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 http://bit.ly/Oyt7WU."

    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.

      Just Watched

      Is Frankel the greatest racehorse ever?

    Is Frankel the greatest racehorse ever? 02:37
    PLAY VIDEO

      Just Watched

      Willie Nelson urges respect for horses

    Willie Nelson urges respect for horses 03:16
    PLAY VIDEO

      Just Watched

      Ann Romney's horse Olympic-bound

    Ann Romney's horse Olympic-bound 02:27
    PLAY VIDEO

    "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.

        Winning Post

      •  Bode Miller (L) and Morgan Miller attend 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

        He's won six Olympic medals on two legs, but Bode Miller's future will ride on four -- can he replicate his skiing success in the "Sport of Kings"?
      • Flanders Mud

        As a jockey, Philip Blacker lived for the thrills and spills of horse racing. As a sculptor, his work captures the horror of World War I.
      • Zebra Mombassa in the English countryside, 1980s.

        Ever thought zebras couldn't be tamed? Think again. Gary Witheford has a remarkable way with wild animals -- which he proved after a pub boast.
      • The internet went wild for so-called "horse yoga" -- but there was something deeper going on that reconnects humans with the animal world.
      • Runners canter before racing during the Laytown race meeting run on the beach on September 08, 2011 in Laytown, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

        The going is always soft and the only permanent building is a toilet block. It's the antithesis to the pomp of Royal Ascot ... welcome to Irish beach racing.
      • The Crow Fair and Rodeo takes place in Montana each summer.

        Each August, over a thousand tents and hundreds of horses converge on Little Big Horn River in Montana for the Crow Fair and Rodeo.
      • Rider Jon Marc goes for victory in the Indian Relay

        Little-known outside the tribes of the Rocky Mountains in the American northwest, Indian Relay is a "magical" horse-racing relay.
      • Jockey Gary Stevens looks on after a race prior to the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

        Now in his 50s, one of the world's most successful jockeys explains why he gave up acting to return to the sport that nearly crippled him.
      •  An infrared camera was used to create this image.) A horse and exercise rider head to the main track for morning training at Belmont Park on June 4, 2014 in Elmont, New York.

        More people have walked on the moon than have won the fabled Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing. California Chrome is seeking to square that score.