Day 3: Mountain Dragons by Jan Stipala
Chameleon Gift 3 Video
Chameleon Gift 3 Podcast
Mountain Dragons is a photo journal recording the travels of Jan Stipala across the highlands of Kenya to document the chameleon species there. It is the most beautiful book we have in the chameleon community and is my day 3 pick for great gifts for people that love chameleons. This book is a wonderful one to cuddle up with and would actually be a great gift for anyone who enjoys reptiles or just wants to learn more about the natural world.
In the US you can order signed copies of Mountain Dragons at Mountain Dragons Book
For other countries in North America, contact me through Dragon Strand.
In Europe, you can order the book through NHBS Books
I hope you have a great holiday season! The chameleon person in your life will LOVE this book!
Day 2: Black Soldier Fly Larva
Chameleon Gift 2 Video
Chameleon Gift 2 Podcast
My choice for the second gift giving recommendation is a cup of Black Soldier Fly Larva! BSFL (as the are called) are a nutritious feeder that can give your chameleon diet variety. The bonus is that they start as grubs, which chameleons love, and turn into flies, which chameleons love! So, take a listen as to how you can treat that special chameleon in your life!
There are many providers that can supply you with Black Soldier Fly Larva. They are sold under many names such as Phoenix Worms, Calci-grubs, and whatever else clever marketing people can come up with. I have used Symton for the last three years and am happy with their service. If you would like to learn more about Black Soldier Flies I did a whole podcast episode on them with Lauren Goza from Symton which you can listen to here
Click the link below to find out more information!
Day 1: Repti-Risers
Chameleon Gift 1 Video
Chameleon Gift 1 Podcast
My pick for day 1 of the Chameleon gift giving season is the Repti-Riser by Jason King of Kings Reptiles on Etsy. This innovative product provides an elegant solution to our problem of lifting UVB lights off the top of the cage.
The UVB levels coming off of our bulbs are sky high. Where our target UV Index range to expose our chameleon to is between 3 and 6, UVI levels coming off of common UVB bulbs, even going through the filter of a screen cage top, can be between 20 and 45! And for chameleons, who live in 3D as they climb sides and hang from the top panel, this introduced dangerous radiation into their living space. So we raise our UVB lights up with wood blocks, place them on wire shelves above the cage, or just hang them from the room ceiling above the cage. But Kings Reptiles gives us an alternative solution!
His risers come in pairs and you select both a height and color. Currently, he has risers that fit the Arcadia ProT5 and the Reptisun fixtures so make sure what you have is compatible. For the Arcadia ProT5 6% I suggest the 2.5" high riser and for the 12% UVB I suggest the 5.5" riser.
Click the link below to find out more information!
Today we are going to talk about going into this holiday season thinking about the chameleon community. We’ll talk about how we can make a difference just by supporting the small business and content creators that are out there right now. You can even do meaningful support without spending money! Let’s care for our community like we care for our chameleon environments!
Transcript (more or less)
Welcome chameleon wranglers! Today we are going to talk about going into this holiday season thinking about the chameleon community. When we think about doing good in the chameleon-related world, we think about deforestation and extinction. And those are pretty big missions to take on for one person doing their best to make ends meet and having little free brain time while trying to raise 2.5 kids. And that is what this episode is about. Giving donations to organizations that help is an obvious approach. And it is a good one. I often bring up Eden Reforestation as a very good pace for your altruistic money to go. But today I’d like to look at how you can help with your behaviors and every day choices. Because one way you can help chameleons is to help strengthen your local chameleon and reptile communities. That increases the number of people who actually care. And large groups of people start to mean something to politicians. Small donation amounts from large groups of people grow into something big enough to enact change. So, if you are wondering what you can do, well, because everything is connected, you can support your local reptile community and that will help. And, when I say local I don’t necessarily mean in your home town. It means in the community that you interact with on a daily basis. The internet has redefined that to mean your niche community on the internet. Because we now spend more time with our friends across the world than we do with our neighbors across the street!
