Twitter: From the horse's mouth

Story highlights

  • Racehorses increasingly taking to Twitter to reach out to fans
  • Part of a growing number of popular animal accounts on Twitter
  • The key to success is to be funny, argues social media expert
  • Followers experience what it's like to own a race horse - without buying one

You might think you're a big deal on Twitter. But unless you've got more than 20,000 followers there's a five-year-old horse out there tweeting you into a cyber hole.

Their posts mostly involve eating carrots and racing, but that hasn't stopped champion thoroughbreds Frankel and Black Caviar amassing a legion of followers to rival most B-grade celebrities.

The pair, along with Kentucky Derby and Preakness champ I'll Have Another, are some of the growing number of racing horses using Twitter to reach out to fans.

Like any sports star, it's no longer enough to simply perform well on the turf. Today, the job of being a champ is an all-encompassing juggernaut of marketing, fanbase and legacy.

Key is a presence on social media. And if it's good enough for our footballers, tennis players and athletes, then why not our winning horses?

Marketing mare

Their reasons for setting up a Twitter account are overwhelmingly commercial. In short, Black Caviar's PR team did it so no one else would.

"Once we trademarked the name 'Black Caviar' we had to protect it and stop unauthorized use," marketing manager Stephen Silk told CNN.

"The brand 'Black Caviar' is one that's quality, stylish, feminine, fast, sleek. We wanted to stick to that brand.

"We also believed that this was a good way to communicate with a younger audience."

So there's a definite emphasis on self promotion in Black Caviar's feed, with the majority of tweets flagging up media appearances.

And much like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt urging followers to download the iPhone app named after him, race horses are also utilizing the marketing power of social media.

The Royal Ascot winner recently promoted her own line of equipment: "Win 1 of 10 Joseph Lyddy Black Caviar 9 piece Grooming Kits visit"

Meanwhile Frankel urged fans to get behind him before racing at Goodwood on Wednesday: "Thanks for all the tweets, as you can imagine I'm resting ready for tomorrow....10length victory tomorrow I can feel it..."

Tweet Lady

It's a platform that offers horses -- or at least their managers -- an interactive relationship with fans.

When Racing Enterprises Limited set up an account for three-year-old bay filly Tweet Lady, it was in the hope of giving the public a unique insight into owning their own race horse.

The British mare bills herself as "The People's Horse," tweeting about everything from enjoying the sunshine to her rigorous training regime. Instead of the acronym LOL, the friendly filly ends her posts with NOL (nay out loud, for the uninitiated).

"It gives people a taster so they can experience what it's like to own a racehorse -- without forking out the money and paying for one," said Stephanie Jones, PR executive for Racing Enterprises Ltd, the commercial arm of the British Horseracing Authority.

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"People follow her out of curiosity. It's an amusing way of bringing the horse to life."

Horsing around

So Tweet Lady isn't actually knocking her hooves against the keyboard for our reading pleasure, but according to social media expert Kate Bussman, that's half of the appeal.

The author of "A Twitter Year: 365 days in 140 characters" points to the success of Sockamillion the cat and the Bronx Zoo cobra as irreverent animals endearing themselves to the cyber masses.

Sockamillion, known simply as "Jason Scott's cat," boasts almost 1.5 million followers. And all it took was posts like this: "GAAHHH BLANKET roll roll roll LOVE YOU BLANKET snug snug snug GAH BLANKET roll roll roll RELATIONSHIP STATUS IT'S COMPLICATED."

As Bussman says: "Twitter is a format that really does lend itself to humor. The whole point is to be pithy.

"It's just a funny way to kill a few minutes."

Paws for thought

With an estimated 6% of all pet dogs in the U.S. now boasting a Twitter account, who is behind their newfound digital prowess?

"We're seeing this parallel trend now of people setting up funny, jokey accounts," Bussman said.

"Twitter or Facebook are addictive and it's proven you get that endorphin buzz if people 'like' you or retweet you -- even if you're an anonymous celebrity."

Much like the cobra that went missing from Bronx Zoo last year, sometimes the simplest headline can spark a social media sensation.

When a gray-and-white tabby wandered onto the Anfield pitch during an English Premier League match in February, it became an internet hit.

The Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool match was brought to a standstill and the "Anfield Cat" quickly assumed its own Twitter account.

"Quite disappointed John Terry isn't able to take a penalty, this game has lacked comedy #meow," is one of the posts that has now attracted more than 75,000 followers.

The brains behind the hugely popular cat are anonymous. But perhaps that's the perfect excuse to say things your human persona never could.

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