During one of those rainy New York City nights when you have nothing to do, Yena Kim decided to put a cardigan on Bodhi, her Shibi Inu, and snap a photo. Bodhi started smiling and "giving me amazing angles," Kim said.
"I uploaded those first photos on a Sunday night, and by Monday, Bodhi was featured on GQ," she said. "I thought it was a stupid joke that only I got, but so many people have my same weird sense of humor."
After Bodhi's media debut, Kim became the thumbs, brains and heart behind the Menswear Dog social accounts, or in her words, "I guess I'm an owner, a photographer, and a peanut butter holder."
Turns out, brands also shared a similar sense of humor. As it goes with other social influencers, Bodhi was approached by a few brands early on, but there wasn't exactly a "set influencer work system," said Kim.
"In the beginning, we weren't making money, and I wasn't expecting to," she said. "You couldn't make a business plan out of it, but brands started noticing and reaching out."
Menswear Dog is one of the early pet influencer social accounts, as crazy of a sentence as that sounds. These are accounts made popular by a pet's "personality" and tone, and they've started to earn digital clout just like human-centric social influencer accounts.
"We recently started hearing from brands asking if we worked with dogs or cats," said HelloSociety and WAGSociety founder and CEO Kyla Brennan. "All of a sudden, there was a demand."
As a result, WAGSociety signed Bodhi as one of its original pet influencers.
According to Brennan, pet influencer accounts can engage 10 times as many users as human influencers.
"It's a completely serious form of marketing," said Brennan, "but we can approach it with a wink."
Bodhi is already a pro when it comes to working with luxury brands.
"He's worked with Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, Banana Republic," said Kim. "But we've also opened into some luxury lifestyle add-ins, like Casper or Canary or even Samsung."
Until WAGSociety came onto the scene in August, Kim would have to negotiate those deals on her own. But her gut instinct kept her from agreeing with absolutely everything.
"I don't believe in promoting a brand I wouldn't use IRL," she said. "Even if it means posting less frequently, I'd rather focus on the quality of content."
One day each month, the animals with WAGSociety share a post encouraging their followers to donate to Best Friends Animal Society, an animal-related charity network. Additionally, five percent of each WAGSociety campaign is donated to BFAS.
"A lot of the animals we work with are actually rescues," said Brennan. "They have such interesting stories, and the owners were really excited to get involved with the volunteer and charity aspect."
It's not easy to make it in the pet influencer big leagues, however. There's a lot more to it than snapping a pic and casually posting it.
"There's a lot going on behind-the-scenes that you never see," said Kim. "There's a team behind us full of people either holding peanut butter, fixing his clothes, or changing the lighting. I've gained a huge respect for people who do this for a living."
"It comes down to authenticity and your point of view," she said. "The accounts that are doing well would do this anyways, regardless of money. You have to home in on what's different or unique about you."
"We want to help pets operate within their own identity," said Brennan. "Brands tend to laugh at our suggestion of a pet influencer, but then we show them the numbers to back it up."
"I'm really just a full-time poop-scooper and photographer," said Kim.