In 2018, it’s rare to find a person without a social media presence. Instagram – a photo and video sharing smart phone application has at least 500 million daily users of the app. The app is used for a wide range of things from personal accounts who post their daily activities to businesses who use the platform to sell products. Now, dogs have their own market on Instagram and it is extremely popular.
The online trend of making pets their own social media accounts started at the peak of Facebook’s rise in the early 2010’s. Since then, pet accounts – in particular dog accounts online (especially Instagram) have become increasingly popular. Through this Insta-fame, dogs have become influencers, have agents, sponsorship deals, marketing partnerships and a world of opportunity.
According to Statista, the most followed dog account on Instagram in October 2017 was Jiff Pom with 6.6 million followers. Now in May 2018, Jiff Pom now has 8.8 million followers – this shows a huge growth in popularity in just 7 months – especially for a dog.
As dogs become more popular on social media, business opportunities have arrised and companies such as “The Dog Agency” & “Top Dog Agency” have opened to meet these needs. These companies allow for their members (the dogs) to gain business opportunities through advertisments, shows, movies and the enetertainment industry. Events such as Pet Con have also begun to meet the fan base of these famous dogs. At Pet Con, people are able to meet celebrity dogs and influencers such as “Tuna Melts My Heart” & “Harlow & Sage” who both have over 1 million followers.
I sent an open ended questionnaire to over 30 dog accounts on Instagram asking for the human behind the account to provide some details of why they first began the page and what their intentions of the account were. 17 accounts participated in the survey.
Most commonly, participants stated that they wanted to show off their pet and meet other dog owners in the online community. Over 70% of respondents stated they started the account as they needed/wanted a platform to share photos of the dog. Most participants did not want to fill their personal accounts with images of the dog, so they started an account solely for dog photos.
When asked about the goals of the account, there were various answers. 23% of participants stated their goals were marketing/business related, some accounts stated they wanted more ambassador roles from companies, to strengthen their brand and gain more followers/to become viral. 35% had community based goals, they said they wanted to meet other dog owners and learn through the online platform. Another 35% stated their goal was to spread happiness and joy through cute photos of their dogs.
Oscar the Staffyy has quickly gained popularity since the start of his account in November 2017. His owner started the account after seeing other pet accounts and noticing how photogenic Oscar was. Since then has become an ambassador for a company to promote both the accounts and company’s image. The owner ensures to use hashtags and the same filters on photos to ensure consistency. Using high quality photos has also been a factor in the accounts success.
When asked about the goal of the account, Simba.Maisy.Panda said they hope to evoke positive reactions from their followers:
“That other people or dog lovers get a giggle, a laugh, feel good, enjoy the posts. Simply to make people feel good.”
-Simba Maisy Panda
The account is also used as a diary of the dogs lives however the owner tries to ensure that their privacy is protected by not posting specific locations or photos of themselves.
Wollongong based account, Keeping up with Douglas started the account after Douglas was gaining popularity on the owners personal account. The captions are written as if Douglas was writing, they also ensure to use breed specific hashtags, tagging specific brands and locations. Their main goal is to showcase the Douglas, however if other opportunities evolved the owner wouldn’t be opposed. The owner ensures that Douglas’s personality is showcased:
“A popular Instagram dog page is always about how you can promote a certain brand or look. Let’s face it animals make any human happy so why not have all of these pages of pets. I also think it’s super important to show the dogs personality as well not just still photos so people can feel like they have a connection to that animals as well :)”
– Keeping Up With Douglas
Overall, accounts stated that they believe that talking from the dogs perspective is an important factor in the popularity of accounts. Frequently posting, high quality images, consistency, clever captioning, and creative posts were also mentioned as important factors. Using breed specific hashtags are also a successful way to connect with others in the online dog community.
COMPARISON & ANALYSIS OF ACCOUNTS + FACTORS
To research these famous dogs, I compared some different accounts and analysed their posts. A large factor in the popularity is anthropomorphism and how the dogs are portrayed on social media. Accounts that are sculpted and have similar content/aesthetic looks are also popular compared to those who don’t themes. Dogs are also used as a source of happiness for many people.
