It started at a North Carolina Applebee's more than two years ago: Matt Nelson presented the idea to his college buddies that people like weird stuff on Twitter, and that dogs were internet gold. Nelson's brainchild led to WeRateDogs, a Twitter handle with more than 6.4 million followers that's pretty self-explanatory—Nelson rates pics of dogs sent in by followers, with pithy captions including the dog's name and/or any other descriptive characteristics. But as 21-year-old Nelson, who also goes by "the Dogfather," explains in a profile for Money, workflow became unsustainable after his account's first tweet in November 2015 due to the sheer volume of submissions and his tweeting schedule, and he became "sleep-deprived and burnt out." His solution? Monetize the account with the help of a social media marketer, and drop out of Campbell University, which he did last year.
It wasn't the worst decision. Nelson now runs the WeRateDogs operation out of his parents' home in West Virginia, doing most work from his iPhone, along with two remote workers who help sift through submissions and run the online store. He's the only one who does the twice-daily weekday tweets (except for one time when Blake Shelton made a guest appearance), spending 20 minutes or so on each caption. The payoff, which comes mostly from the online store, shows the idea had as much bite as bark: Nelson says he makes in the "low five figures" each month, meaning an annual salary in the six figures. "My initial goal was just to make people happy," he says. "Now I'm good at writing like a dog." As for why his ratings often exceed 10/10, the Washington Post notes his retort to a critic who once said Nelson's ratings system "sucks": "They're good dogs," the WeRateDogs handle replied.