What's the Secret to Social Media Success? Cute Animal Theory | Beth's Blog

What’s the Secret to Social Media Success? Cute Animal Theory

Digital Strategy, Measurement

What will it take to get the climate some attention?  Cute Dog Photos! That’s Sam, grist.org’s office puppy.

We know that people would much rather look at pictures of cute dogs than think about downers like climate change. So, grist-.org  is using Sam to call attention to the environment and harness puppy power on behalf of the climate.   They’re inviting folks to submit their own cute dog photos

grist.org has discovered what social media folks who work for zoos, aquariums, and animal welfare organizations already know.   Cute animals rule the social web!    The example below is from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium and one of their most popular videos.

And, of course, otters aren’t the only marine animals that people love – there’s mariachi whales.

Time to Update The Cute Dog Theory of Social Media:  Cute Animal Theory

Cute Dog Theory

View more presentations from Beth Kanter

Several years ago I created the Cute Dog Theory, a node to a Nicolas Kristof quote about how puppies get more attention than dry statistics about Darfur.   It was also a nod to the  “Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism” which was the title of a talk given by Ethan Zuckerman at O’Reilly’s E-Tech Conference in March, 2008 (notes from Ryan Singel of Wired Blog).

Ethan points out that the Web was invented so physicists could share research papers, but Web2.0 was invented because people want to share cute pictures of their cats.  These same tools become very powerful in the hands of activists. Ethan’s presentation takes a look at creative uses of well-known Web 2.0 tools from outside the United States that help digital activists evade Internet censorship and promote human rights issues to a wider audience.

Back in 2007, I noticed a pattern in the US.  Many of nonprofit Internet strategists are Dog lovers! Take for example Jonathon Colman who is the Internet Strategist for the Nature Conservancy or Wendy Harmon from the Red Cross both are dog lovers!    I started a  photo sharing group on flickr called, “NpTech Dogs” and it is filled some the cutest NpTech dogs ever (and a few cat photos too!) .  I even did a series of interviews of nonprofit social media professionals and their dogs and its all available on a fun  wiki.


But now as more and more nonprofit shave embraced the social web, it is not longer just dog lovers.     There are the cat lovers too.  Marine animals and much.

Cute animals rule the web.

What types of photos or videos that your organization shares on the social web get the most attention?  Those dinner videos or cute animals?

6 Responses

  1. Lana says:

    Love it! Will be sure to find a cute and cuddly sea creature for our seahugger theme:)

  2. An oldie, but a goody. Woof! 🙂

  3. […] Beth Kanter in What’s the Secret to Social Media Success? Cute Animal Theory calls the relationship between cuddly pictures and the amazing generosity they inspire, “The Cute […]

  4. […] Dog Theory or more precisely the Cute Animal Theory states that including cute animals in your social media content inspires more people to share the […]

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