Posted on Nov. 4, 2015, at 3 p.m.
by Caroline Giddis.
“Doug is very … lazy in the morning,” said Leslie Mosier. “Some mornings are crazy when we have a video or photo shoot. He’s just like a sack of potatoes so usually I’ll wake up, see him, take him out, and he’ll wanna go back to bed.” Doug is Leslie’s top client. She handles his social media accounts, schedules his appearances at events and even makes his meals. Leslie is what we call a “momager,” because her client is … her dog.
Doug the Pug, the “King of Pop Culture,” is an internationally known pug from Nashville, Tennessee. With 833,000 followers on Instagram and 2.5 million likes on Facebook, he’s more famous than most people aspire to be. His 18-month calendar is a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon, and he’s the star of Fall Out Boy’s latest music video, but these are only a few of Doug’s celebrity accomplishments of late.
Doug the Pug ranks up there among Chloe the Mini Frenchie, Nala Cat, Menswear Dog, Lil’ Bub and other pets who are taking over the Internet as if it were the coolest park in the neighborhood. Many have gained enough success to move beyond the Internet. While most household pets can only do a few tricks (sit, roll over, etc.), these superstar animals have wiggled their way to the top as models, “spokescats,” TV show hosts and authors.
Social media apps, Instagram especially, have led to the rise of furry friend fandom and beyond. With more than 400 million active users on the app, it’s hard to believe that so many pets, people and businesses have found a way to stand out amongst the crowd. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but these pets are able to say a lot more if they have a strategy. Some owners have simply gotten lucky, but many of the most successful “momagers” have used basic PR tactics to project their pets as more than just #cute, but as major icons with their own brands.
When Doug first got noticed, his pictures were still being posted on Mosier’s personal account. An employee from Mashable.com loved the content she was posting of her dog and wrote a listicle about him. Soon, similar publications such as Buzzfeed and Huffington Post took notice, and in a few weeks, the newly created @itsdougthepug Instagram account had 10,000 followers.
“That sparked the motivation for me to start taking it seriously,” said Mosier. “I remember sitting at the office and when my boss would leave the room, I’d send an email or I’d draft a ton of emails like the night before to pretty much anyone and everyone press related. I don’t even know what I was trying to accomplish at the time, but I couldn’t stop myself thinking that it was good.”
Mosier interned at Aware Records in Nashville as the director of new media, and then full time as assistant manager after graduating from Belmont University in 2014. “All of Doug’s stuff came really easily in a weird sense, and I think a lot of that has to do with my old job,” Mosier said. With a background that involves social media marketing, publicity management and an extensive graphic design portfolio, it’s easy to see how she built Doug The Pug’s fame.
“I definitely feel lucky because I’ll look on Instagram and see a lot of really talented photographers posting photos of their dogs that are really cute, but it takes a lot more than that,” said Mosier. “It’s a lot of figuring out how to set yourself apart and connecting and networking with people.”
Another superstar is Manny the Frenchie, a 4-year-old French bulldog from Chicago with 1.5 million likes on Facebook and 853,000 followers on Instagram. Manny has claimed the brand of “philanthropist frenchie.”
“We never intended to get Manny famous,” said Amber Chavez, co-founder of Manny & Friends, a network of Manny and other pets that supports local and national charities. “He gradually gained popularity all on his own with his crazy ‘frenchie talk’ and adorable photos.”
Manny is currently on a tour through different U.S. cities to raise awareness and benefit different animal rescues and shelters. He’s a pup that wears many hats (literally) as event host, product ambassador and overall celebrity. He was even featured on the “Today Show” in celebration of Halloween last month.
“Being creative and original is key,” said Chavez. “We never force Manny to do anything he’s not into or try to be like someone else.”
Chavez and Manny’s “Dad,” Jon Huang, run the social media and website, and have developed different methods for managing and finding success with the accounts.
There’s a lot to learn from Mosier’s and Chavez’s example. Here are a few steps that they took along the way to launch their pups to celebrity status:
1. Claiming a brand. Doug the Pug is the “King of Pop Culture.” He’s appeared on stage at music festivals, been photographed on the red carpet with celebrities and really owns what’s the latest craze. “I’ve always been really up on pop culture events, so it just came really easily. It represents Doug pretty well. It wasn’t until we started having Doug repeat famous TV shows and movies that a whole door was opened up, and we could literally copy anything in pop culture and make it Doug,” said Mosier.
For Manny, becoming the “philanthropy frenchie” was more of a calling Chavez discovered after receiving some fame. “Ever since our first event and T-shirt we created, we’ve donated proceeds to charity,” said Chavez. “We wanted to do something positive to help animals in need with this platform we’ve been fortunate enough to have created.”
2. Researching is key. “I study analytics and marketing stuff all day long with the Internet, and I realized what [other accounts] were doing wrong,” said Mosier. Learning what content is successful on other accounts and what isn’t can give the user a good basis of what to post. “It’s really important to stay up to date, and I try to make everything really relatable,” said Mosier.
3. Know your audience and platform. Because 90 percent of Instagram users are under the age of 35, they appreciate different content than the users on Facebook with a much wider age group. “I’ll tailor the caption for Facebook to be a little more broad, and I’ll post certain things on Instagram that I wouldn’t post on Facebook,” said Mosier.
Interacting with your audience as well is a vital part of being on any platform. “We definitely engage with our followers and other accounts we come across on a daily basis,” said Chavez. Chavez noted that using different hashtags allows them to find and appeal to audiences they may not have before.
4. Be consistent. If you neglect posting for even a day, you risk becoming a fad. “I’ve posted two photos a day, at least, every day since last September,” said Mosier. “You get engagement on every photo and new people find you when you post.”
5. Timing matters. A lot of it is just trial and error Mosier said. “Sunday nights are great for videos, and Sunday mornings are great for photos of Doug in bed. There’s also those random photos that I post at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, that I don’t think will do well, but do incredible. It really depends on the content, and what people want to view online,” she explained.
Chavez said they experiment with the times that they post for Manny in order to connect with new audiences. “We create posting schedules each month since we have partnerships and events that sometimes need to be posted on certain days or times,” she explained.
Anyone trying to establish a brand with a social media presence can follow these five steps and see some success. The methods that Mosier and Chavez have used transcend goofy meme accounts and apply to all areas of brand construction and communication.
Content is another story, but with a great product that comes easily as well.
“We try to keep all of our content as organic as possible,” said Chavez. “Manny’s always doing something cute, funny or just loving life with a smile on his face, so capturing those moments is easy. He’s always camera ready and willing to doing anything for a treat!”
Mosier quickly found out that Doug is a natural. “When a camera comes out, Doug just knows what to do. I’ll sit him on the couch and he’ll do the exact pose that I was thinking of … I don’t know if it’s a pug thing or a Doug thing, but he’s got whatever it is,” she said.
Find out what makes your content special and run with it.