WeRateDogs creator to share social media success story


The creator of the WeRateDogs Twitter phenomenon will speak about entrepreneurship, social media fame, and dogs at a free lecture event tonight. Courtesy of ISULectures.

At the age of 10, Doug had severe ear infections, visible arthritis and behavioral issues that blocked his chances of getting adopted. Today, Doug is the CEO of the Twitter phenomenon WeRateDogs.

Doug, a German shepherd, was adopted in 2020 by Matt Nelson, the creator of WeRateDogs and a well-established dog lover. Soon after, Nelson used WeRateDogs to create a foundation that sponsors dogs with behavior or medical issues who are unlikely to make it out of the shelter.

The foundation is one of many success stories to come out of Nelson’s WeRateDogs social media platform.

Nelson will visit Iowa State Thursday to talk about entrepreneurship, social media fame and, of course, dogs. The lecture will take place at 6 p.m. in the Memorial Union Sun Room and is free to attend.

Nelson started WeRateDogs as a Twitter meme account that posted dog photos each day with “better-than-perfect” cuteness ratings.

One of the account’s recent posts features a dog named Krypto wearing a birthday hat to celebrate turning 15. Krypto received a 14/10 rating.

“I think the whole idea is that there is nothing negative about what’s going on,” said assistant director of the lectures program Laura Bade. “There’s a lot of negativity in the world, a lot of negativity that you can find on social media … so it’s just really cool to be able to see how much people’s dogs mean to them.”

Since its creation in 2015, the account has exploded in popularity with more than 9 million Twitter followers. Its popularity has allowed Nelson to use the platform for philanthropy, including raising more than $2 million to help families pay for their dogs’ medical bills.

“This account has become way bigger, way more fun and way more powerful than I could’ve ever imagined,” Nelson said on the WeRateDogs website. “I started it to make a few people laugh, and it has transformed into an absolute behemoth for good.”

During the lecture, Nelson will share his success story, from developing his initial idea to growing his platform and utilizing it for good. Amanda Knief, director of the lectures program, will join Nelson onstage to ask questions so the presentation feels like a conversation.

“Having someone that’s so young, who has done something on social media that’s positive and is so far reaching, should be inspirational and aspirational,” Knief said. “So, you know, if you have a good idea, you shouldn’t be afraid to go after it.”

In preparation for Nelson’s visit to campus, ISU Lectures encouraged students and faculty to participate in We Rate ISU Dogs on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. With permission from Nelson, Knief and Bader scored the community’s submissions with similar captions and ratings to WeRateDogs.

“It’s been really fun because we can tag different departments and units on campus, so they can all see their co-workers’ and students’ dogs,” Bade said.

At 5 p.m., an hour before the lecture begins, Bade and Knief will showcase a slideshow of the photo submissions they have received and the ratings they provided. A few cats and a goldfish managed to sneak into the submissions, but both will still be featured in the slideshow.

The sticker the first 100 attendees will receive. Courtesy of Laura Bade.

The ISU therapy dogs will make a guest appearance while the slideshow plays, and the first 100 attendees will also have the chance to receive a free WeRateDogs sticker designed by Bade.

“We couldn’t have an event about dogs and not have dogs actually be there,” Bade said. “The therapy dogs have a very important job on campus, so it’s fun to be able to involve them.”

The ISU Bookstore will be selling pet swag, WeRateDogs calendars and more throughout the event. Nelson will also sign items and pose for pictures afterward.

Additional information can be found on the ISU Lectures Program website.