Husker turns her cats into online superstars

· 3 min read

Husker turns her cats into online superstars

Senior political science major Kalea Morgan is creator of Chonk and Beans on TikTok and Instagram — and, also, Chonk and Beans' owner.
Kalea Morgan is creator of Chonk and Beans on TikTok and Instagram.

Kalea Morgan likes to stay busy. She waits tables, models, sells her own jewelry and graduated May 20 with a degree in political science from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Her cats also stay busy –– they entertain their 1.3 million TikTok followers and 229K Instagram followers.

And, no, they do not run their accounts themselves. Morgan does that, too.

“In 2021, I was bored and made a TikTok account just because I thought it was something to do,” recounts Morgan. “The second video I posted got 3.2 million views.”

A month later, when she offhandedly posted an old video of her cat that has since received some 65 million views and 13 million likes, she realized this was more than a product of boredom. This sudden success necessitated a deep dive into the economics of influencing, forcing Morgan to learn on the fly how to properly monetize her expansive reach on social media.

“Immediately I had brands reaching out to me and I realized I had no idea what I was doing –– I was googling everything, trying to figure out what my rates should be and trying not to undersell myself.”

Today, content creation for Chonk and Beans (@chonkandbeans on Instagram) is nearly a full-time job for Morgan, complete with brand sponsorships, fanbases and networking with fellow catfluencers that offer support and guidance through the — occasionally toxic — world of online pet stardom.

“It’s not ‘me’, so it’s nice in that way. I don’t take any negative comments to heart and my cats don’t know any better,” says Morgan of the pressures of amassing such a large following.

She’s also found that, though time-consuming, catfluencing suits her schedule as a student.

“I’ve had so many different jobs with set schedules, and now I can work on campus or in coffee shops making my cat videos. It’s been a blessing.”

It’s also been a crash course in business relationship-building, brand management and marketing for Morgan as she’s cultivated the Chonk and Beans name while learning to partner with big name pet brands.

“You have to be constantly keeping up with the details of the brands’ needs and make sure you’re responding in a timely fashion,” says Morgan, whose first partnership was with an automated litter box.

“I’d gradually like to be able to move toward promoting other things I do, like my jewelry, on top of the brands I'm already working with.’

Despite Chonk and Beans’ sudden rise to fame, their consistently high-performing content and the steady growth of their following is no accident. Because social media channels scale their pay for influencers based on viewership, Kalea is always working to improve and tweak her videos to optimize their impact and constantly doing market research to break down other successful videos.

“It’s always about the hook,” says Kalea. “I see a lot of analytics where people stop watching after the first two seconds –– you need a good start, but the finish has to pay off.”

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