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Pet influencers: Social media has created new jobs for the internet's cutest animals (and their humans)

Posted at 2:37 PM, Dec 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-31 17:41:53-05

Half the fun of social media is the cute animal videos and pictures.

And some of those animals are doing more than just entertaining people — they're getting famous and making a nice chunk of change along the way.

In the small central Florida town of Williston, there's a hidden celebrity of sorts.

“I saw him pretty frequently, like every day for a month, and I just thought it would be fun to take a picture of him on a couch and it went viral,” Savannah Mikell says.

Her idea to snap a silly picture of a toad and post it on Facebook turned into an overnight hit.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to make a whole other Instagram for a pet,” she says. “And then I did and it got 11,000 likes overnight.”

Toby isn't just a toad. He's a personality, living life in a dollhouse Mikell’s aunt built her when she was a child.

“You can’t do this without laughing the whole time,” Mikell says, explaining how she sets Toby up for photos. “It’s pretty ridiculous.”

He eats at the kitchen table, takes baths and “talks” to his more than 75,000 followers on Instagram.

“I just think he’s got his own little personality and he's pretty positive,” Mikell says.

Loni Edwards is a Harvard Law School graduate and founder of The Dog Agency.

“We actually approached Savannah and Toby ,which we rarely do,” Edwards says.

Edwards signed Toby, making him a “pet influencer.”

“The voice she was creating, the content, the consistency — literally everything she was creating was a case study on how to do this properly,” Edwards says.

Clients that reach upwards of a million followers sometimes become full-time pet influencers, according to Edwards.

She says pet influencers make money collaborating with brands to make sponsored content.

“Someone with a 100,000 followers is getting anywhere between $1,000-2,000 per sponsored post,” she says.

There's opportunities for merchandise, book deals, appearances and more.

Toby's only been at it since the summer and already has a calendar and some other deals in the works, earning his keep while spreading joy.

“It’s touching people more than I ever anticipated,” Mikell says.

You can find and follow Toby on Instagram.