While millions of people spend their time glued to flipping through the social media pages of actors, musicians, models, athletes and YouTube vloggers, a new trend has emerged in recent years bringing forth a new group of social media profiles.
Allow me to introduce you to the world of pet-specific social media accounts where pet owners create profiles exclusively for their pets and pose on those pages as if their pets were the ones uploading the photos and videos.
The trend, present in the Midcoast, is a way for some to simply share content of their furry friends and establish relationships between others with pet-specific accounts. Others, meanwhile, use the page to capitalize financially and help promote brands.
Heidi Vanorse Neal decided in August 2017 to showcase her dog’s cuteness on Instagram as a way to document its growth and the fun activities she enjoys with her dog, Piper.
“Any pictures of her that I think are super cute [get posted], especially if they are funny or she has done something naughty,” Vanorse Neal said. “I find that I am posting more for myself, really, so I have a place with all of her photos. If I just happen to get some likes, that is a bonus.”
After being persuaded in 2016 by her sons to start an Instagram page for one of the family’s dogs, Ollie Longbottom, marketing specialist Susan Chadwick knew people would enjoy a hearty laugh of Ollie Longbottom’s facial expressions.
“The world needs to laugh more, especially these last few years,” Chadwick said. “I was shocked how many people followed him.”
“I adopted Jack from the shelter as a hospice cat with terminal cancer (being an advanced cancer survivor myself) and they had several others interested in adopting him, as well,” Winchenbach stated. “I wanted folks to be able to keep track of him.”
“I guess it's a bit unconventional to have a social media page for your pet, but it's fun,” Morgenstern said.
Deciding what photos are uploaded to the pet-specific social media accounts are a science for some requiring extensive months-in-advance planning, while others take a more leisurely approach.
Stephanie Moran uses her master’s degree in creative writing when posting photos to Instagram able to inspire funny short stories, she says, though she admits there are times where there are simply no words for to describe what her five cats — Maya, Oscar, Duncan, Jasper and Spenser — are doing.
Chadwick, meanwhile, posts images thanking followers for growing the page to more than 1,000 followers or to celebrate a holiday. (For Star Wars Day, Chadwick put a Darth Vader mask on Ollie Longbottom and called him ‘Barth Vader’.)
Hannah Lazaro splits the type of photos uploaded to the three Instagram accounts she runs for her dobermans, Achilles, Prima and Eros, between daily lives or adventures and notable happenings such as the first time her furry friends try new foods or that time they wore pajamas. The three pages collectively have attracted more than 21,000 followers.
Many of the photos uploaded for four years to a Facebook page primarily for Robert Merrill’s corgi, Cauchy, showcased the now-late corgi around Camden or the Merrill house.
“For two years, I actually dressed them up for group photos (yes the cat too) for every single holiday,” said Shanna Murphy of her joint Instagram account for her cat, Bandit, and two dogs, Tanner and Allie. “It became too hard after the two years to try to come up with new ideas for group photos for the small holidays like valentines, so, now I come up with something for Halloween (I start planning a month or two ahead) and a photo for Christmas cards.”
Murphy routinely partners with companies to promote their pet-related products on her pet-specific Instagram account. As such, she also has to take time to calculate product placement in photos and make sure those posts will receive positive reaction from the brands she partnered with.
“Influencer marketing has become a big thing — now pet influencer marketing is the biggest thing because pets tend to perform better on social media,” said Loni Edwards, an agent for some of the biggest pet social media stars, in an “On the Money” interview with CNBC. “Everyone loves them, they make people happy, so then people like the brands as well because the content is making them happy.”
With pet-specific social media pages on the rise, nearly everyone, ultimately, is in love with the idea of giving a “follow” or “like” to these new accounts, though some do raise their eyebrows upon being invited to check out these accounts.
“It was a total mixed bag,” Vanorse Neal said. “I had people that were excited to see photos of [my dog], but I also got some major eye rolls, as well.”
Moran can relate on the latter as she recalls some close to her skeptical of her becoming a “crazy cat lady” though she admits those close to her overall love the social media page.
“The general reaction has been good and supportive, Winchenbach said of the social media account she created nine months ago. “My friends and family, as well as folks that work or volunteer at the shelter, seem genuinely interested in Jack’s well-being.”
Through these pet-specific profiles, strong relationships have been established among followers of the pet accounts and even fellow pet accounts.
When Ollie needed to see a specialist in Scarborough for an eye problem, Chadwick was surprised at how many of her dog’s social media fans expressed their concern.
“[Ollie] has no clue [they reached out], but it made me feel better,” Chadwick stated.
Similar incidents happen for Morgenstern when she has not uploaded to her pet-exclusive page.
“Some of [Skippy’s] followers message me to see if he's ok if I go too long without posting,” Morgenstern said.
Murphy, meanwhile, noted she has formed family-like relationships with other pet-exclusive Instagram accounts.
“It's a community of like minded ‘crazy pet parents’ just like me,” Murphy said. “We may not know each other in ‘the real world’ but we have become connected. As I scroll through I can pick out dogs without even looking at the account name. You all share happy posts and sad posts. I have shed tears over dogs passing that I have only known through their [Instagram] posts over the years. We send each other Christmas cards and packages. We ask for advise and give advise.”
Reach George Harvey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.