Instagram and other social media have exploded in recent years, growing exponentially, becoming a primary platform to communicate with friends, make new ones, and even find love. For some of us, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat (among others) are a way to share with our family and friends what’s going on in our lives without having to pick up the phone, text or mail photos, or meet for lunch. Not that we don’t still enjoy doing those things, but we all seem to have less and less time available for such indulgences. By connecting across social media, we can keep up with all our friends and family— and they can keep up with us—by simply logging on. While it does take some of the personal interaction out of these relationships, it’s certainly an efficient way to “connect” with everyone you know (and don’t know) and tell each one your stories and share moments you capture in photos and videos—all in one fell swoop.
But if you’re a pet lover, chances are you’ve found yourself meandering through one of these sites and landed on a page dedicated to cute dog or cat … then spent way more time there than you planned. You spot one irresistibly adorable photo of a dog wearing a Star Wars outfit or catching waves on a surfboard, and suddenly you’re scrolling through hundreds of his photos and videos, each one more endearing than the last.
So why are we so fascinated with pets that have their own social media sites? How do these furry little cuties who’ve never even heard of the Internet manage to attract so many followers? Hundreds, thousands, even millions of people who don’t know them, checking in—even receiving notifications— so they don’t miss what their favorite fluffballs might be up to each day.
It’s hard to believe, but the trend is rapidly turning some of these pets into genuine celebrities, with such huge fan bases that sponsors see their accounts as prime advertising space. In some cases, their owners have quit their day jobs and acted as or even hired managers to guide their pet’s career! Dogs who reach this celebrity status are known as “pupfluencers.” And it’s not just an American phenomenon— because the Internet has made the world a smaller place, pupfluencers live all over the world and so do their fans.
The attraction is more than just enjoying their antics and seeing them dressed in cute outfits. “Social media for pets is one way people seek connection with others,” explains Pauleen Bennett, an associate professor of psychology at La Trobe University in Australia. In an interview with ABC Australia, she said, “People just like to engage with other people, so it’s actually about building social connections with other people, but the dog is a conduit for that to happen.”
Although social media allows dog owners and enthusiasts to connect despite distance, Bennett notes that dogs bringing people together is not a new phenomenon. “The social connection stuff doesn’t only happen online. If you go walking with a dog people will stop and talk to you,” Dr Bennett said. “We know that dogs are good at connecting people through all sorts of different ways. Social media is just one of them.”
So what do you need to do if you want make your dog an Internet celebrity? Based on the paths of some of the most successful pupfluencers out there, it starts by taking whatever makes your dog unique, funny, or quirky, and showcasing it in photos, videos, and even memes that are clever and entertaining. Post these photos and videos across multiple social media platforms for the greatest exposure, and post regularly and often. Once a day is good, but twice a day is better, according to some of leaders in this game. And if you really want to make it to the top, consider some marketing strategies, like business cards with a contact email for your pet, apparel that carries his or her branding, and maybe even a product line. It’s surprising how far pet lovers will go to connect with and support their favorite dog or cat celebrity.
And if you don’t manage to quit your day job, at least you will have shared the best, smartest, most talented dog in the world—yours!—with the rest of the world.