You won’t find Doug, Manny or Nala on the Forbes “Richest People in America” list. But they’re among Forbes Top Pet Influencers, pets on social media who help their owners cash in on marketing sponsorships, book deals, merchandise sales and more.
A new branding strategy, influencer marketing enables companies to tie into online personalities with a large following. And pets, it turns out, are among the most popular. About 65 percent of Americans post about their pets, according to a Mars Petcare survey, and half of those people say their pets get more attention than they do.
It’s the kind of attention that brands hope will translate into sales. In a study of 15 brands, Instagram content featuring pets boosted engagement by up to 295 percent over content without pets, with an average increase in comments of 89 percent.
Celebrity Status Means Business
The rise of pet influencers convinced attorney Loni Edwards to start The Dog Agency, a management firm for pets. The agency helps hook up popular pets with media coverage in BuzzFeed, the Today Show, the Wall Street Journal, People, Huffington Post and other outlets. They’ve also helped owners negotiate marketing contracts with brands catering to both humans and pets. Depending on the number of followers and their engagement level, Edwards says pets with around 200,000 followers can earn about $3,000 to $5,000 per sponsored piece, and $10,000 to $15,000 for those with millions of followers.
Popular Pop Icons
A few of the popular pets you’ll find on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter include:
Grumpy Cat (the stage name for Tardar Sauce) is a cat made popular by her unhappy countenance, the result of an underbite and dwarfism. Grumpy Cat starred in the TV movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever and has an online store with more than 1,000 items. No one is sure what Grumpy Cat’s annual salary is, but her owner recently won a $710,000 lawsuit for copyright and trademark infringement.
Doug the Pug is the most followed Pug on the internet. He has over 1 billion video views and more than 12 million followers. After hitting the New York Times bestseller list for his book Doug the Pug: King of Pop Culture, he went on an international book tour. With Doug’s success, his owner quit her job to manage him full time.
Tuna, a Chiweenie known by his book title as “The Underdog With the Overbite,” has over 1.9 million Instagram followers and over 2 million fans on all of his social channels combined.
Manny the Frenchie has modeled for Martha Stewart’s line of Petsmart products and published a book, Manny the Frenchie’s Art of Happiness. He has his own 501(c)(3) nonprofit to help people and animals in need.
Even Lionel and Lilo the African pygmy hedgehogs are getting into the act. They sport tiny hats, lounge in teeny furniture and are fed worms after successful photo shoots.
The Making of a Social Media Idol
Of course, a lot more goes into creating a social media star than a few cute snapshots. Successful pet parents put a lot of thought into curating the right content. If you’re thinking about launching your pet’s social media career, here are a few tips:
- Make sure your pet likes being a model — If your pet isn’t into posing for the camera, sporting hats and outfits or traveling to events, don’t force it.
- Create a unique brand personality — It helps if your pet is a quirky breed, has unusual markings or an extra-long tongue, or has a heartwarming rescue story to tell. Some pet brands focus on travel, fashion or another activity that will attract certain followers.
- Know your audience — If you’re creating content for fashion-forward women, for example, generate content that will appeal to them.
- Be authentic to the brand — To maintain the support of your followers, don’t let your site become choked with ads, and turn down any marketing offers that aren’t true to your brand.
- Be consistent with your posts — To encourage followers to stay engaged, you need to provide a regular posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps plan ahead for seasonal or topical content for the month and make time to keep posts coming.