Mastering social media isn’t rocket science. Finding success online is more about mastering the fundamentals than about knowing the nuances of every tool available.
“Stable owners can utilize a multitude of channels to promote their stables locally or on a world-wide basis,” said Jenny Schweigert, executive director of the AgChat Foundation.
A strong social media presence is important for any type of business, and that includes stables. While you may think you don’t have time to create and post information, think again. Social media certainly isn’t a guarantee your barn will be full, but it is an important method for reaching out to existing and new clients. “A solid presence on channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can help create a stable that flourishes with filled stalls,” Schweigert said.
There’s an ever-growing list of platforms to choose from, and the programming that determines how each platform works is always changing. A clear communications plan is the foundation to success on traditional and new platforms. “Social media is simply a cost effective tool for carrying out a plan,” she said.
Resist the temptation to set up an account with every platform available. It’s better to master your use of one or two platforms rather than trying to be a “jack of all trades” and failing at all of them. Choose one or two platforms that fit your goals and follow through. Common sense and an understanding of the fundamentals goes along way.
Here are seven tips to help you get started.
1. Have a plan
Before creating or increasing your social media presence, have a plan. Include specific goals, tactics and deadlines to help you stay on track.
First, outline the goals you have for your efforts on social media. Is your goal to improve communication with existing clients? Is your goal to reach a whole new audience in an effort to increase business? Are you hosting events and trying to pull in attendees from out of town or out of state?
Second, choose a realistic date for “launching” your social media plan. Give yourself enough time to gather the information you’ll need for the first 30 days, but don’t set the date so far into the future that you never “get around to it.”
Next, decide the type of information you want to share. Show results, barn upgrades, horse care tips and horsemanship skills are all topics your current and potential clients may be interested in. Online resources may be an option for finding content. Schweigert cautioned, “the most frequent misperception is that if information has been published on social media, then it must be true.”
Only use content from reputable sources. Many of the horse industry’s publications share select stories online. As long as you “share” and credit the original source these publications are more than happy to see their stories show up other places online.
Outline which days of the week are most important for you to post. For long-term success, it can be helpful to denote a specific day of the week as a specific theme or topic. “For example, you may want to dedicate Mondays to horse care tips; Wednesdays to horsemanship guidelines; Fridays to highlighting successful horsemen and women,” she added.
Simplify your posts with scheduling tools. Depending on the topics you have planned for a given week or month, it is possible to schedule all of your posts at one time for the coming week. Once scheduled, the posts won’t appear until the designated day and hour freeing you up from remembering daily posts. This approach will only work with information that is timeless.
3. Use photos
A picture is worth a thousand words. “Take everyday photos of your farm/ranch and post it to your social media channels,” she said. “Make sure the photos are high quality.”
In the post, include your name, blog URL, Instagram handle, or logo on your photos. This helps if others decide to share your photo, it will direct people back to you. Tag anyone in the photo that might be on Instagram (i.e., your family, friends, cooperative, a brand of tractor, etc.) Don’t be afraid to use hashtags. Schweigert suggests posting anywhere from five to 10 hashtags in the comments.
“Use farm related hashtags (#AgChat, #Farm365, #FarmLife), but also include non-farm related hashtags. Some examples would be #LifeStyle, #PhotoOfTheDay, #(Insert Your State Here),” she suggested.
Do not surf the Internet, find a photo you like and simply repost it to your own account. The original photographer owns the copyright. If you find a photo you like, ask for permission to use it. Stock image libraries offer photos for free or at a price and include a user agreement that grants permission for use.
4. Take the High Road
Negative news is fodder for viral posts.
When you use social media before a “crisis,” you have established a relationship that can help you overcome the negativity. “If faced with a crisis, stable owners can easily communicate the steps they have taken and promote positive public relations. Additionally, the preparation work will ensure that your community is familiar with your business, your values, ideals and in turn, provides offers of help and support,” Schweigert said.
It’s important to acknowledge the issue, how it will be resolved and when possible, take the high road.
Taking the high road also applies to other user’s posts. Remember, not all information posted is true. Refrain from jumping into the thread of a controversial subject until you know the facts and are confident the situation is true. The world doesn’t need any more negativity and if it turns out that what is posted is untrue, that can damage your reputation as well.
5. Acknowledge Different Approaches
Horse professionals can be divided on training techniques, general horse care and more. When sharing your opinion, especially on controversial issues acknowledge the views as your own. “Be sure to preface your communications by stating this is your experience and may not reflect the experiences of other stable owners,” Schweigert suggested.
6. Use the Analytics
Analytics are the key to knowing whether or not your social media plan is working for you. Facebook Page Insights and Twitter analytics are tools built into these platforms that can provide you with all the information you need to see what is working and what isn’t. These tools can provide invaluable information into how your stable may be perceived by your local and the larger equine community.
The analytics can also provide insight into which posts are gaining the most attention. Check the analytics regularly and observe which posts receive the most shares, comments and likes. Once you learn how your followers react on social media, you can then cater your efforts to theirs.
7- Long-term Commitment
Success doesn’t happen overnight. “Success can only be achieved with focus and consistency,” Schweigert said.
A part of long-term success is acknowledging that social media has become a form of customer service. So, when someone posts a question or comment that requires a response, respond and do so quickly. It can be tempting to delete or ignore a negative comment, DON’T--that can set off a firestorm. Contact the individual and offer a resolution.
Today, having a strong social media presence is an important part of “doing business” for any company. When a good social media strategy is implemented, it can be a tool to drive new customers to your business while enhancing loyalty from your current clients.
What is the AgChat Foundation?
The AgChat Foundation works with numerous aspects of the agriculture community. The organization stands with all types of farmers, ranchers and agriculturally based businesses - large, small, urban, conventional, non-conventional, etc.
“Our goal is to empower those sharing their stories with the necessary tools such as how-to create a Twitter profile, understanding SEO, building a community of Instagram, planning and coordinating events on your farm and guidance on connecting with your congressmen and women, to name a few,” said Executive Director Jenny Schweigert.
Whether you are using social media as a business tool or to advocate for agriculture, you will find useful resources within the Foundation. Visit www.agchat.org for more information.