It’s undeniable—people love their pets. More than 68 percent of Americans own a pet and 95 percent of those who have pets at home consider them a part of the family. And, just like family, they have taken center stage in our everyday lives with 33 percent of American pet owners saying they post about their pets on social media as much and as often as their human family.
If you feel like your feeds are filled with pictures of pets, you’re right. A quarter of content shared to social media features pets—so much so that one in six pet owners has created a social account specifically for their pet. These accounts have gained unforeseeable momentum across an internet where hashtags like #dogsofinstagram have collected more than 155 million posts. These pet accounts, often initially created as a way to simply segment people’s content, have actually grown faster than those belonging to their human counterparts, where one in every two people believes their pet gets more attention online than they do. Thirty percent of pet owners admit to following celebrity pets on social media and 33 percent would be just as excited to meet their favorite pet celebrity as their favorite human star. That is a level of adoration and influence that has turned our pets into influencers in their own right, creating the modern phenomenon known as the “petfluencer.”
This growth has carved out a niche market opportunity that the internet’s most adorable pets has risen to fill. With the influencer marketing industry expected to reach $10 billion by 2020, petfluencers have found ways to benefit from the market opportunity as well. The team at The Dog Agency, a company created to manage and grow the careers of celebrity pets, has explained that an animal account with around 100,000 followers can make a couple thousand dollars per post and accounts with over one million fans can make tens of thousands from a single, sponsored post. It pays to be cute.
As the pet market bubble grows at a record pace, pets and their people are taking their cuteness to the bank in droves. We spoke with four petfluencers who have gained popularity in the space to get their inside perspective on the industry.
HERO | @HEROTHEAUSSIE
Hero, a Miniature Australian Shepherd, joined social media four years ago shortly after being adopted—he and his fur-sister, Justice, now have Facebook and Instagram accounts totaling over 66,000 followers. Their momager, Lily, said: “We have made so many friends over the years of being on social media. It’s crazy how much love and support we get every day from people who have never even met Hero, Justice, or me! I’m just so glad that people love these guys as much as I love them!” As their accounts grew, brands started to reach out to the adorable pair to partner on content. Believing it to be a great way to try out different products and a new way to connect with their engaged community, Lily and her pups took the first step into the market. After experience charting their own course, they prioritize the value the content will provide their fan base—knowing they are a community of serious animal lovers—when selecting brands to work with. Despite the scale of their community and content creation, Lily stressed that “it’s always important to put your pets’ needs first,” and to keep the work rewarding and fun for the animals.
PHARRELL, ROSIE, & RUMBA | @PHARRELLANDROSIE
Many of these now petfluencers gained their fame by happy accident, with their accounts launched to keep dog content from saturating their owners’ feeds and then growing into something more than they ever imagined. Megan, loving owner of Pharrell, Rosie, and Rumba, said her dogs’ account with over 49,000 followers was created “originally just to not annoy all my friends with dog photos… and it just turned into something more.” Pharrell and Rosie are both Border Collies and Rumba is what has become known as a “Potcake,” a mixed-breed dog found on several Caribbean islands. All rescued, the three dogs have an incredible bond and even more incredible stories. In fact, Megan first met Rumba, the newest member of her pack, while on vacation in the Dominican Republic. The stray pup was discovered just laying in the sand and their instant bond meant leaving her behind just wasn’t an option for Megan and she, against all odds, brought Rumba safely home. You can see their full, touching story here in The Dodo’s video feature. (Eat your heart out, Danny and Sandy.)
When she’s not spending time out and about in New York City with her three happy pups in tow, Megan also runs a dog-focused blog called Gal’s Best Friend, a guide for the modern dog mom. As her blog content, big heart, and wide-spanning social presence and gained traction, her team has slowly started working with brands they trust and believe in. The petfluencer space has its challenges and Megan asserts that knowledge and integrity are key when choosing partners to work with. Megan likes to try to service or product first before agreeing to work with a brand, saying, “We want everything we do to be honest and something that we would 100% use.” She added that, “…in the big picture, I love it and I am so happy to be in the space and share with people all the amazing things we can give to our pups or how to be the best dog moms we can!”
