Man’s days as a dog’s best friend may be numbered now that reports have found that one in ten of all UK pets have their own Facebook page. ‘Tweeting’ has taken on a whole new meaning now that social media is giving feathered and furred friends a place and reason to squawk, squeak, tweet and peep.
A typical personal homepage for a pet includes a predictably familiar set of social features: profile pictures, status updates, photos and videos, and commenting between pets and pet owners. Cats can befriend other cats but equally a horse could also befriend an insect. It’s turning nature’s natural order on its head!
According to our friends at Mashable, social media animals on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube are often more popular than celebrities. Take these media mongrels for example: Mark Zuckerberg’s dog “Beast” has more than 146,000 Facebook fans, Nyan Cat has more than 124,000 Twitter followers, an American Bronx Zoo Cobra has more than 237,000 Twitter followers.
Top of international ‘social petworking’ is Maru the cat, who has amassed more than 6 million views on YouTube since joining the site in 2008. Described by his owner as “a little bumbling and a little awkward”, Maru has been filmed embarrassing himself in nearly 200 videos, and has attracted almost 140,000 subscribers who have signed up to be notified of his next adventure.
Sockington the Cat, who has nearly 1.5million Twitter followers, has tweeted nearly 8,000 times.
Boo, a dog on Facebook liked by nearly 1.4million people is officially categorised as a ‘Public figure’. He is shortly to be the subject of a book to be published entitled “Boo: the Life of the World’s Cutest Dog”.
A recent study commissioned by PetPlan also suggested that social netwoofing is on the rise with owners joining dedicated sites with names such as Critter, Catster and Doggie Dating. Others have also set up entire websites devoted to their pets; letting the cat get their tongue to broadcast the details of their little lives.
Growing and expanding business YummyPets, based in Bordeaux France, blends Facebook-like profiles for animals with services for pet owners, classified ads, vet appointment management and discussion forums around animal breeds. It’s big business; the company employs 20 staff (21 if you include Leo the cat, who is fondly considered a co-founder and mascot) and has 150,000 members. It is free to use and is supported commercially with around £1.3m of classified ads and other brand-based promotions.
But as Facebook was created for humans, what do those at the top of the empire think of this growing trend? Pet owners say it’s all in good fun, but some may not realize they are violating Facebook’s terms and conditions.
“People on Facebook want to interact with their real friends and the people they know in the real world,” Facebook spokesperson Winnie Ko wrote in an e-mail to reporters at news channel CNN. “Since accounts that impersonate anyone or anything can damage the integrity of this environment, Facebook doesn’t allow fake profiles for pets”.
Justin Smith, founder of the blog Inside Facebook, says it’s not so much about the pets but the practice of assuming a false identity that “hurts the quality of communication” on the popular site, which has more than 1.6 billion monthly active users. “There are many places online where people assume identities of either people or, in some cases, pets. It’s something we’ve seen with a lot of the first-generation social networks on the web,” Smith said.
Instead of joining Facebook, pet owners might consider joining a social network specifically for pets, he said. Among them are Critterscorner.ning.com, Catster.com, Dogster.com and myDogspace.com. There’s even one for rabbits: BunSpace.
Jessica Frey, who operates a Facebook page on behalf of her rabbit Nestle, is aware of pet-centric networking sites such as BunSpace. But she says it’s hard to make the switch after investing so much time in one social network and notes that Nestle has more than 1,000 friends on Facebook; most of them furry.
So for now Social Petworking is proving to be the dark horse of the internet world providing increasing advertising revenue or new avenues of business and users are defying the rules and staying pawsitive about the future of social petworking.
– Bracken Vernon-Jelier is our lovely PR Director, any thoughts on this post or have a PR query? Why not contact her via Twitter