Why Use Social Media To Promote Your Horse Business Or Organization?

social media logosEvery day, horse business owners are inundated with stories about social media marketing: Facebook and fan pages, Twitter and tweets, blogs, videos and always something that’s even “better.” They read success stories on how social media can help them grown their business, provide better customer service and position them as the expert in their field. They feel increasingly pressured to become a part of this.

While some are still frozen by indecision (“maybe this is all just a fad…”), others have taken the plunge and have set up their pages and perhaps even posted a few times. But nothing immediately happens to increase their business. They realize that all this time posting is actually taking time away from their real business – riding horses, giving lessons, cleaning stalls, creating products, filling orders. Suddenly, they wonder if social media is really worth it. 

The answer is “yes, it is.”  Here’s how:

  • There’s nothing magical about social media marketing – it’s word-of-mouth marketing
  • … just at the speed of light and with a global reach.
  • Social media helps you get closer to and listen to your customers. You can find out what they are saying about your product?
  • Social media encourages your customers to see you as a person who love horses as much as they do;
  • Social media allows you to promote your ideas, products, and services directly to the horse market at zero cost (free!);
  • Social media helps you get immediate feedback from your customers at zero cost (free!);
  • Social media helps you to talk to your customers on a one-on-one level;
  • Social media allows you to gain their trust and to be allowed into their inner circle of acquaintances and friends;
  • Social media allows you to establish yourself as an expert and relate that expertise to how your product or organization can help them;
  • Social media allows you to build and reinforce your brand daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
  • Social media can encourage our audience to act – buy, join, etc.

One of the best ways to get started in social media is NOT by writing, but by “listening.” Start reading about your customers on their page and follow some of the key businesses and organizations for the sport. Try to paint a picture of who these people are and if they fit your image of your ideal customer.

But before you start posting, develop a good strategic plan.  Will you have the time and resources to write good content on a regular basis, respond to customer comments in a timely manner, and monitor the trends in both social media and the horse world?  Unfortunately, this is where most horse businesses who want to use social media lose momentum and their Facebook and Twitter accounts stay un-updated and eventually potential customers or members lose interest and top looking for your posts. Or worse, they assume you have gone out of business.

HBG GGF web sitePosting on social media sites doesn’t have to be complex. Read to see what their problems are and figure out how your business can help them solve them. If you give them something they find valuable, it will keep them coming back for more.  Nothing else matters unless they feel you are a trusted source of information.

There is no rigid formula on how to do it social media well.  No matter what your goals are (sales, awareness, etc.) your #1 reason for using social media is to build a relationship with your audience.

#besthorsestalls

Photo credits: bp.com, horsebizgirl
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Are You Ready For Your Own Barn?

horses in stallsWhether you’ve been around horses a long time and have lots of ideas from boarding stables or you are brand new to horses, building your own barn can be a challenge.  Location, construction materials, stall types and amenities are all decisions to be made. There are literally hundreds of options when building your barn and we won’t be able to cover them all.  But we’ll go over the most common types of barns and stalls as well as tips to remember before and during the construction process.

Before we even start, let’s just take a moment to decide if horsekeeping on your own property, especially if you’re thinking of  opening it to other boarders, is right for you.   If you’ve never owned horses before, starting at a boarding stable with a knowledgeable barn manager, workers and trainers is a good option.  You will have total responsibility for your horse and the horse’s of others.  Basic and special feeding, deworming schedules, getting horses ready for the vet or farrier, and basic wound care are all necessary skills.  Since every horse is different, new horse owners often have questions about feed, shoeing and general health.  It’s very helpful (and comforting) to know that there’s someone at the barn who can helps answer your questions. And they will look to you to be that person.  In addition, you will be expected to have adequate coverage to look after the horses if you decide to go away for a few days.

Another consideration of keeping horses at your barn is cost of supplies.  Remember that large boarding stables often buy hay and bedding in bulk because they have the room to store it.  This help keeps cost down.