A New Direction for the Chameleon Community
I have been talking about community more and more lately. Much of that is because I see it growing and we are at an inflection point. As a community, our overall mental state is shifting. We are caring more about the health and well being of our individual reptiles and leaving the collecting quantity mindset behind. Of course, there were always the people that cared about their individual reptiles and there will always be the people who use the minimum cage size possible so they can fit the maximum number of different species into their collection. But I am seeing these encouraging attitudes taking a strong foothold in the mainstream chameleon community. I am also seeing this trend in the larger reptile community so it is a transformation that is happening all over. What this means is that the attitude of caring is overtaking the attitude of collecting. And that means that we are seeing these animals as special and developing environments around them instead of constantly adding small sparse cages to our room. The deeper significance of this is that the mindset is shifting to quality of life over quantity of reptiles. And that means we are reaching a level where we can start to see the value of treating the community as we do our chameleon’s environments. We can nurture it while we are pruning away the unhealthy parts. But we can treat it as something to be cared for. Because the community is what takes care of us. And, if you have been listening to my recent podcasts you know those aren’t flowery words. The larger and healthier the community the more power we have to defend ourselves from other communities that want to get rid of us. Sorry to bring depressing reality to the, until recently positive conversation. But it is a truth. And, now we are spiraling back into problems bigger than we want to tackle in this particular episode! So, let’s de-escalate the situation and look at a couple of ways we all can support our reptile community small businesses and content creators in this gift giving season…and, actually, all year ‘round. I’ll start with the reptile community small businesses and then end up with our content creators.
Chameleon Community Small Businesses
Many of you know that I have another podcast called the Reptile Entrepreneur Podcast where I interview entrepreneurs within the reptile community that are starting businesses. We talk about what it takes to start businesses and it is half documentary and half educational. I love that podcast so much because I am able to get to know the people behind all these start-ups in the community. These are not people who figured that they would get rich breeding reptiles or making reptile products. These are people who are working on integrating that all important money making into their love for reptiles. And there are more now than ever. Our reptile community is growing and there is amazing opportunity. If you are of the entrepreneurial mindset and have wanted to start a breeding project, design and produce a product, and create an educational content stream then check out the Reptile Entrepreneur podcast. But the message I want to share in this episode of the Chameleon Academy Podcast is that they are a small business and have the same challenges as any small business. Selling enough product at a price point which can support survival. This is where you can come in. Seek out entrepreneurs in the reptile community and support them. There are reptile community members on Etsy, eBay, Amazon, and the social media platforms. There are so many eCommerce communities out there it is sometimes hard to know where people are! But you can make a difference if you look for these small businesses and support them. They will probably be more expensive than the mass produced products from China on Amazon. They will probably have to charge what it really costs to ship product. My goodness, Amazon and Walmart.com have seduced the general public into thinking that shipping should be free! FedEX has over 650,000 employees. They fly and maintain a fleet of around 650 aircraft and a huge number of hubs and trucks around the globe. So…consider whether the Amazon free shipping was a loss leader to get the honor of your addiction and loyalty which was subsidized by the Amazon Web Services division. The retail division loses money. You may not care why you get free shipping just like the fish doesn’t care, at least at first, why the worm on the hook is free. But know that your small business person has to live in reality and has to pay real shipping costs. There are surcharges for all sorts of things and the carriers may or probably will not take responsibility for damaging goods.
The advantage you have with going with small business community members is that you have access to the deep well of information when you deal with them. The Chinese company selling you something cheap through Amazon most likely has no idea the difference between a gecko and an iguana. Now, many community members think they are clever by draining the experienced breeder or manufacturer of all their knowledge and then buying from the cheap mass manufacturer companies. And this happens to breeders all the time. The new customer obviously goes to the best breeder for the best information. But gratitude stops when their wallet is at stake! And they go and buy from the cheap guys that gave no value up front. I don’t remember if I shared working in the capacity of a chameleon cage manufacturer I spent hours over a week working with a guy to design a chameleon breeding room and talked strategy with cage size, genetics, husbandry, etc… just to see him bragging on social media about spending thousands of dollars putting together his new chameleon breeding room filled with a mass produced competitor’s cages. It is okay going with another company, but have that company spend hours with you working on your personal needs. Small businesses in the reptile community are doing it for the love of what they are doing so are highly susceptible to giving away their experience value for free. So, what can you do? Support your small reptile community business person. Understand that the ability to talk, I mean literally talk, with someone who has deep personal knowledge probably means that the product will have to be more expensive, have a great deal of personal attention given to it or the support of it, and will require a realistic shipping cost. So, why should you do this if you can get what they know for free and then buy some equivalent item for much cheaper elsewhere? Simply because if their business is not patronized they will close down and we will no longer have access to what they know. It will be lost as they need to get their real estate license to start a new career and now doesn’t have time to spend with you or anyone else on the phone helping and hand holding. Your wallet creates the community. That is the truth. The problem with most reptile people is that they over give and this puts them in a position to be taken advantage of and not able to take home enough to make ends meet. So, if we like a community where our most experienced people are able to share freely, then we need to take care of them!
