Imagine creating a social media account for your pet just for fun, and having it attract almost 40,000 followers within the first year. Your pup’s Instagram is swarmed by likes and comments from dog lovers, brands and fellow Instafamous canines in the District and across the nation. For couple Alex Hibbs and Zach Hopf, posting photos of their pup quickly led to Navy the Corgi’s resounding online success. Now Hibbs, a Department of Defense employee, and Hopf, an IT consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, devote most of their free time to one-year-old Navy and her booming Instagram account, @navycorgi. We caught up with the Insta celebrity and her parents in Capitol Riverfront’s Yards Park after her photo shoot for our May cover.
On Tap: How would you describe Navy’s personality?
Alex Hibbs: Yap queen, very high energy. She’s a diva. She loves to meet and play with everybody. Her tail wags a mile a minute. People get intimated because she barks a lot but it’s all very playful, like, “I want you to pet me and run around with me.”
OT: When and how did Navy first start to receive social media attention?
AH: I figured making Navy her own account was the easiest way to share photos of her with my friends, family and coworkers. We started posting and didn’t expect it to go anywhere, but it did. She’s a pretty unique puppy, so people definitely caught on. We started [the Instagram account] the day we picked her up. Big corgi accounts on Instagram posted a few puppy photos of her. The American Kennel Club contacted us after we posted a little video – our third post – and asked, “Can we share on our social media?” They have thousands of followers and a huge online presence.
OT: Have most of her photos and videos been easily circulated?
Zach Hopf: Reposts are a big thing. Alex is great at using hashtags depending on the brand and the areas. Through that, reposts happen.
AH: It really comes naturally for us. We try to be strategic with it and use hash tags for big accounts, so they will repost it and tag bigger accounts. Some people use a tactic of direct messaging. But we say if she gets followers, she does and if she doesn’t, she doesn’t. We aren’t going to directly go after people to have them repost our content.
OT: Do you feel pressure to post every single day?
AH: It can be super overwhelming. Instagram is a highlight reel – we’re only showing the best parts. Navy can be a terror. She barks a lot. We also have a lot of fun with her that we don’t really post [about]. Sometimes there’s so much pressure to post every day, and in ways, it can get competitive.
OT: What’s it like as influencers to go out in public where people might recognize Navy?
ZH: It can be so surreal. One time, we were walking through Georgetown and we were walking across the street, and this car slams on the brakes in the middle of traffic. This young girl gets out and starts screaming “Navy, Navy!” And she was like, “I made my mom stop in the middle of traffic to come say hi.”
Navy the Corgi’s Can’t Live Without
Favorite place to nap
Between the pillows and the headboard in Mom and Dad’s bed
Favorite place to play
Dog Run Park at Carlyle in Alexandria, Virginia
Favorite place to shop
Kriser’s Natural Pet
Favorite thing to play with
ZippyPaws Burrow squeaky toy
Favorite thing to eat
Favorite things to chase
Frenchies, birds, squirrels
OT: Do you ever interact with followers outside of Instagram?
AH: We recently went to Portugal and I had sent a message out. [A few owners and their corgis] came out to meet us and took us on a little tour of their town. They gave us a bandana for Navy. Navy’s not necessarily [always] with us, but the Instagram dog community is so nice – they want to meet you and not just your dog.
OT: Do you guys devote most of your time to Navy when you’re not working?
AH: Outside of work, we are really big on working out so we’ll go to the gym. But other than that, everything is focused on Navy and we’re like, “Oh, let’s take a trip. Let’s make sure it’s dog-friendly.” Our lives really revolve around her.
ZH: We have to be at so many events for Navy: birthday parties, guest appearances, photos or other opportunities, or going to the dog park, doggy play dates, or going to dinner and making sure it’s dog accessible.
OT: How does Navy use her platform to support animal rescues and other
AH: There’s an organization called the East Coast Corgi Rescue. On Sunday, we went to a fundraiser for them and we donated a bunch of the free stuff that Navy gets like extra bags of treats. We told them, “If you want to give it out as a raffle or keep it for the rescue dogs, please go ahead.” And donate money too or let them use Navy as a source to promote it. Then there’s We the Dogs DC – we’ve gone to their events and held the handle on Instagram.
ZH: We did a small thing for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. They had an event where they sold tickets. Three dogs and a cat came, and [their owners] talked about social media influencing. We helped promote that event for them too. If people do have something going on, we’re more than willing to help out in any way we can.