So you want to be one of the #dogsofinstagram?
In most ways, Iggy Joey is like many other social media stars on Instagram. She’s travelled the world, walked the runways at New York Fashion Week and regularly gets booked for brand collaborations. Sounds pretty typical right? And it would be — if Iggy weren’t a dog.
Iggy came by the spotlight honestly. “When I first got my dog, I was obsessed with her and just posted a lot of photos,” says her owner Lynda Moody. “I decided to make her an account, so my friends wouldn’t unfriend me because I was posting so much about her,” she explains.
It turns out, there was a lot to like about @iggyjoey. “From the very beginning she was getting way more likes than my photos would get, so it grew very quickly,” says Moody of the account. Once she reached 10,000 followers, Iggy got her first feature in an online magazine. “It was then that I thought, ‘OK, Instagram dogs is a thing,’” says Moody.
For Iggy, an Italian Greyhound, that was just the beginning. “I started getting free stuff around 20,000 followers, and then by 30,000 followers, I started charging,” says Moody. “Now, at 60,000 followers, I have full-on sponsorships.” Her biggest brand partnership to date is with LG Canada. “We are brand ambassadors for the LG G7,” says Moody. “We were gifted a phone and are paid to do posts about the phone.” Moody puts a lot of thought into partnerships; every one of them has to be an authentic fit. “I’ve had LGs for the past five years, and I would never have done something so promotional unless it was something I really liked,” she continues.
Though Moody won’t disclose exact numbers around Iggy’s paid collaborations, she hasn’t given up her full-time job — yet. While it’s something that could happen down the line, for now, she figures Iggy’s gigs are enough to pay her rent, but not enough to live off.
Now that the pets are trending in such a big way online, it's become enough to inspire offshoot business ventures. One example is The Goodboy Shop, a Toronto-based website that sells clothes for dogs and yes, the humans walking them too.
“I wanted to build this community of people like me who want to look good and wear cool clothes, but also dress their dogs and be with their dogs all the time,” said Hailey York, creator of The Goodboy Shop. “I decided to create a niche approach to not only athleisure and activewear, but also dog loving and clothing,” she says.
York curates every women’s outfit on the site to go with some pet apparel. It’s an idea founded on a social-media-first approach. “A big part of Instagram is pairing,” says York. It’s not about matching your pet per se, but finding complementary pieces.
At this point, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s the fashion-forward pieces for pets that sell quickly. York points to a $77 light wash denim coat for dogs as a recent hit with customers. It’s exactly the kind of piece that she knows will play out well on Instagram. “I think that social media has allowed for my company to grow at this rate,” says York. “I have a list of hundreds of people who’ve applied to have their dogs featured as Goodboy models,” she continues. “Instead of making people feel silly, we embrace it and I think that’s a big part of our success.”
But is all of the primping, prodding and attention good for your pet?
“Let’s be honest, people do get carried away,” says Mount Pleasant-Davisville Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. Adam Kleinberg. “There are some accounts where the dogs would probably opt out of getting dressed up in crazy things or going to crazy places,” he says.
But overall, most accounts are pretty harmless according to Kleinberg. “I really don’t think there’s a downside to it as long as you’re keeping it light and it’s all in good fun,” he continues. “The animals seem content and they’re getting rewarded,” he says.
Kleinberg, also known professionally on Instagram as @drkpetvet, has had a couple moments with social media’s famous pets at work. Occasionally, he’s walked into a treatment room to see his support staff gushing. “A lot of them will ask me, ‘Do you know who you’re holding onto? That’s Fergus the Frenchie!’” he recalls with amusement. “Everyone pulls out their phones and shows me. We’ve had a couple situations like that and we laugh,” says Kleinberg.
At its best, creating Instagram accounts can be a bonding experience for pets and owners says Kleinberg, who admits to following some of his patients. “We have a couple clients who are seriously committed to it,” he says of those with as many as 20,000 to 40,000 followers. “I’ve seen families that do it together, and situations where kids are posting and maintaining the profiles,” says Kleinberg. “They’re done so well. It’s impressive they’re putting this much time and energy into it,” he says.
“I think it brings pet owners and lovers together on social media.”