I love making small businesses a habit. I much prefer having the personality of diverse small businesses in our community. It is so much more exciting. Yes, it is more expensive, but the reptile hobby is where we live, unwind, and refresh our minds. It is worth investing into our community! And, just to be clear, I am not just talking about the chameleon community. I mean the reptile community. We chameleon people tend to dabble in other reptiles. You can find and support small businesses in any niche!
Chameleon and Reptile Content Creators
Social media has provided other opportunities in education. Podcasters, YouTubers, and even Instagrammers and tiktokers share reptile experience. And there has been a substantial increase in quality educators! It used to be that all we would have is these pet-tubers that had 200 animals from hamsters to goldfish to iguanas stuffed in their bedroom. Now we have serious herpetoculturists. Yes, they can be lighthearted and funny, but they know what they are talking about. These people are easy to support. If they have a YouTube channel or podcast then subscribe to it. Leave a positive comment on the podcasting pp you use or the video on YouTube. Leaving a comment or liking or sharing a video sends signals to the platform that this is a good video and that will make it shared more. Don’t make up things or give likes, follows, subscribes for nothing. Make sure you actually like it. But if you got value out of whatever outreach it was, it is absolutely worth it to hit that like button. Or to share it. or to comment and interact. Any sort of involvement by you on a certain piece of content helps the creator.
So, how do we take care of our podcasters? Downloading the episode bumps up the download number which is nice for the creator. It really only gives benefit if they are trying to negotiate ad rates. Other than that it is more of a metric for the podcaster to see how they are doing. Where you can give support to a podcast is by giving a five star review on whatever platform you listen on and comment to tell others to listen. This really helps. Talk about episodes on social media and freely link to relevant episodes. The challenge with podcasting, especially in the beginning, is getting the word out that it exists. So I know the host of the one you enjoy would greatly appreciate you making positive statements on whatever social media you use. A number of Podcasters have set up a merchandise store and may use an affiliate link system. Don’t be shy in getting a T-Shirt or buying something off Amazon with their affiliate links.
And we are entering into a renaissance for podcasting. Podcasting has been this very cool thing that just has had trouble breaking into the mainstream. But that is changing. When I first started I could easily make a list of the reptile podcasts that were out there. Now, that is a big job! And this is great news because the more people put themselves out there the more diverse the perspectives you are able to hear. And, the longer a person podcasts the better they get because they are constantly exposed to different perspectives. I know encouraging you to check out podcasts when you are listening to this podcast may mean I am preaching to the choir, but there is a lot starting to happen in the podcast world. Google is looking at how to better include podcasts in search results Spotify has made incredible investments into podcast shows. They have purchased shows for tens of millions of dollars. Podcasting isn’t as easy as comedians make it out to be so, yes, anyone can start one, but it is not easy to maintain a quality podcast. If someone has made it past ten episodes they have reached a congratulations worthy milestone! Be on the look out for these new podcasts coming out and, if they have done a good job, do a little unprompted promotion for them.
The other major content creation source is the elephant in the room. Good Ole YouTube! There is a much better structure in place to help a YouTuber. Subscribe, like the video, comment something meaningful and engage with the creator, share the video with a friend who would like it or on social media. All of this can help the video get boosted in the algorithm. And, the simplest thing (which is also the thing that requires patience!) is to watch the ads before the video for at least 30 seconds of the ad. Everyone loves to skip the skippable ads. Well, those ads are what pays the creator so consider letting one or two run before watching the video.
On Instagram or TikTok do that same things. like, follow, share, interact.
A number of creators have a merch store where you can buy T-shirts and mugs and such right there on the ch annel home page. Purchasing one of these branded articles helps support your content creators! Some creators have their equipment lists posted in the description field of the video. These are those affiliate links I am talking about where if you buy from the links provided the creator will get a finders fee. It isn’t much, but it does add up. The important part for you to remember is that you use the link on the creator’s equipment list.