CHASE | @SOMETIMESCARL
After visiting a shelter looking for a cat, Eric left with a dog—Chase. Their bond grew immediately and, shortly after a move to New York City and a second perfect match made, Katie joined the family and the trio began documenting their big city adventures on social media. Eric and Katie describe Chase as “the laziest, derpiest, sweetest, house-hippo.” Created on a whim to stay in touch with family and friends, his adorable antics got Chase noticed. Through social media and his now over 87,000 followers, sweet and silly Chase has become an ambassador for pit bull type dogs, as well as foster and adoption. Chase’s charm and impressive network got him signed by The Dog Agency that now manages his partnerships—with work ranging from Bissell, Ollie, Bark, Benebone, Wellness Pet Food, Thrive Market, Brandless, Fetch CBD, The Dodo, and many other fun, rewarding collaborations. Of the petfluencer phenomenon, Katie says: “Pets are super attractive to brands because they’re ideal ambassadors. They have virtually nothing but adoring fans, are never going to show up in the tabloids, and will never badmouth your product.” The unadulterated love we have for our pets makes marketing feel less contrived.
After working with so many great brands and establishing Chase’s online presence, Katie hopes to turn even more of their focus towards supporting rescue. She “will take any opportunity to talk about the importance of rescue and fostering,” and recently posted an #adforgood where 100% of the proceeds went to Mr. Bones and Co. Of the initiative, Katie said they are “hoping to do more of that in the future,” turning Chase’s social prowess into a way to give back to the pet community and help others.
CRUSOE | @CRUSOE_DACHSHUND
Crusoe, a 9-year-old Miniature Dachshund, is described as “a bold, funny little character” by his human, Ryan. Crusoe was one of the first petfluencers, starting his blog and Facebook page back in 2011—followed shortly by YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. Crusoe started on social media because Ryan, “thought it’d be fun…to write from Crusoe’s perspective as he experiences the world.” Ryan went on to say little did he know that this would become his “longest-ever running hobby and eventually a business.” His is a face you remember—you might know Crusoe from his original short films and extensive Facebook community boasting over three million followers. He’s even verified! His popularity and devoted community got him a People’s Choice Award last year, taking petfluence to the next level. Since his start on social media, Crusoe and Ryan have worked with many brands, but their favorite brand partnership to date was supporting Heinz’s Super Bowl 50 commercial featuring an aptly (and adorably) titled “Weiner Stampede.” Crusoe hung out at Heinz’s headquarters during the game and live-tweeted from their account. Echoing sentiments heard from other early petfluencers, Ryan has astutely said: “You need to stay true to your beliefs and put your audience first, because if you start to promote anything and everything, your audience will see that and they’ll stop taking your recommendations—ultimately, you’ll lose your ‘influence.’”
All four of the petfluencers we talked to have had unique experiences, but they all shared a great appreciation for the communities they’ve built and the rewarding experiences partnering with companies they believe in. These partnerships are also paying dividends for brands. Branded content featuring pets drives 295 percent more comments and 131 percent more engagement overall when compared to their regular, evergreen content. Beyond partnerships and profits, the popularity of pets on social media and the rise of the petfluencer have arguably helped the rescue community as well. As pet popularity and influence has grown, the pervasiveness of animal homelessness and deaths has declined in correlation, if not more direct causation. According to the animal welfare organization, Maddie’s Fund, shelter intake in the U.S. has dropped 15 percent from 2008 to 2015 and deaths have dropped over 70 percent within that period.
For those looking to grow their pets’ online presence, our petfluencers had a few words of advice that have guided them in their own experiences:
- Have fun and engage with your fans. Enjoy interacting with people who love animals as much as you do. It is important to cultivate the community relationship and consider them when selecting brands to work with and products to advertise.
- Put your pets first. When capturing content, keep their experiences short and positive.
- Be authentic. Stay true to yourself and what you value for your pet when selecting partners and making recommendations.
- Take really good photos!
- Stand out. Have a voice and something that makes you stand out from the crowd—whether that is your photos, your pet’s personality, or your relationship with them.
- Don’t sweat the metrics. Focus on sharing your content, engaging with your audience, and putting your best foot (or paw!) forward for the brands you love, and the rest will follow.
A big thank you to Lily, Hero, and Justice; Megan, Pharrell, Rosie, and Rumba; Katie and Chase; and Ryan and Crusoe for sharing their experiences so that we may learn from them. If you don’t already follow them on social media, here’s your chance to add some adorable to your life.