It might be uncomfortable to hear, but riders: your social media strategy needs a major overhaul. (“Social media strategy? What’s that?” -You.) In case you are from a wealthy family willing to indulge you with trips abroad and European horses or superior homebreds, or your best friend is your owner/sponsor (again, willing to indulge your horse habits with trips/horses/homebreds), then you need to seriously work on your social media.
Social media refers to websites and applications that allow users to create and share content and network with others. Here is a great infographic on what each major social network does and one with demographics of the people who use them. (Have a bit more time on your hands? Read this infographic “posting etiquette” cheat sheet.)
“But I’m a busy/serious rider and crash into bed after riding 9 horses and managing my barn and dealing with clients/owners/staff/calls/etc. and don’t have more than four minutes to have dinner before a 5:00am wake-up to do it all over again!” -You.
Fair point, you have gruelling days. But let’s face it: money is good. Social media can help you win new students, attract new owners, help you sell along your resale horses, promote your sponsors and help you get new ones. There’s a lot of ways you can sell yourself, and chances are, you are not using social media well enough to do any of these things. Building your audiences, your network of followers and fans, is just the starting point.
Social Media Tips
- Post photos and content that your audience will actually WANT to share. A random competition photo with “My horse jumps every ditch when he’s wearing his neon-blinking browband by Neon Browbands!” is not interesting nor share-worthy. Create a two-minute “Here’s my trick for improving my horse’s trot up the centerline” and tag any relevant sponsors to that tip in your post.
- Have a consistent “voice” in your posts. As a rider, you want to share your knowledge and skills and be the expert to your audience. If your posts are full of grammatical mistakes or spotted with inappropriate humor, type your posts in Word and spellcheck them before posting and leave the dirty jokes for your personal accounts. If someone else is posting for you, decide if they will use “your” voice or theirs (i.e., “Today Suzy’s school on Caspar made her realize she needed to incorporate more lateral work into his training”) to keep it consistent.
- Definitely share and promote any published articles/videos/clinic reports you were featured in. Add a little personal note about how it was fun to be a part of the process or an anecdote about the horse you were riding or other riders/trainers who were there. Tag the publication or website in your post.
- Share “backstage” action photos that make your audience feel like they are an intimate and valued part of your competition team. It could be loading the trailer on the way to shows, giving the ponies a bath, silly photos of your working students, video clips of funny horse habits in your barn, etc. If you build a relationship with your audience, they will jump to help when it comes time to fundraise for your Europe trip or team bid.
Make your social media presence unique to YOU as a rider and person. If you don’t get to go down south for the winter, do a week’s posts of stable management tips for dealing with snow and ice. If your favourite food is chicken-salad sandwiches and Diet Coke, feel free to throw in the occasional (read: 2-4x a month is sufficient) foodie photo or recipe. Love to watch training videos online of other riders? Share the videos and tag the riders with the hopes they will do you the return favour.
- Engage with your fans. If they leave you comments, like some of them! You should reply to comments that are left for you, to show that you appreciate their support. Don’t feel obligated to reply to every one, simply add a comment of your own here and there that shows you’re listening to their feedback.
There is no need to use expensive video equipment or spend hours in front of your computer every day trying to accomplish the above. You can use free web tools like Buffer.com that allow you to autoschedule posts for future dates. If you can accumulate some pics and video throughout the week, you can use them for the future week’s posts on say, a Sunday evening. You can even update your social media pages from your smartphone while you’re en route to a show (provided your groom is driving, of course!) or passing time waiting for the vet to show up (not like they’re ever late…. ha.)
Stay tuned: Social Media Posting Examples