So if you have a favorite YouTube creator or podcaster, look for affiliate links you can click – and remember, you are not charged extra if you use affiliate links. That is just the retailers paying the creator as a finders fee. That does not come out of your pocket. And look for a merch store. Buying a T-Shirt is a direct support. And then showing off the T-Shirt on social media is a word-of-mouth benefit. We are used to all this being free. But someone is spending days of the weeks coming up with this content. A ten minute talking video is easily a day of work. And if there are graphics or basic animation like I do you can double that. If you like the content, then actively support it. Look for that Patreon link. Buy a T-Shirt. And if you don’t have the money to spend then watch the ads in front of their YouTube video for at least 30 seconds. That gives money to them. Like, follow, subscribe, interact. Help the creator look good to the algorithm that will show their work to more people. That makes a huge difference! And it is free to you. So, as a exercise of being more aware of the world around us, I encourage you to look for the people that are helping make the community a better place and figure out a way to give back. You have the power to change things even without money. Please use that power generously towards those you believe make our community a better place.
We have to do this crazy round about to pay the content creators because the whole of social media is based on this somewhat deceptive model. The social media platform (like Facebook or YouTube or any other free service) tells the investors it will lose money for the first who knows how many years. During this time they offer the platform completely free to the public. Once the platform has amassed enough eyes and ears they start some sort of ad revenue structure. And this is where people start crying that they don’t want ads on their social media feed and how they don’t like that their activities are being followed. And what is so strange is that, for all the noise and complaining, weeping, and gnashing of teeth, and cries of deception and unfairness….we all just can’t let go of the free stuff. It is like we are all passionately complaining about unhealthy food while we stuff our face with donuts. Honestly, Facebook, YouTube…They know we are so addicted to free stuff that all they have to do is pretend to listen to our complaining and that we’ll then just go back to feeding our addiction. Anyone that has tried a paid social media has failed miserably. That’s, once again, a bigger topic for another day and probably the Reptile Entrepreneur podcast. I bring this up to highlight that we have been lulled into thinking that there is such thing as free things. And our society has started to act like things should be free. And we are offended when they are not. Free shipping. Free social media. Free entertainment. As if it is our right. The big social media companies encourage this and I won’t get into the right, wrong, whatever of this dynamic. I figure they started it and they can deal with it. But I bring this up only to bring awareness to that cloud of deception so you can consciously lift that expectation when you get value from a reptile community video, podcast, or business. That content creator is being used by YouTube and Instagram just like you are. YouTubers get a fraction of the ad revenue. Instagrammers, TikTokers, and podcasters have to find their own way. So, let’s make sure our reptile community content creators get ads watched and exposure and let’s look to their merchandise shops and affiliate links for our holiday gift shopping.
This is all part of creating the community we want. Imagine going on a long road trip and having a whole catalog of high quality podcasts on any niche you can imagine. Or typing something as obscure as the draco flying dragon or mossy frogs into Youtube and being able to bring up a series made by a dedicated breeder that is giving solid information from years of experience. And then going on to an ecommerce site or Etsy and being able to find equipment specifically designed for your niche interest. With social media, 3D printing, and ecommerce this is being developed in front of us and all we have to do is support its growth and it can continue. We in the chameleon community are lucky. We are big enough to be pretty developed as far as start ups and content creators. We have a good infrastructure going. The dart frog community, arboreal gecko community, arboreal constrictor community…these are among those that have a very good start in this exciting new world. But there are many in the wings that are getting their start. So, please, support your community and if you dabble in other communities, make it a point to support the creators in that community. As for me, I have a content creators T-Shirt collection going that I will add to once a month. You’ll see this a lot on my other podcast where I am doing a huge push to support content creators. They are making this community a very fun place to be so they are worth going the extra mile for.
I touched on a number of topics that are deeper than simply supporting our community. If you are a business or content creator or are just interested in how they all work and fit together then I’ll be expanding this discussion of social media and how we work within that playground on The Reptile Entrepreneur podcast.
Conclusion and 12 Days of Chameleon Gift Giving Event
Now, as my long time listeners know, I take breaks at the end of the year to refresh and gather myself for the next season. I am going to do that this year, but for the close of season six I am going to end with a daily series of the 12 days of chameleon gift giving where every day you will have both a YouTube video and a podcast episode highlighting a gift giving idea for the chameleon person in your life or, as will probably be the case for any one listening this far into a chameleon podcast, links for you to provide the person who wants to give you a gift! The first episode will be released literally the day after this episode you are listening to so it is probably already ready to go! You’ll be able to find links on the chameleonacademy.com website and a daily post on the Instagram account so enjoy your 12 day immersion into the chameleon world! This is a ton of work, but it is so much fun to do! And then I think I will be ready for that rest!