After delving deeper into some of the factors that influence the popularity of these accounts, I have analysed two accounts – Doug The Pug & Loki. These Insta-famous dogs are both have millions of followers but vary in content. They are both very successful and have their own merchandise and sponsorship deals. In October 2017, Doug The Pug was the second most popular dog on Instagram and Loki was the 6th (Worldwide).
According to Epley, Waytz & Cacioppo (2007) Anthropomorphism describes the tendency to attribute nonhuman agents with human characteristics, motivations, intentions or emotions. Some Insta-famous dogs are portrayed to have many human like characteristics but others depict the dog as a natural animal.
It is very popular for dog accounts to post from a human perspective and act as as if the dog is posting themselves. Captions are written as if they are from the dog and many posts depict the dog human things such as drinking coffee.
Posts from an anthropomorphic view tend to gain more likes than those that pose the dogs in natural environments. While accounts such as Doug The Pug seem solely post from the dogs perspective, others like Loki integrate the types of captioning and content between a dogs perspective and a humans perspective.
Animals as a source of happiness:
Animals bring many people happiness and around 62% of Australian households own pets. Dogs are the most popular household pet with 38% of households owning a dog. Those who do not have currently pets may turn to social media to indulge in the dog accounts. Studies have shown that companion animals such as dogs can help improves a person’s quality of life as they can help better cope with stressful situations, prevent loneliness, decrease depression and improve activities of daily living (Geisler 2004). Children exposed to companion animals exhibit more prosocial behaviour and enhanced empathy for other humans (Vidovic, Stetic & Bratko 1999).
The Delta Society Australia aims to promote and facilitate interactions between dogs and animals, they do this by visiting those in needs with dogs. Many hospitals, such as John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, have allowed programs for dogs to visit sick patients to cheer people up. These dogs bring companionship, friendship and enhance the quality of life to those who are struggling.
Many participants from the questionnaire also stated their goal was to provoke positive emotions and make people happy through the account. Leslie, the manager or self described “Momager” of Doug the Pug strives to make people happy through Doug the Pugs creative and quirky account:
“Doug makes people happy, and that’s my ultimate motivation throughout all of this. I have gotten emails from Leukemia patients that rely on Doug’s photos for a boost in morale each day, and been touched by emotional stories like one of a little boy who’s Mom unexpectedly died; he put Doug’s photos in her casket just in case she woke up.”
– Leslie Mosier, Huffington Post
Scheme of the account:
Choosing a specific theme for an account can improve the look of the overall feed and create a consistent brand image. Successful accounts have consistent themed content and aesthetic themes. There are several articles online which provides guides and tips for creating the perfected curated space, the amount of articles online show how much of a prominent issue having a well crafted online persona is.
From a quick glance of Insta-famous dogs, it is clear that there is a need for a curated space and that all these famous accounts adhere to this. Each account has a different theme to showcase the dog, defining and developing specific & personal styles creates a unique brand identity. This personal style may include use of the same filter, certain image styles, captioning and interactive styles and overall presence of the Instagram account. High quality images are also usually used (and recommended)
Studies have shown that images with plenty of negative space and single dominant colours receive the most likes – it’s no surprise that the absence of chaos helps the viewer to focus and feel relaxed. Clean, crisp images that are in focus and taken in the right light also score well.
-Tess Robinson, The Collective Hub
Doug The Pug is the self proclaimed king of pop culture with over 3 million Instagram followers and an avid presence across many social media platforms. Doug The Pug has an anthropomorphic presence with captions written from his perspective. Mostly he is depicted in human situations. The below screenshot shows a a small portion of Doug’s account, 8 out 9 of the photos show Doug in human situations, with only one showing Doug naturally (no costumes or props).