Vet visits are another cost that can be reduced with other horse owners.  Vets charge a “farm call” fee in addition to any medical treatment.  With a large stable full of horses, there is usually someone else at the barn who’d like to talk to the vet or have him take a look at their horse while he’s there.  You can usually split the farm visit fee with another boarder.  Spring /fall shots and dental visits are another way to save money.  Boarding stables often have “shot clinics” where the vet comes out and all the shots are done at one time.  The same is true for dental work.  Again, this saves you the cost of the farm call fee.

Finally, farrier services can be difficult to find if you only have one or two horses and live in a remote location.  Farriers often like to work at stables where they can go to just one place, set up once and shoe numerous horses.  It may not be worth his time to have you as a client if most of it is spent driving to and from your barn for just a few hoof trims.

horses and friends

Finally, there’s the camaraderie principle.  This doesn’t have a cost, but after a few months of keeping horses at home, you may find you miss the social aspect of being at a barn.  It’s nice to talk to someone after a good lesson or have a shoulder to cry on after a bad one. On the other hand, if you are the barn owner or manager, your privacy will be in jeopardy as clients feel free to stop by your home at any time.

 

If boarding horses at your home still sounds like a good idea, the next step is doing a business plan.  It’s a necessary step to ensuring that your barn is a success. We’ll tell you more about how to do create basic and easy next time.

Photo credit: Petattack, iHeartHorses

A Political Voice For Horses: The American Horse Council

American Horse Council logoIf you’ve been involved even peripherally in the political scene over the several months,  you have probably heard of lobbyists and special interest groups using their voice to be sure that our government is aware of their concerns and needs.  But who is speaking up for the horse industry?  The American Horse Council!

Founded in 1969, the American Horse Council (AHC) was organized by a group of horsemen concerned about federal legislation affecting their industry. They recognized the need for national and coordinated industry action in Washington, DC.   Since its inception, the AHC has been promoting and protecting the equine industry by representing its interests in Congress and in federal regulatory agencies on national issues that affect to each and every person involved in the horse industry.

The AHC promotes and protects all horse breeds, disciplines and interests by communicating with Congress, federal agencies, the media and the industry itself each and every day.

The AHC is member supported by approximately 160 organizations and 1,200 individuals representing every facet of the horse world – from owners, breeders, trainers, veterinarians, farriers, breed registries and horsemen’s associations to horse shows, racetracks, rodeos, commercial suppliers and state horse councils.

The AHC has seven committees – the Government Affairs Advisory Council, Racing Committee, Showing Committee, Health and Regulatory Committee, Animal Welfare Committee, Recreation Committee and the State Horse Council Advisory Committee – that we look to for expertise and advice on the issues we face.

In 2005, the AHC wanted to demonstrate to the general public, the media and federal, state and local officials that the horse industry is diverse, vibrant and provides a significant economic impact to our country.  An economic study was done by Deloitte Consulting LLP validated what the industry has known for some time.  The horse industry is a very large, important and wide-ranging part of our national, state and local economies, involving agriculture, business, sport, gaming, entertainment and recreation.

Highlights of the national study include:AHC Time To Ride

  • There are 9.2 million horses in the United States.
  • 6 million Americans are involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees and volunteers. Tens of millions more participate as spectators.
  • 2 million people own horses.
  • The horse industry has a direct economic effect on the U.S. of $39 billion annually.
  • The industry has a $102 billion impact on the U.S .economy when the multiplier effect of spending by industry suppliers and employees is taken into account. Including off-site spending of spectators would result in an even higher figure.
  • The industry directly provides 460,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs.
  • Spending by suppliers and employees generates additional jobs for a total employment impact of 1.4 million FTE jobs.
  • The horse industry pays $1.9 billion in taxes to all levels of government.

To purchase the comprehensive 2005 National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry, go to: http://www.horsecouncil.org/national-economic-impact-us-horse-industry

In addition, the AHC has joined with the Unwanted Horse Coalition, a broad alliance of equine organizations is to reduce the number of unwanted horses and to improve their welfare through education and the efforts of organizations committed to the health, safety, and responsible care and disposition of these horses.  Their focus is to educate owners who are unaware of, or do not give enough thought to, the available options, services and assistance available in the industry to help them ensure that their horse has caring and humane support throughout its life.

For more information on the American Horse Council:  http://www.horsecouncil.org/

For more information on the Unwanted Horse Coalition:   http://www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org