Thank you all for being here. I won’t say good bye because our end of year adventure is just starting. I’ll see you within 24
If you have an interest in reptiles and sharing that interest with others you can do so by joining the growing number of reptile educators and influencers. But you have to decide just what kind of influencer you want to be. In this episode I talk about what is involved in becoming a reptile community educator.
Transcript (more or less)
Good morning Chameleon Wranglers and other interested parties. I know there are listeners from other communities that enjoy listening to this chameleon podcast because you don’t have to go too deep down to see the strong parallels between what I talk about here and any other reptile community. So, even though the title says chameleon, you are absolutely welcome as well!. Today’s episode is actually one of those episodes that apply across the community. I am going to talk about being a reptile educator or social media influencer within the reptile community. Doing this is a little different for us because our subject matter includes living beings whose quality of life, and, literally, their lives, depend on how and what we present. So when we step up and start helping the community we have a serious responsibility that follows us.
Now, I have wanted to do an episode like this for a while now. And, as is often the case, I have a list of topics I am constantly thinking about and it isn’t until something happens that breathes life into the topic that it finally gets made into an episode. That happened for this episode when I received a message from Antwan in Baltimore who said he wanted to be like me. At first I assumed he meant suave, dashingly handsome, and impossibly witty, but then he went on to talk about reptiles so I guess I’ll be appreciating my impossible wit myself. Yes, he is interested in becoming an educator in the reptile community. And this is on the heels of a zoom interview with Lucy for her class project on chameleons and an email exchange with Bennett for his elementary school assignment. The future generations are becoming more and more involved earlier in their lives. The internet has created enormous opportunities. And so, this created a purpose for this episode. A message to the up and coming influencers who love reptiles on how to go about doing this while maintaining a respect for your reptiles.
We need to talk about what being an influencer or educator means. This job title can take on a myriad of forms including volunteering at a zoo, helping at a reptile store, posting videos to TikTok or YouTube, hosting a podcast, or creating educational content of any type. In this episode I am going to focus on being an influencer on social media. So, specifically, having an account and outreach on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram or any other performance based social media platform. And by “performance based” I mean you are creating content as a known personality. You have fans, followers, or subscribers that come to see what you have to say.
Because of the size of social media it is entirely possible to have your reptile education outreach be a relaxing pastime, a side gig bringing in reptile show spending money, or else, if you have a large enough following, a full time occupation. The opportunities are amazing.
In my parent’s life and world there was little chance to make any sort of living with niche topics. You need numbers of people and so opportunity was limited by your ability to mass communicate. Back then you needed to be on the radio or TV or a magazine to do this. And that was costly. My interest in chameleons would have been exceedingly difficult to generate a large enough following to be more than a hobby. Yes, it could be done, but the hill to climb was very steep.
I am 50 so I am the bridge generation from TV and Radio to internet. People of my generation may or may not understand the opportunities of today. The fact is that the internet has changed all the rules. In my generation you needed a college degree to be able to get a good paying job. Today, kids are having to decide if they are going to take time off from their 6 figure businesses to go to college. And now things advance so fast that textbooks are obsolete by time they are printed and your most reliable up to date training comes from podcasts, blogs, and digital courses. The world has done a 180 under our noses and all it takes is to take a break from the rat race and you will find you are behind. The fact is, that all of this means that the opportunities are immense if you understand and embrace social media. So, the fact is that this is something you can be serious about. Like anything, there is competition and you have to be good. But the opportunity for you to take your shot is there and the door is wide open.
With the basics out of the way I am going to do a hard dive into a heavy subject. The first thing you need to have clear in your mind is what is your purpose here. There are two sides that you can fall on and it is critically important that you constantly remind yourself who you are. The two sides you can choose from are entertainer or educator. Are you running a circus or a zoological garden? Is your purpose to get the most likes on a post or provide the best husbandry? I am sure you can start to get an idea of where I am going with this. A circus uses animals to entertain humans, often at the expense of the animals. A zoological garden uses the latest in understanding to house the animal appropriately and any human viewing of the animal is facilitated, but is not guaranteed. If the snake doesn’t want to come out then tough luck, you aren’t seeing the snake! So one places the needs of the humans as top priority and the other puts the needs of the reptile as top priority. This is not a philosophical discussion for a coffee shop talk. This is a decision you will be making every day. And it will be a tough decision.