Photos of Doug the Pug doing human activities seem to gather more attention than photos of Doug simply sitting naturally. Below are some photo comparisons from Doug’s account. One shows Doug about to indulge in his personlised birthday cake which is Pizza themed, the dog wears a party hat and a shirt with pizza’s on it – this post has over 260,000 likes (Posted May 21). The other image shows Doug sitting on a chair naturally, with no costumes or props – the post has over 128,000 likes (Posted 18 May).
The images were posted only a few days apart, yet one has significantly more likes than the other. The anthropomorphic based image with the props and costume has more than 100,000 more likes than the natural based image.
Doug the Pugs account started like most others, when pictures of Doug began to flood his owners Leslie’s account, she started an account for him which quickly took off. Leslie was a PR manager and used this knowledge to create the success for Doug The Pug. They have also become successful on YouTube where they create comical videos featuring the dog mainly involved in human behaviours.
Doug The Pug is so popular that he even recently appeared in Katy Perry’s music video for her new song “Swish Swish”.
Loki and his owner Kelly Lund, explore the United States of America country side and showcase it across Instagram to over 1.7 million followers. Kelly Lund is a photographer, the account is full of beautiful photos of Loki in nature. The aim of the account is to inspire others to creative great memories outdoors.
“The photos we create are the pages in our journal. Loki and I hope we can inspire others to get out, explore their world, and make memories with their pups.”
Captions vary from being written from the dogs perspective to being written by the owner. Similar to Doug The Pugs account, images with anthropomorphic captions gain more likes than those written from human perspective. However unlike Doug the Pug, Loki’s images do not contain human props and costumes. Doug the Pug has more followers than Loki on Instagram, this difference in anthropomorphic image styling could be the reason for Doug’s increased popularity.
Loki also has merchandise such as dog accessories such as leads and collars. As the owner is a photographer, large prints of Loki in beautiful landscapes are also available for sale.
Loki has also recently featured in an advertisement created by Toyota USA, who are the official worldwide partner of International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee through the 2024 games. The advertisement features 3 time Paralympian champion Oksana Masters.
Behind each of our partnerships, there are incredible people we love. Toyota is no exception. They’ve continued to believe in our journey and have sparked so many great fires in our heart. Not too long ago, they introduced us to @oksanamasters. She is a three-time Paralympian and a complete inspiration in every way. Filming this video was one of the best experiences, and we hope you all can feel that when you watch it. Please show @oksanamasters all the love and support you’ve got as she heads into the Olympic season! @toyotausa #sponsored
On Loki’s instagram account, there are regular give away competitions advertised for other companies. In the month of May, Loki posted 21 photos, 6 of these photos were associated with another company, these posts were either advertising products on their own, or advertising them through a giveaway, which generates engagement for both Loki and the company involved.
Insta-famous dogs have become modern day celebrities and apart of many peoples daily lives as they scroll through their Instagram feed.
Accounts that post anthropomorphic content are more popular than those who post natural content. Successful accounts also have a curated theme and ensure consistency through their images and posting styles.
Both primary and secondary research showed that although some accounts strive to become famous for business purposes, it appears the underlying desire of most accounts is to spread joy to others through photographs of dogs.Other pet owners also gain inspiration and learn from other dog owners online.
Studies have shown that dogs provide happiness to humans – they are our companions and have the ability to cheer us up through unspoken connections. The bond humans have with dogs has taken to social media to allow millions of people worldwide to admire and connect with other people and dogs.
Most references are hyperlinked throughout the blog, however these academic articles could not be hyperlinked.
Epley, N., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J. T 2007, ‘On seeing human: A three-factor theory of anthropomorphism.’ Psychological Review, Vol. 114 No. 4 pp. 864-886, viewed 27/04/2018
Geisler, A, 2004, Companion animals in palliative care: Stories from the bedside, American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Vol 21, Issue 4, pp. 285 – 288 viewed 29/04/2018
Vidovic VV, Stetic VV, Bratko D 1999, ‘Pet ownership, type of pet and socio-emotional development of schoolchildren.’ Anthrozoos. Vol. 12 No.4 pp. 211-217, viewed 29/04/2018