Between stalls, turnout, training rides, lessons and sale prospects, your social media accounts may feel like an unproductive time suck. With a simple strategy in place, though, your social media presence can connect with your ideal client, help you network with other industry professionals and create a platform that makes you valuable to sponsors. Not sure how to get started? Let’s break it down to the basics.
Social media can be a bewildering world – especially for a small business owner, which is the situation most equestrian professionals find themselves. Either you are operating your own facility, juggling multiple locations or developing your brand as an athlete to seek sponsorships and owners. The key to using social media effectively as a tool is to maximize the impact of your time. In order to that, you have to know what your options are and how best to use them.
Social Media Channels
Facebook – Despite repeated calls from media experts that Facebook is dying, it remains the social media King among those who count most to businesses, the spending decision makers. That being said, Facebook’s alogrithm can make it difficult to get your information in front of your current and potential clients. Strategy and building a true tribe of fans is the key to an effective Facebook presence.
Twitter – Twitter is fact paced and the sheer amount of information and conversations can become overwhelming. It is also a wonderful way to participate in conversations about major events like the World Equestrian Games, Championships or the Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event. Fans all over the world will tweet about major events, broadening your sphere of influence if you stand out with relevant, valuable content.
Youtube – The world’s most popular video sharing site has been increasing in importance in the equestrian sphere. With more businesses utilitizing video in their multimedia marketing efforts, there is a tremendous opportunity to connect with people visually. How many times have you wished you could SHOW a client what you mean when explaining an exercise? Try creating a video highlighting the exercise done correctly and explain how it is helpful. I’d bet there are other riders on the internet who would appreciate the information! It is another way of positioning you as an expert and builds your influence. If you have never made video before, it’s possible to outsource the editing relatively cheaply using freelance sites like PeoplePerHour.
Pinterest – If you are offering content that is visually appealing, like a tack shop or equestrian related clothing/accessories, Pinterest is wonderful way to connect with your audience in an organic way. If you are going to leverage Pinterest, you will need to have high quality images and learn how to write descriptions that make the most of relevant key words people would use to search for what you are pinning.
Instagram – Like Pinterest and Youtube, Instagram offers a way to connect with your audience visually. It is a powerful channel for building relationships by allowing people in the industry to get a glimpse of your personal life. You can highlight products you use (and share sponsors!), give a look at what you are working on, help them connect with your competition horses and become fans.
Google+ – Although it is often maligned as the less popular little brother to Facebook, Google+ is a useful tool to have in your toolbox. An established presence builds your Search Engine Optimization and contributes to your overall establishment as an expert.
Blog – Does it surprise you that I’m including a blog in with social media? It shouldn’t. Where do all those links that you click on when surfing Facebook or Pinterest? I’d bet a considerable portion take you to blog sites with some interesting content. There is a significant different between a blog and the other options, though, and it comes down to ownership. When you purchase web hosting and build your own blog, YOU own all of the intellectual property that you create to put on it. Comparatively, when you create content on a business Facebook page it is occupying “rented space” that is owned by Facebook. All of those relationships that you have carefully built to increase your number of followers and foster engagement can be wiped out with the stroke of a button if you violate one of the Terms Of Service (even unintentionally!). Successful social media strategy brings people from where they ARE (on those social media sites) to where YOU are (your website or blog).
Where Should You Be
Does that list feel overwhelming?
Not sure where you should start?
Wondering WHO has the time for all that?
You’re not alone. It is overwhelming – especially if you don’t have a plan or know what tools to use. The short awnser is that you should be where your audience is. This will vary tremendously based on your business and demands that you know just who your ideal audience member/client/consumer is. But if you’re starting from scratch, I’ve outlined a simple plan to get you started.
Get Started Today
Before you start investing your time on social media, there are a few things you’ll need.
- High resolution, good quality images: headshots of you, product photos (if you are selling products), a logo (if appropriate for your business)
- Some method of organizing your content – Evernote and Pocket are popular cross-platform apps that I use.
- Personal accounts on the social media channels you choose to use. It is vital that you understand and are familiar with how they work for the user before you start creating content.
If Your Only On One Channel
If you can barely find the time to eat lunch and are shaking your head at the idea of adding another business task, I’m going to suggest that you read the book 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam. Then, create a business page on Facebook. While there are a number of very specific demographics that are found in higher concentration on other channels, the majority of your audience is on Facebook in some form. Take care with naming your Facebook Page, as changes are limited and can be rejected.
Brand Your Social Media
Branding is a topic that can be covered in a whole separate blog post (or 12). At its most essential though, think of branding as all of the things that make YOU as a business or professional recognizable. It may be your logo, your colors, a font, a style. On Facebook, you will need to create a cover image and profile image, at the minimum. I highly suggest that any image you share on your page be branded with your logo or business name. Not sure how to do that? I recommend starting with online photo editor Canva.com which is an exceptionally user friendly service with a great selection of free templates – including ones for making your FB cover and profile images – available for free.
Clean Up Your Personal Accounts
Those photos of you doing a keg stand? Not impressive to a potential client, retailer interested in carrying your product, or company looking for an athlete to sponsor. In this digital age, nothing online is completely private. Take a good look through your personal social media accounts and remove anything that does not contribute positively to someone forming a positive impression of you.
Create Some Content
Before you start promoting your new business page or accounts, create some content history. On Facebook, a good place to start is photo albums. Your event pictures, product images, past training horses or students,etc. Find some fun or valuable content and share it with a comment about how it applies to you and your audience. My suggestion is to outline a month’s worth of content at 2 posts a day to make it easier to stay consistent until you get the hang of it!
Invite, Invite, Invite
Spread the word about your new page, starting among the people who already support you – your friends, family and existing clients. Let them know that you’ve established it and will be sharing future information and updates there. Don’t be shy about asking them to share. This is a great start to getting comfortable with the idea of promoting yourself.
Pencil It In
Here’s one of the most important factors to successful social media building – you have to consistently make time to DO it! Schedule time daily – even if it’s just 20 minutes at the beginning and end of your day. Every day, respond to comment and messages left on your page. Spend a few minutes scanning popular pages in the industry for content to share and comment on. Connect with at least one new person every day by answering questions, offering your assistance or introducing yourself to fellow industry pros. Remember that the purpose of social media is to be *social* – if you aren’t interacting than it can not serve its intended purpose.
Still feeling overwhelmed and unsure? Contact me today for a free consultation about social media management, sponsorship services and how together we can grow your business by focusing on what you do best!