Dogs and Blogs (and Twitter and Facebook...)
A local dog park somewhere in Southern California. Dogs are running around, barking and chasing a ball. A large mutt comes out of nowhere and, with the expertise of David Beckham, takes charge of the ball and rushes away from the pack, nosing the ball, finally picking it up and dropping it in his pet parent’s purse.
The rest of the pack looks around in confusion. Beckham’s mom picks up her Blackberry and “tweets” about this dog park coup on Twitter, and less than thirty seconds later, dog owners sitting in other dog parks on the West Coast along with dog lovers in England, Australia, and South Africa, are learning about Pooch Beckham’s dog park achievement and sharing their own stories via their Blackberries and computers.
Ma Beckham just happened to have her Flip video camera with her and filmed the entire event. So twenty minutes later, when she’s back home with her pooped pup, who is now snoring in his bed dreaming of rabbits, she’s uploading the video onto YouTube and Pooch Beckham’s Dogster.com and Dogbook pages, and has commented about it on her own Facebook page, too. After a cup of coffee, she will sit down and post something about it on her dog blog. And, as all her posts and pictures takeoff into cyberspace, there’s no real way of knowing how quickly the number of people learning and viewing Pooch Beckham’s canine soccer tactics will spread virally from his immediate family and friends to hundreds and then thousands and, eventually,even to millions of dog lovers around the world.
Witness the power of social networking, a phenomenon that has literally taken over the way the world communicates. It’s a way of talking to people you know and with those that you don’t know—yet. It’s about making new friends with people with mutual interests and gleaning interesting information about products, places, and events. It’s about banding together to become an international community—in this case, a community based around dogs. Instant, easy, and addictive, the electronic social network specifically for “dog people” is already huge and growing by the day.
According to the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, 60 percent of Americans are using social media, and of those, 59 percent also interact with companies relevant to their particular community on social media websites to get information.
In the dog world, this information extends beyond Pooch Beckham’s dog park exploits to information about the latest shedding tools on the market, dog treats, shampoos, hotels that have comfortable dog beds, and great places to hang with your dog. You name it, it’s out there. And, if it isn’t, simply pose the question and someone will answer you—instantly.
Agatha Thaller is an account executive with a public relations company that handles Furminator, a range of pet shedding tools and accessories. She and her team spend hours every day on different social networking sites reading about what people in the dog community are interested in. They also manage a variety of social networking sites for their client so that they are on hand to answer any dog-related questions and comments with good solid information.
“The information highway used to be a one-way street with only the professional media putting stuff out there. Readers, listeners, and viewers would take what they wanted from it,”explains Thaller. “Now, people want to have a conversation about everything. And dog people who treat their dogs as family members makeup a very passionate and involved community.”
Example: When new treats come on the market, where do dog lovers now learn about them first? You guessed it—on sites such as Dogster and Twitter.
And if you want free samples, it’s merely a matter of entering the competitions companies hold on social networking sites. All you have to do is tweet to win.
“It’s a great way of spreading the word,”explains Julie Robbins a spokesperson for No Grainers Dog Biscuits and Treats. ”We have a wonderful response whenever we hold a competition.”Citing the Cone Survey, Robbins says that six out of ten people use social media websites to pass along information to others in their particular community and that nearly 75 percent of the information passed along is positive. And dog people do love to share their dog’s likes and dislikes with others.
Recently a blogger on the popular website Examiner.com interviewed a dog that Twitters under the name TheDudeDog. His profile reveals that he “loves meat, baked goods, and cheese.” He told his interviewer that he “Twitters to connect with other animals, woo his girlfriend, and to stay abreast of late-breaking news in the human world.”He also Twitters with his pet food company to be in the know about the latest flavours, and his brush company to learn about shedding.
A Sheltie named Dusty who lives in Chicago has more than 2,500 followers on Twitter. He has his own website and a page on Dogster.com He even has his own book called Dogged Pursuit, an amusing tale about his life in the agility ring written by his pet parent, Robert Rodi. Dusty is using the social media to interact with his ever-growing fanbase and making lots of friends along the way.
He and TheDudeDog have something in common: they both love cheese. Dusty Twitters about his favourite type of cheese and where his pet parents buy cheese. His other pet parent, Jeffrey Smith, handles his social media messaging.
“I try and capture Dusty’s personality in his messages,” says Smith. “Dusty was a rescue, so he is passionate about rescuing other dogs and dog adoption. He interacts with dogs, cats, and even guinea pigs.”
Recently Dusty “attended” a “paw-Pawty” that ran for 24 hours, hosted by a feisty terrier that Twitters under the name FrugalDougal and lives in England.The event was to raise money for animal charities and dogs from around the world joined in the interactive games and quizzes. Such is the power of the cyber paw. Charities aren’t the only ones benefiting from the economic potential of these sites.
If you launch your own blog and get alot of followers and finally get some advertising on the site, you are instantly making money. In some cases, websites encourage bloggers to sign on and payment to the site owner depends on the number of “hits” they receive. Post the question “How much can you earn on a social networking site?” on one of those sites and the helpful answers will come back with a range from $25 a month to $400 a month.
The majority of dog networkers, however, are not interested in making money from their involvement. They want to enjoy themselves, share information, and just connect with like-minded people. In fact, the best part about these dog social networking sites is that you can start your own group based on anything. Dogs that love ice cream, for example. Or in the case of Dusty and TheDudeDog, pooches that drool for cheese. You can form a social group in your own area and actually hold real doggie picnics in the local dog park. That way your dog gets real new friends, apart from his ever-growing list of cyber pals. And, of course, you can film the event, blog and tweet about it, and post it out there, thus creating a never-ending cycle of fun and social interactions for you and your furry friends.