My deep dark secret is that my dog is on Facebook and Twitter and has more friends and followers than my personal accounts. He also blogs. While I was already active on Twitter, Facebook and blogging for Virginia State Parks, it took my experience with Yoda (that’s my dog’s name) to see the power of community in social media.
Maybe you have stumbled over a tweet from an animal once or twice on Twitter but you probably have no idea how extensive the “anipal” community is. What is an anipal? It’s a human who tweets as an animal (usually a pet) or stuffed animal along with some humans who follow the community but haven’t quite embraced an animal persona. And the community is some of the most good-hearted, generous, entertaining and clever individuals I have come across. This is an international group, And they really enjoy a good pawty! I emphasize clever because some of the animal related business owners that are part of this community demonstrate some of the most savvy business plans for niche marketing that I have ever seen.
For example —
There are monthly #pawpawty events with DJs, barktenders, menus, contests that raise money for animal charities. The anipals often “dress up” their avatars in costumes that match the pawty theme. In a little over a year the community has raised over $30,000 for animal charities. In addition to the monthly pawties, there are special pawties like #dudefest, a weekly #nipclub, #scifipawty and other adventures. There was even an anipal wedding. The virtual parties are great social events (#pawpawty lasts 24 hours) and raise money for great causes.
There is an anipal rock group – Da Shibbering Cheetos.
There is an anipal newspaper – The Anipal Times.
The anipals are holding an Anipal Academy Awards.
There is a #pawcircle for members of the community to share good wishes to anipals, their humans and friends who are ill and lots of support for the inevitable tragedies since animals have lives so much shorter than the humans that love them.
AND, August 20-22 there will be a first ever event celebrating social media in the animal community, BarkWorld Expo will be in Atlanta at Atlantic Station and will feature exhibitors, speakers well known in the animal community, education sessions for business owners, non-profits, and individuals related to social media for fun and profit. I am on the Advisory Committee for the event and frankly someone without a pet that is interested in learning more about social media should consider attending this event. Naturally the event is pet friendly including the expo hotel, Twelve Hotel and Residences.
Before you go rolling your eyes and have visions of men in white coats coming to get me, the anipal community is a big deal. It is probably no surprise that PETCO is a major sponsor of the event, but you will probably be surprised at some of the other major corporations that are signing on. Pets are a $45 billion industry in the United States according to an industry trade group cited in this article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Americans spend more on their pets than movies, video games and recorded music COMBINED. Little wonder that from home based to store front businesses, this is an industry to reckon with.