Do you see the chameleon videos that get the most likes and attention? It is the ones where the chameleon is trying to grab water coming from the faucet. They are the ones where the chameleon or other reptile is in a doll-like situation and the keeper is playing with them. The most popular videos will have reptiles interacting with dogs and cats and other potentially dangerous situations. These are entertaining to us and people who do not understand reptiles think they are cute. But we know, this is not proper husbandry. We know the reptiles are stressed. And even if you have an exceptional reptile that is okay with whatever scene you have them in, you know most of your audience won’t be able to tell the difference. The reason why this it is so important that you make this conscious decision up front is because you will be constantly fighting against your viewers treating reptiles like little people in the way they play with them and interact with them. If you do this even a little it sends the message that this is okay. So you have to be hyper aware of the message you are sending. Case in point, I say repeatedly that chameleons do not like to be held. Do not hold your chameleon. And you can guess the DMs I get every time there is a picture of a chameleon on my hand. It doesn’t matter that I give detailed explanations of what kind of handling is acceptable and required…Just know that if you stand for proper husbandry everything you will do will be used as an example of what is acceptable. And, every day, you will be faced with the decision to try and get all the likes you can or try to present the best husbandry possible. But please trust me when I say we don’t need more lizards in ballerina tutus. We need serious herpetoculturists confidently showing what respect for these amazing creatures looks like.
I am hoping that you will decide to be the educator. The zoological garden. The reptile advocate. I suspect this is you because someone who thinks of reptiles as props in their video would not be spending time listening to a podcast on chameleon husbandry. So chances are good I know my listening audience at this point simply because I know what kind of passion a person must have to listen to a chameleon podcast! But still, know that you will be making this decision every day. When you see other accounts get videos that go viral when they show a funny situation that shows a stressed lizard you start to question whether it is worth it and would it be so bad to ease up on the standards. So decide who you are and what you stand for from the start. This can absolutely change as you mature and you understand more. Expect that. Growth is good. But, what I am getting at is for you to make this decision based on who you want to be rather than what kind of content gets the most likes. To do it right you will be going against the grain so it won’t always be an easy decision. But you will be able to keep your way clear if you know your vision for where you want to take your outreach.
Okay, we have a general idea of what we want to accomplish. What now?
As you might think, the first step in becoming an educator is to get experience. And here is where self-discipline and patience is necessary. It is exceedingly easy to comb the internet for husbandry fact points, memorize it all, and then spew it all out to the amazement of everyone in internet land. But, I implore you to take a step back.
First of all, resist the idea that you have to be an expert. I know that is the first thing in our minds when we want to start teaching. We should be expert in what we are teaching, right? Well, here is the problem. There is no short cut to knowing what you are talking about. Depending on what it is, you are talking about years and years. But you don’t want to wait years do you? Very few people do. And with there being so much information out there…why not just study it, memorize it, and now you are an expert! And this is what most people do when they want to start an outreach. They borrow other people’s expertise.
Here is the problem. Even if you are smart enough to select the right people to study, if you do not have the experience to understand why those numbers are they are then you will be in an awkward position if someone asks you to justify those numbers or has a situation where they don’t work. If you have implied that you are the source of information you can’t just shrug your shoulders and blame where you got the information.
Here is the solution. You don’t pretend to be what you are not. If you come as you are you will be able to be sincere and that will come across in your outreach. It is a weighty burden to bear always wondering if people are going to find out that you are just repeating information you read out off a website. And here is the secret – you don’t have to be an expert to start an educational outreach. The value you bring your audience is that they are on this journey with you. They are listening to and watching you because they like your energy and your presentation style. You can start a channel based 100% on you learning how to best take care of a certain species of reptile. Interview experts and let them share with your audience. And it won’t be long until you feel like you are getting in the groove with the best instruction that exists. The important thing is that you never have to be anything except 100% sincere.
Here is my advice to you. Have a diversity of experience, but be insanely focused on one aspect.. If you like chameleons then you can have a number of species. Maybe it is a certain species of chameleon. Maybe it is on raising babies. Maybe it is on feeders and nutrition. Pick one small aspect of the bigger niche and make that your thing. Read about it, experiment with it, speak to experts about it. Make that one hyper focused subject your prime directive. What this does is it gives you something that you can be known for and that you can be confident that you truly grasp. The more focus the niche the more you will be able to be noticed.
