- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Imagine dropping out of college to rate dogs on Twitter as a full-time job.

Well, 20-year-old Matt Nelson quite possibly has the most adorable, “hckin cute” job ever. That’s Matt’s assertively innocent way of saying “heckin’.” Dogs, after all, are innocent, if nothing else.

In the last two years, the 2015 graduate of George Washington High School has turned a viral Twitter account dedicated to rating dogs into a six-figure business, WeRateDogs LLC.

His humorous, “pup-lingual” tweets offer a pause from the sometimes overwhelming political narrative on social media.

Above a photo of a golden retriever puppy rolled over on his back, a post by @dog_rates reads “This is Cooper. He hasn’t been pupperly assembled yet. Still very good. 13/10.”

Today, the account boasts more than 3.6 million followers, an e-commerce shop, mobile app and now a book, released Tuesday in the U.S.

The book, “#WeRateDogs: The Most Hilarious and Adorable Pups You’ve Ever Seen,” follows a similar pattern to his account’s tweets. Each dog is introduced, rated and pictured doing something adorable. Some of the images are popular hits from the account, while others are exclusive to the book.

The Twitter account started as a creative outlet for Nelson in November 2015. At the time, he was a freshman at Campbell University, in North Carolina, and he already had an impressive following of 10,000 on his personal account.

“It was a challenge to fit jokes in this confined 140-character space, and I just fell in love with that challenge,” Nelson said.

Looking to create a funny account, he created WeRateDogs, and within a month, he generated more than 100,000 followers. He tweeted about 20 or more times a day for fun.

Nelson’s initial plan was to take photos of dogs he met on the street and tweet them with a clever caption and rating. But his followers had a different idea.

The WeRateDogs account’s messages were blowing up with submissions. It sounds overwhelming, but Nelson said it makes the account “self-sustaining,” since it incorporates the audience.

His dog-rating skills have also evolved since 2015, too.

“Initially, they were legitimate dog ratings, where all of them were out of 10,” Nelson said. “Eventually all of the dogs were 10/10. The first time I put 11/10, people lost their minds.”

The theme stuck, or maybe Nelson learned the pups deserve better, because he no longer rates any of the “good boys” below a 10.

Nelson also quickly learned to put quality over quantity when it came to original ratings. His account now tweets only two original posts a day, once at noon and once at 8 p.m. Considering this is now his full-time job, he puts a lot of effort into those two tweets. He called the process “formulaic.”

His account receives more than 1,000 submissions a day through Twitter, email, Instagram and text. He independently contracted a friend to sort through the submissions and send him his top 20 or so.

From there, Nelson chooses two for the day and creates the captions. Sometimes the caption idea comes to him within minutes, but he said it can take up to an hour or longer.

“I just hold myself to this insanely high level of quality for the post,” he said. “With dog rates, now, it’s a lot more formulaic, and the risk really isn’t there because, at the end of the day, it’s a cute dog picture with a silly caption. But I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure that those posts are really high quality.”

If you’re looking to have your dog rated, the stakes are high.

“Some people think every photo we’re sent, we rate, but that’s impossible,” Nelson said.

However, he recommended sending high-quality images of dogs doing “undog-like” things if you are determined to make the cut.

Though it is unlikely humans will quit loving dogs anytime soon, Nelson admitted his decision to make a full-time job out of running a Twitter account is difficult to explain to a stranger.

The majority of his revenue is made through the e-commerce shop where WeRateDogs sells merchandise, including stickers, hats and sweatshirts with references to the account.

Nelson also uses the account to help promote campaigns for dogs, including pups who need surgery and shelter initiatives.

“We were able to successfully raise upwards of $120,000 for around 25 to 30 different dogs,” Nelson said. “That’s the message that we chose - to give back.”

In the long-term, Nelson said the company is working to include more universal dog merchandise to the shop to reach more dog lovers.

“Even so, I know this has the potential of dying out soon,” Nelson said. “We’re just trying to ride the wave as long as possible.”


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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