Michaela Okland built an empire on men’s cringey messages

Michaela Okland built an empire on men’s cringey messages

Have you ever received a text or direct message (DM) from a guy who is so cringy and absurd that you instantly screenshot it so that you can laugh with your friends over how ridiculous it is? Imagine an archive of sorts, where screenshots from people all over the world are shared, and the sender is given a rating of how much of a dog they are. Michaela Okland, the creator behind She Rates Dogs, turned this relatable premise into a multi-platform business with an audience of millions.

Before starting She Rates Dogs, Okland was no stranger to posting content online that was enjoyed by many. “My Twitter account started to take off during college just because that’s where I’d post jokes or experiences that people related to, and after going viral a number of times I started to get a following for it! I’ve always loved entertainment and comedy but social media is just the most accessible way to reach people when anybody is starting out,” Okland told the Daily Dot. 

But Okland’s success on social media blew up when she started She Rates Dogs in 2018, both on Twitter and Instagram. The formula of She Rates Dogs is fairly simple. Users submit screenshots of text messages, Instagram DMs, Snapchats from men to “display the ‘shitty interactions with guys’ women encounter on social media”, Okland explained in an interview with the State Press, Arizona State University’s student news publication, in 2019. (Okland graduated from the university in 2019). 

The simplicity of this formula has paid off in spades when it comes to building an audience. She Rates Dogs currently has 207,000 followers on Instagram and 617,000 followers on Twitter. While Okland has seven accounts across multiple platforms, it’s She Rates Dogs that allowed her to make the pivot to monetizing her online content. She now runs a website that sells merchandise based on the incredibly popular Instagram and Twitter page. While she began this new endeavor by designing, coding, and dealing with customer service by herself, her continued growth has allowed her to delegate those tasks. 

Even though the She Rates Dogs Twitter has the largest following of her accounts, Okland’s personal Twitter has a significant following as well. It’s there that she uses Twitter’s tool to help content creators monetize their content: Super Followers. 

Twitter launched Super Followers in September, and it, according to TechCrunch, “allows users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content.” Okland’s Super Followers receive access to two to five more tweets a day that aren’t on her main account. “It’s nice because I can recognize those people by name and photo when they reply to my posts,” Okland told the Daily Dot. 

While social media is one of the main tools of a content creator, focusing on just one or two platforms can be to a creator’s detriment. With over-moderation from major platforms censoring, suspending, and monetizing the accounts of users (particularly Black and/or LGBTQ+ creators), creators never know when they might lose access to their accounts. For example, some Black TikTok users have alleged that their accounts have been suspended after they received racist harassment and threats. Activist and writer Ijeoma Oluo says that her Facebook account was suspended after posting about racism. And a group of YouTubers reverse-engineered YouTube’s algorithm and discovered that YouTube was automatically flagging videos with the words “gay” or “lesbian” in the title. For Okland, this fear of losing access is a major reason why she builds her audience across multiple platforms and accounts.  “[Suspension has] happened to me a number of times, and I can’t be in a position where just the suspension of one account ruins my entire career and source of income. It’s a really precarious position to be in,” she said.

But, while Okland has a large following on Twitter, she said that it is the hardest platform to make a living off of. While building an audience requires some consistency with the hope of eventual monetization, in reality, making money off Twitter is tough. “I get over 100 million impressions a month on each Twitter account, and I have gotten sponsored post offers on there maybe 3 times in the last four years,” she said. On a platform like Instagram, that level of engagement would mean a very comfortable lifestyle for a creator, but, according to Okland, “Sponsors just don’t feel as comfortable working with Twitter creators.” There are a couple of reasons why this may be the case. Twitter’s in-app support for creators is fairly new, meaning that sponsors are just now seeing creators’ ability to monetize their audience. This means up until now, businesses didn’t have the quantitative evidence that users could shift impressions into action.   

Out of all the platforms she uses, Okland credits TikTok as being the one that is easiest to monetize. And it makes sense. Even with its (many) faults, TikTok has made an effort to help creators monetize their content. In 2020, the Verge reported that TikTok launched a $200 million effort to pay creators for their efforts. That, coupled with a pretty low barrier to entry (TikTok doesn’t require the camera or editing skills that Instagram and YouTube do), can make it easier for creators to build an audience, and then monetize that audience.  

But what does it even mean to monetize your social media career? While posting online is something we all do, to leverage a large audience and consistently put out content that people want to watch and like and share is a tough job. But for creators like Okland, it doesn’t always get the props it deserves. Even with an audience on social media that reaches millions of people daily, Okland’s career as an entrepreneur and businesswoman is still ridiculed. “Under any post about what I do, there’s bound to be a few ‘get a real job’ comments. Women get that especially often, based on what I’ve seen in the comments of my other online friends,” she said. 

At the end of the day, though, those critics aren’t stopping her. She built up her career by interacting with her friends on the internet, and she is now able to continue to build an audience by speaking about things that people relate to, particularly with She Rates Dogs. While what she does is her career, Okland said she thinks the best way for creators to use their platform is to “interact with people who support you when you can, have fun with the people who get mad at you, and let your content grow as you do.”