Back when I started, a hyper focus was chameleons. Now a days there has been so much going on that a hyper focus would be a certain species of chameleon, or understanding the implementation of UVB, or understanding the gutloading of feeders. You don’t have to know what that is right now. Let it come to you. But be open for that hyper niche that you can use to create a differentiation. Something that sets you aside from the crowd.
Here is the secret. With social media you do not have to be the expert.
Now, I’ll give you some insight that may help with your direction. There is a great swelling of interest in the reptile community for quality of husbandry. Thankfully, we are swinging away from bragging rights going to the person that has the most reptiles or the most different species. The community is evolving to appreciate the husbandry that produces the longest living reptiles, creates the most natural environment, and encompasses the details of nutrition and mental enrichment. This is the world you are entering and can be a major part of its growth. My generation was the collect them all generation. Don’t recreate that. I know it is tempting to collect. It is so easy to fill every corner of your room with the Instagram reptile model of the month. And then to squeeze all the social media spectacle you can from it. Yes, a number of successful YouTube channels do exactly this. It takes discipline to keep your collection to the size where you can give exceptional care. But I am suggesting that you make your outreach a focus on how to give your reptiles the best care possible rather than showing off the species of the week or using them as comical relief. Remember that hyper niche aspect that I suggested you find and become insanely good at it? Maybe that is in how to put together a cage that integrates the latest husbandry information. Do you see how you could become more than just a presenter and become part of the husbandry push forward? Think about that.
So, we have talked strategy and approach. How do you actually get something started? Well, you are going to have to find your voice. What kind of outreach are you good at and how will your personality come through. Are you good at audio? Maybe a podcast like I do is right for you? Are you good at writing? Blogs have not disappeared. They may not get the lime light, but they are still trucking along and can be a significant outreach. Video is the biggest thing right now. Most beginners have ideas of TikTok or YouTube in their head. You will want to find your own voice. I am sure you have your favorite YouTubers or TikTokers. Watch them. Learn from them. But do your own thing. As long as your true personality is coming through you really aren’t competing with other people talking about the same subject as you. Your followers and subscribers do not have a limit to how many people they follow so don’t get caught up in who else is in your niche. Until everyone in your niche can create more video hours than viewers have viewing time, you will all be viewed. In fact, the more channels there are the bigger the community grows. So don’t worry about competition just yet. In fact, the best thing you can do is collaborate. The way social media is set up, nobody is having to pick one of you. They can pick all of you and if you all are working together then you create a sense of community which will grow all of your subscriber counts.
Now let’s talk about the different sources of content because you will need to be in constant content creation mode. The information you have to share comes from a combination of two places. It is from your experience or other peoples’ experience. For example, say you have a Jackson’s Chameleon and that is your only chameleon. You got a male as a wild caught adult and have kept him alive and healthy for 6 years. That is pretty impressive! You tried different nutritional approaches and figured out the right food for the different feeders. In fact, you prepare four different chow mixes based on the feeder you are feeding. I would say you have deep experience in working with feeders and figuring out how they go towards making a Jackson’s chameleon live long. You will be able to work from your own experience when discussing nutrition of Jackson’s Chameleon. But when it comes to how to take care of a panther chameleon you are working off of someone else’s experience. When you advise on how to take care of Jackson’s Chameleon babies you are working off of someone else’s experience.
And here is where I would like you to take a hard look at what you are sharing. There is so much information floating around the internet these days that it is easy to do a goggle search and feel like you know what you are talking about. At the very least you can know what you are talking about enough that you can, at least, convince other people that you know what you are talking about. It is no problem to find many people on the internet who are positioning themselves to be experts on reptiles they don’t keep. Or don’t keep long enough to understand a lifecycle. There are websites of chameleon advice from people that have had only one chameleon in their life and they regularly push out information they gleen from reading social media. They may have little experience, but they like the affiliate link and ad revenue that comes from ranking high on the search engines.
I encourage you to speak on what you know, share what you are learning, and bring your audience along with you. This works at any stage of your growth. My podcast goes back and forth between me talking and sharing like this episode and me researching and interviewing other people. So I am constantly having to formulate thoughts while learning from other people. Does it make you think less of me that I openly say I still have much to learn? I don’t think so. And, really, it doesn’t matter because my show is not based on me being an expert. I am on a journey to learn more and my show is just me sharing so anyone who wants to can come along and learn with me. So I don’t have any expert status I am constantly feeling like I have to defend!
I want to close off with a reminder of why we are doing this. This isn’t about keeping dragons in boxes. There is a deeper reason. By doing what we do we are connected to nature and we learn to view the world through different eyes. By learning their husbandry we are putting aside our desires for what we want to mold them as and we are respecting another living being for what they are.
