COMMo11 – Social media as done by a wonder pig

estheryoga

Move over Kim Kardashian. Esther the Wonder Pig is on the verge of breaking the Internet.

Esther is a real pig and she is indeed a social media superstar with almost 900,000 followers on Facebook and a burgeoning following on Twitter and Instagram. Her private chef (not kidding!) has her own Facebook page called Esther’s Kitchen and Esther’s website is the home to the Esther store full of hog couture.

How did this oh-so-fecund madness start?

Three years ago Esther was just a tiny piglet who somehow escaped the horrific factory farm system and made her way, presented as a mini-pig, to Steve and Derek, two men with a soft spot for animals.

Steve and Derek quickly realized a few things:

1) Esther was no family-pet-style mini-pig. She was a commercial pig, bred to grow quickly and become food.

2) Esther was not food. She was family, part of the brood of pets in Steve and Derek’s Toronto home.

3) Esther was a forbidden creature – literally a municipal violation who had to be kept secret.

It’s a gross understatement to say that it’s not easy to keep a 700-pound house pig secret.

At first Steve and Derek started a Facebook page that allowed them to keep friends up-to-date on the porcine doings in their home without making Esther literally visible to the prying eyes of neighbours. Their goal was simply to share their experience with their intimate circle.

But, as Steve and Derek grew to love Esther, they also came to realize that it was madness that they didn’t eat Esther the commercial pig, nor did they eat their cats or dogs, but they were still eating other pigs and cows and chickens.

Within months of adopting Esther, Steve and Derek became vegan and Esther became the “spokes pig” for their message of veganism and kindness to all creatures on earth. They began to publically share photos of their giant house pig along with witty, heartwarming and engaging comments on social media.

And with their secret out, Steve and Derek again turned to social media to help them deepen their commitment to Esther and to animal activism. They crowdfunded the purchase of a farm and raised far more than the $400,000 they were asking for – all from strangers – and opened the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary.

Today, Esther and her dads have been in the news and on the news all over the world. Celebrities have come to visit her. People from all over the world flock to see her, make donations and passionately share her story. Just last night The Dixie Chicks invited Steve and Derek to be in their show in Buffalo. David Suzuki and the Nature of Things will be airing a show on Esther this Fall and Esther’s book made the New York Times’ bestseller list.

This is the power of social media done right. I have wondered at what “done right” means in the case of Esther. I have theories about that, which I hope will be born out through this course. Here’s what I’ve see:

  • She’s an outrageous story
  • She’s funny, sweet and sassy
  • Her messages are always consistent
  • She is online several times a day in different formats (people need their Esther fix!)
  • She replies to comments and alters her offerings based on what people ask for
  • She makes herself available to private chats
  • People can literally now purchase a piece of her mystique or even come visit her at farm tour days.

What do you think? What makes some social media content more popular and viral than others?

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7 thoughts on “COMMo11 – Social media as done by a wonder pig

  1. I was just recently discussing the tremendous fame of Instagram trio Toast, Muppet and Pants, three former puppy mill rescues who now chronicle their lives of luxury via Instagram accounts with nearly 370k followers.
    https://www.instagram.com/toastmeetsworld/
    I think you hit nail on the head with what makes these types of accounts successful, consistency in posting, lighthearted relatable messages and an endearing back story. Ultimately I would rather see internet celebrities like Esther and Toast any day over the Kardashians.

  2. I had not heard of Esther until I read your post, but I just spent half an hour checking out her instagram. In addition to being an outrageous story, it is also an underdog story, and I think that has a huge impact on Esther’s success. It is against all odds that this pig ended up sleeping on a bed in a loving home. I think that message of hope and possibility really speaks to most people. I think that any sad beginning/happy ending animal story has the potential to go viral, but, as you pointed out, it is the outrageous aspect of her being a giant farm animal that really pushed her story over the edge.

    • You are absolutely right, Cecily, that we all love an underdog story. I actually remember saying the same thing about the success of the Harry Potter series when those books first came out.

  3. I’d never heard of Esther before reading this post either. I agree with the previous posters, that animal stories with happy endings are more likely to go viral. And I think it also helps that Esther’s owners have chosen to not to make the more serious animal activist content front-and-centre. If you want to read about inhumane conditions on pig farms, they have the information there for you, but you have to explore the site to get to it.

    As a bacon eater who also loves pigs, I appreciate that they’ve made Esther and her story the star – it somehow makes my hypocrisy feel less shameful, and makes me want to start following her!

    • Bronwyn – start following her!! You won’t regret it. She’ll give you at least one big smile every day. And if the bacon-eating dissonance ever gets to you, let me know. I have some great bacon substitutes that will satisfy your need for salty, sweet and smokey without requiring a lifetime commitment from a pig. I wholeheartedly agree with you that rather than clubbing people with their message of animal welfare, they hook people instead with humour and kindness.

  4. First of all, I really enjoyed reading your blog. I was hooked from the beginning. Secondly, social media can be such a powerful tool. This is my nerdy side showing, but with great power comes great responsibility. In the wrong hands, it can become a platform for fear mongering and falsified information. What makes some social media content more popular and viral than others, the use of “too-good-to-be-true” claims or promises. You see it all the time in the health and fitness industry (http://www.scibabe.com/jamesfell_weightlossinc/)

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