It’s not often that you hear of a great idea coming from an Applebee’s—most of the time it’s just indigestion and a bad hangover. But, in November 2015, an idea was born in one of their booths that would lead to over 400K followers on Twitter and 40.5 million vine loops. That idea was WeRateDogs (@dog_rates), a Twitter account run by Campbell University sophomore Matt Nelson.
Following the dictum that social media posts featuring dogs attract more attention than those featuring humans, Nelson created a platform in which people submit pictures of their canine friends and he rates them. Selections are scored on a 1-10 scale and then given hilarious comments based on the ridiculous pictures people submit. Scrolling through the @WeRateDogs feed, you’ll see typical snapshots of cute puppies hugging their owner’s leg and smiling for the camera, and then you’ll come across weirder photos, like an adorable golden retriever with his head stuck in a slinky or a dog named Dash that looks eerily similar to John Mayer when wearing a hat.
Though sifting through pictures of dogs may seem fun, it is by no means leisurely work: The account receives around 800 submissions a day. And unlike the rest of Twitter, which is generally just word vomit, each of Nelson’s posts is carefully crafted.
It takes between 15-45 minutes to create and caption each tweet before it is sent out into the Twitterverse. All captions are developed on the fly and there’s no set schedule for posting, which Nelson thinks adds to the personality of the account. The spontaneity means anything can happen at any time, which leaves canine enthusiasts in a state of constant suspension.
As a student in charge of entertaining an audience of thousands, balancing school and @WeRateDogs can be difficult. “I’m the type of person to put 100 percent into whatever I’m doing,” Nelson said over the phone, “which usually means I sacrifice efficiency in other areas of my life.” In other words, running @WeRateDogs adds a full-time job on top of schoolwork and a social life.
This is Bruce. He never backs down from a challenge. 11/10 you got this Bruce pic.twitter.com/aI7umZHIq7
— WeRateDogs™ (@dog_rates) October 23, 2016
Compared to other popular social media accounts, Nelson has remained relatively anonymous, though to him that isn’t a bad thing.
“I don’t think of myself as being the one with 400,000 followers,” he says. “The thing I created has that audience. I do recognize and am very thankful to have a platform to broadcast my quirky thoughts to such a large following, but by no means do I consider myself a social media personality.”
Social media fame is a weird thing, one that society probably doesn’t yet fully understand—one minute a person is sharing a joke on Twitter, and the next they’re signing partnership deals and hosting events. Nelson has worked hard to keep himself grounded, but he still has plans for the future. Though he plans to finish school while running the account, opportunities are popping up left and right. @WeRateDogs already has its own e-commerce store that features tons of designs unique to the account, including cute products for dog lovers. Nelson is also in the process of collating submissions for a @WeRateDogs book to be published in 2017. Despite the account’s popularity and the opportunities it has created, Nelson maintains that his priority has always been making people happy.