And we are nurturing awareness for what goes on in the world. There are a number of chameleon people that know about the environmental plight in madagascar because they love chameleons. Otherwise, they would be in their own world evolving pokemon in the meta verse. As our worlds become more and more digital we are living more and more in manufactured worlds. Stoking a wonder for reptiles keeps us in reality and keeps us caring for what is going on in the world. Remember that when you are fighting for likes and follows. Yes, getting attention is important. It is the whole goal of having an outreach or show on social media. But don’t get lost in that quest for likes so much that you lose the perspective of what your purpose truly is. The reptiles need you to be their advocate. And the community needs you to be an example of the best husbandry practices. We are in desperate need for more people to record their good example. Words only go so far. We humans do so much better when we see what we need to do.
And I want you to study what I and the other people on this podcast are presenting. Not because it is right. But because this is the best we have. I want you to know it inside and out. Know why we say the things we do so you do not have to repeat the process. I want you to understand it so well that you can use it as a foundation to continue this work. Right now I say that the UVB level for panther and Veiled chameleons should be UVI 3. Is that definitive? Oh my goodness no! That is one data point. It is a strong and solid data point. But we only have that one data point because it takes a lot of self-discipline and organization to figure out a simple number.
Now, you have some time to study. I am not ready to pass the baton just yet. Unless the universe has some dastardly plan for me, you have at least another 20 years of me ferreting out the details of chameleon husbandry. So, maybe by time you are ready to step up to the plate and start helping beginners there may be a little bit more tested as far as what dose of UVB is effective. And, of course, that is just an example. Our evolution of husbandry is constant and ongoing. So you will want to keep in close contact with the people who are most aggressive in figuring things out for each reptile species you want to be an educator for. Never assume they have the final answer. Never assume that you will find the final answer. But we all have to play our part of taking what another person has done and develop it another step further. And then what you have figured out is your gift to the next generation.
And I want to say this. I know I sound like this is a life time commitment. It isn’t. You can stay doing this as long as you want. And when it is time for you to move on to something more of what speaks to you then do it leaving the community behind a little better than when you found it. I was part of three major niche communities growing up before I let two of them fade to the background and chameleons to become the prime focus. It is okay to not know where you belong. Just dive deep into the interests that you can’t bear to let go of and give them all a chance to fulfill you. Don’t worry if chameleons or reptiles gets edged out by something else. Someone else in the world will have edged out all their other interests with chameleons. So, what I am saying is that if this is your place then perfect. Starting young means you have so much you can accomplish! But what I am also saying is being young also mean there is a big world to explore. It is alright if you need to try other things before settling in and getting serious. Don’t worry, I’ll be here holding down the fort and pushing forward until it is my time to pass the baton.
And so, Antwan from Baltimore, and anyone else aspiring to be a reptile educator, the world is here for you to take your place. You are our future and how you conduct yourself and build your foundation is what the community will be like going forward. This is a new generation of keepers. And I don’t mean age-wise I mean in understanding and perspective. It is an exciting time and a good direction we are going in. I am grateful that I am doing what I am doing at this time. You guys who are starting – take the baton and run. Look to how you can make this a better community and you run with it. Never think that just because reptiles, lizards, or chameleons, or…whatever ..is such a niche that it doesn’t make a difference. The big picture is made up of individual pixels. And our job is to make our pixel a bright one. Whether this is a lifetime calling for you or just a few years or even just a few months - if this is where you belong then plant yourself and move forward with purpose.
Now, this episode was a lot of strategy and mindset and study. Your outreach will require actual rubber to the road including a social media outreach and maybe a website depending on what your passion is. I invite you to check out another podcast I do called the reptile entrepreneur podcast. It is dedicated to helping people start businesses and get themselves established on social media. I just released an episode (number 26) that gives an overview of the social media accounts. A second part will be about the non-social media tools for establishing a home base on the internet. One focus of the podcast is creating a digital footprint and that might be just what you need in parallel to studying up on all the reptile info. You can find the reptile entrepreneur podcast on any podcast app, the reptile entrepreneur youtube channel, or else online at reptileentrepreneur.com
Thank you very much for joining me here. If you have a calling to spread good solid husbandry amongst people just starting out then I can’t welcome or encourage you enough. It is good to have you. This is Bill Strand signing off, I’ll see you next time!