Since you’re reading this on the internet, I’m going to assume that you have become at least somewhat aware of the world of Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and all those other tools and websites. The options can seem overwhelming when it comes to choosing a way to get the word out about your barn or equestrian business, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. There are two routes to go when putting your business on the web: you can do it all yourself, or hire a marketing or web management company to do anything from design a website from scratch to devising an entire marketing scheme. It all depends on how savvy you are with technology and how much times you have.
First off, if you simply won’t have the time to provide timely updates to both your website and any social media pages, then do yourself a favor and use a third party. In this internet age, being up-to-date is absolutely vital. If prospective clients click onto your barn’s website and see news from 2009 and sale horses that are long gone, they may just click on by.
Additionally, if you aren’t able to put together a fairly decent-looking website, turn to a professional for help. Pretty much anyone can manage a Facebook page or Twitter feed – more on that later. But creating an entire website, whether from code or with a template, can be incredibly time consuming, and keeping it up can be a thorn in your side if you’re already juggling a busy show schedule. It may be that you choose to pay for a firm to create a site which you then take control of; or, you may opt to simply funnel news, results, media and changes to the firm.
Whatever route you choose, there are a few things you should make sure of when dealing with a farm or barn website:
- Keep it simple! Don’t load your site with pages upon pages of information. Most barns do fine with only a handful of pages which cover everything from your facility and fees to sales horses and services.
- Go easy on the words. There’s a reason web stories are shorter and choppier than the ones you read in a newspaper – people like to skim online, so your five paragraph history of how your first broodmare came to be probably won’t be read. Briefly summarize important information into bullets or chunks. A simple welcoming paragraph on the front page or in your about section is the heaviest bit of type you’ll likely need.
- Keep sales information updated. If your hunter prospect just won his first class, get that result up. If his price went up, that needs to be changed immediately too. New pictures and videos should replace old, unless you have a handful of great media examples.
- Make sure all your fees are updated as well. If your training or board fees went up, those numbers need to change on the website. It seems like common sense, but little details like these are easily forgotten.
- Link! Does your barn have a Facebook page, YouTube account, or Twitter feed? Each of those services offers handy little buttons that can be embedded into your website’s code. Linking broadens your exposure and draws more eyeballs to your site. Similarly, make sure your social media tools link back to your website.
Now that you have a website set up, think about creating a presence with various social media tools. Start out by making a Facebook page; if you’re doing this yourself, it will be linked to your personal profile. If a third party sets up or manages your page, you can still be added as an administrator, which will give you posting and editing privileges.
Facebook pages are a great way to connect with others – whether they be your clients, owners, colleagues, or prospective clients. Post events, horse show results, videos, and general news. Pretty much anything goes, with the caveat that you can easily overdo it. Don’t post every little thing. An occasional picture of the barn corgi is fine, but if it becomes a daily event, you may lose followers.
The same applies to Twitter – be engaging and conversational, but don’t become redundant, and only post quality. Both tools are excellent ways to spark dialogue and establish your barn or farm as a thought-leader, so don’t throw those opportunities away.
As with all social media, be 100% professional in all your posts. Social media is more casual than other forms of correspondence, and having a bit of fun is perfectly okay, but ensure that even lighthearted posts stay within your professional and ethical boundaries.
The last great tool for equine businesses is YouTube. I think every barn or farm with sale horses should have a channel registered under their barn name. Not only does it allow sales videos to be seen and shared beyond your own website, but YouTube videos generally play nice with most computers and operating systems, and they offer high-quality video and sound. There’s nothing worse than sending a buyer a grainy, choppy video that might just make your horse look lame. A YouTube channel means that you can also upload video of clients, grand prix rounds, wins, and other barn events like clinics and outings. Again, there’s an opportunity for thought-leadership here, but tread lightly – it’s incredibly easy to create a bad video, and fairly difficult to create a really great one.
If you edit the video yourself, use a program like iMovie or Final Cut Pro, and don’t go overboard with effects or type! Let the horse or round speak for itself; for a sales video, all you really need is a title slide with the animal’s name/sex/age and a description of the class or round. If the background noise is annoying (or someone is talking) simply mute it or pick an unobtrusive and non distracting background track. Good videos should allow the viewer to focus on the horse alone.
Once you have a website set up and a system in place, keeping everything updated shouldn’t be too difficult. Store usernames and passwords in a handy place and make sure that information across all platforms is consistent. Be active on social media and soon you’ll establish yourself and your business in the internet age, and if all goes well, horses will sell and clients will come knocking.