COMMo11 – Social media as done by a wonder pig


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?