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Social media has gone to the dogs.
According to a new study by BarkBox, adult dog owners post a picture or talk about their dog on social media six times per week. They also watch dog videos or check out dog pics about three time a week — and one in ten has a social media account exclusively for their beloved canine.
There are a few reasons why people are so into posting pics of the pups, but one of the biggest is perhaps that most dog owners see their furry friends as legitimate members of the family, and look to represent them as such on social media.
"People are treating dogs more like family than ever before," said Stacie Grissom, head of content at BarkBox. "In our parents' generation, a dog may have been kept largely in the yard and you greeted it in the morning and when you came home from work. Now the dog is in the Christmas cards."
A 'Reflection' of You — and A Branding Tool
Love, plain and simple, is a big factor behind why we're posting like crazy about our dogs, but there are other motivations that can come into play. For some people, posting pics of their dogs is a way to utilize social media in a way they're comfortable — and invite engagement on the platform.
"Pets are like children, we're proud of them and in some ways they're reflective of us," said David Mitroff, CEO and founder of Piedmont Avenue Consulting. "Some people are shy about posting all about themselves, but they can post all about their pets and [engage] that way. Your dog is a talking point."
Mitroff notes that on social media, to an extent, people are their own brand ambassadors. It's a somewhat cynical concept, but Mitroff says that it's common for people looking to grow their own popularity (particularly on Instagram) to bring a dog into the social media picture.
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"If you look at Instagram, most popular accounts have a picture of guy or girl with a cute dog, or for instance, a guy with a shirt off holding a dog," said Mitroff.
There are also users who upload photos of their dogs on social media and tag a certain business to generate interest beyond their own followings.
"He dressed his dog up in red and placed him in a Target shopping cart, and tagged Target in the image," said Mitroff.
The account holder also tagged the dog (who has her own account) and, in the image caption, referred to Target as the dog's favorite place to shop.
"Even if the brand doesn't pay you, it's in your interest to do this," said Mitroff. "You may get the brand to respond or to share. In some cases they may even send you free products."
To Get Away From it All
But not everyone creating Instagram accounts or Facebook pages for their dog is looking to boost their brand or tie in with another's. Some are more keen on creating a space that's joyful and separate from their own social media presence.
Dog posts for the most part tend to be "free from politics," noted Joselin L Estevez, social media director at X Factor Media. "That's another reason why people like pet pictures."
Elisabeth Rosario, a communications strategist, says she frequently posts pictures of her dog, Zoe, on her own Instagram account, but also created an Instagram account for the pup because of how much she could relate to the simple bliss of looking at dog pics — especially during hard times.
"Before I adopted Zoe from Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, I used to follow tons of dog Instagram accounts because it made my day to look at all these cute Instagrams in times of intense negativity or stress," said Rosario. "So now, when I post on [my dog's] account I find that it is kind of a stress reliever for my friends. [Dogs] just live in the moment. I have past and present colleagues that follow her, friends, and family members. A ton of my friends have Instagram accounts for their dogs, too, and I follow them."
When Rosario recently made a career leap, she included a gif of Zoe in her email to update contacts.
Dogs Over Cats?
As a company exclusively designed for dogs, Grissom noted that BarkBox likes to think that dogs are more popular than cats on the Internet. When it comes to Instagram, she may actually be right.
"Based on what I've seen, dogs are all over the place on social media," said Mitroff. "On Instagram, the hashtag #dog comes up nearly 120 million times and #cat comes up nearly 104 million times; #puppy comes up more than 61 million times versus #kitten which comes up nearly 22 million times."
Could this finally put to rest the argument that dogs are better than cats? Of course not! And it certainly doesn't mean that cats aren't as cute as dogs. It's more a matter of the versatility of experiences that you can have with a dog versus a cat.
"You can take your dogs more places and train them to do more things," said Mitroff. "You can't really put your cat in a shopping cart, or walk him into Starbucks."