Many of the rules that mainstream businesses must apply in order to get results with Social Media simply don't apply to horse professionals or must be applied differently in order to work. Social Media, as with most marketing tools, is different for horse business owners. For example, mainstream wisdom will tell you not to try to "advertise" or "sell" anything using social media. However, most horse professionals will tell you that using Facebook to let people know about the horses they have for sale is actually very effective. This is likely because all of us horse peeps like to window shop and also because it is actually very helpful to know what horses are available. But, as with most things "horse business" it is counter to what works for mainstream businesses.
At the same time (with the exception of actual Facebook ads) trying to advertise lessons, boarding or training programs tends to come across as pushy and is not a very good use of your Facebook page because it is likely to irritate your followers, friends, customers and colleagues - especially if you use a hard sell approach here. So how do you market your horse business using Social Media?
There are of course the most common uses (which we've discussed before and will continue to provide insight about) i.e. integrating social media into your overall internet presence and using it to distribute content, drive traffic, improve SEO, and expand brand coverage. All of which are extremely important. However, today, we are going to look at something that social media can do for your horse business that is far less obvious but equally (if not more) vital. Social Media is excellent tool for communicating your barn culture. Every barn has its own culture - It's own unique flavor profile that is created by the inhabitants of your barn i.e. you, your current client base, your employees and your combined values.
Some barn communities are formal and others are very friendly. Some barns are competition focused and have a supportive athletic team feel to them. Some are more attractive to kids and others to adults. Some are fun-loving and others are ultra-serious. There are no "right" or "wrong" barn cultures - simply different types of communities.
The thing is, when it comes to choosing barns, clients place a tremendous amount of weight on barn culture. Clients choose barns based on where they believe they will fit in and feel comfortable. In fact, barn culture is so important to customers that in many cases a client will choose one barn over another barn because of its culture rather than the actual skill or level of care that the horse professional provides.
Successfully communicating your barn culture is of utmost importance when it comes to both attracting and keeping clients. However, it has always been a very difficult thing to do because it is something that typically needs to be experienced to be understood.
Social media (especially video) changes that. Social Media can provide an important sense of belonging to current clients and it can also be an excellent way to give outsiders and inside view of what your barn is all about.
Here are two videos that express barn culture in different ways - One is informative and the other video demonstrates expressing barn culture through education and entertainment. Keep in mind, there is no right or wrong way to share barn culture - only what works or doesn't work for your own unique horse business. Each of these videos takes a different approach. They are both good examples of how Social Media can be used to share barn culture and I hope they will give you some ideas about how to use social media to share your own barn culture.
And a link to a video from Out Foxed Farm a dressage barn - (the embed link wasn't enabled) but you may enjoy seeing how they use their YouTube channel to educate and entertain.
For more tips and examples about how to use Social Media to market your horse business – be sure to attend Equestrian Professional's next horse business seminar “Smart Social Media Marketing for Horse Professionals 2011”
About the author
Elisabeth McMillan is an equine business consultant, public speaker and the owner/editor of EquestrianProfessional.com, a website that provides business education and career support to horse professionals. For more information please visit www.EquestrianProfessional.com or you may email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org