Marketing Your Horse Biz with Social Media - Waste of Time?
by Nikki Alvin-Smith
Sorry guys. If you haven't realized it already you simply cannot ignore social media anymore. We know it can be a giant time vortex especially if you don't handle it smartly but no business can afford to ignore it. Yes, you need to interact.
While the days of the C.E.O.needs to blog to everyone ( or more likely one of their employees were assigned that task) are probably over, the need to interact with your customers and clients is very much current.
Facebook may not be as popular with the younger set in theory, but there is still plenty to be gained from a presence there and it still considered the number one site in web trending site. Add the other various options, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Linked In, Google +, Reddit, YouTube and on and on - all take some time to learn.
The way to use every site is similar in terms of content and do's and don'ts. Let's look at the big social media gaffs.
Create an Ecosytem
Be original. Don't just trot around finding photos and content and sharing it on your page. It is a great idea to contact another company or 2 or 3 and say Hi, I'll share your content will you share mine. That is good networking. But be sure to create original material. Use your own photos. Talk about current culture and trends. Content is everything. And yes, that can take some thought.
Avoid using sale, deals and conversation that is a direct sell to your page followers. You can definitely say, " Hey take a look at Joey on his brand new horse," and edge in the fact that he bought the horse from you or trains at your barn. But don't say stuff all the time like, " Offering lessons in --- " and a whole bio piece you post just everywhere on your farm. Don't come off like a used car salesman. You cringe at those ads on TV and your social media audience cringes at them online.
Have a Plan
You need to make calls to action. For example, you can use deadlines and include promotions, coupons and offers. Make the call to action interesting. Not overselling. A maximum of 15-20% of your posts can be of this type but do not over do it. About 40-45% of your posts should be interactive. Meaning ask for an opinion, do a survey or poll. Think of ideas that create interest where people will want to jump in with their opinion. People love to share their knowledge.
Your time is quite literally, money. So be careful with how you use it. Pick a few sites you feel best suit your type of business. Post pictures, videos and content and be sure to keep them current. If you're just going to post very occasionally that is not going to work. Think carefully about your target audience and cater to them. Don't get overworked watching what your competitors do ( although in business keeping an eye on the rest of the pack is par for the course). Allow a small amount of time each day as part of your routine to get on your social sites and schedule/post and answer questions.
No-one can exist in the open marketplace without receiving criticism and with social media and the internet in general this is as transparent as it gets. Whether you are marketing a product or a service, be sure to address criticisms in a professional and helpful manner. Do not be defensive. Sales are driven by happy customer experiences. Realize you cannot, however hard you try, please everyone all of the time. But listen to the criticism and adjust and change where you can. Your business should be driven by what your customers want. That is the secret to success.
Social Media Alone is Not a Marketing Plan
Marketing is still TV, print ads and face to face interaction. The phone is still your friend, email blasts are extremely useful ( another article on suggested content for that will be coming soon here at CatskillHorse), and yes, advertising online on magazines such as this wonderful community resource Catskill Horse ( plug, plug), is key to generating sales. Not everyone will find you on Facebook or other media sites ( shocking I know but true), and your customers are probably a variety of ages, social groups, with variant computer literacy skill sets and interests. Some folks avoid social media altogether as being too invasive of their privacy, but do spend a lot of time online educating/reading and researching. So don't overlook all the avenues and develop a plan of campaign.
The tools may have changed but the principles of marketing are still the same. Peer to peer marketing/word of mouth will always be number one.