.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get your start with Instagram?
I started Instagramming right when I graduated from veterinary school, in summer of 2013. I was just posting neat cases, what I was doing at work so far in my travels, things that involved animals and a little bit of stuff from my personal life.
Part of my plan with starting it was geared toward my brand. I was doing YouTube videos then as well. I knew that I wanted to have a bigger presence in the media than your typical vet. I wanted to get involved with wildlife conservation and animal education, spreading outreach on veterinary medicine in a big way. I saw Instagram as an outlet for that.
How much of your time do you spend on a post, and what does that entail?
With my educational posts, I spend at least a half hour. It's only a few paragraphs, but I take time to make them readable and relatable for readers of all ages and animal experience levels.
The only ones that don't take as long are, sometimes, I'll do little selfie ones. I did a cute little puppy post with a German shepherd puppy the other day. That took 10 minutes to get the picture right, say something cute and that's that.
It's funny, because on that post, I've gotten more engagement than some of my other recent posts. Yet I feel like some of my other posts are so much more special, and took more effort. I'll tell you, people love puppies. If it's me holding a puppy, it's going to get some decent engagement, at the very least.