I just wanted to talk about using Facebook for equestrian business, particularly photography businesses, but I’ll also try to make this apply to other equestrian businesses too, because I think it’s so important, no matter what you’re selling. I’ve heard so many people say that they either don’t really feel like Facebook helps their business, that they have a Facebook page but don’t really use it, or that their business doesn’t have a Facebook presence at all.
Honestly, that gives me palpitations a little. In my opinion, that can only be because you’re doing it wrong. My entire business has been built using social media. It’s such a science and there is so much to it. I could talk on this subject for hours, but I’ve tried to pick out what I feel are some of the most important points, so that this post doesn’t go on forever.
Now, I’m not saying that this is the right way for everybody. This is just my personal experience, but here’s a little confession: I’ve never really advertised, I’ve never had a trade stand at an event, I’ve never spent money on marketing. I’ve just used Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and my website and blog. There may come a time when I feel the need to branch out and explore other options, but up until now I’ve just used an online marketing strategy to build my ‘tribe’. A tribe is a group of loyal, online followers, who read your posts regularly, reply, comment, share and support your work. Your tribe is completely invaluable to your business and they are better than any advertising could ever be. You should bow down and kiss the feet of your tribe every single day!
Every business will find that each social media platform works differently for them and it’s important to find a combination that suits you, your industry and your target audience. For example, I don’t really get much joy with LinkedIn and I can’t get my head around Google+. But for me, because of my target market, Facebook is definitely the biggie!
Why I Think Facebook Works So Well
Research shows that the current number of users on Facebook is around 1,310,000,000! And 48 % of those users log in every single day! No magazine readership or advertising campaign could ever even dream of competing with those numbers. Now, of course, not every single one of those users is going to want whatever it is you’re offering, but the equestrian community on Facebook is vast, and incredibly active! You just have to find out how to reach the people just waiting to hear about your product or service.
So, the reason I think Facebook is a totally invaluable tool, that simply should never be ignored, is because my clients already hang out there on a daily basis! I don’t have to hope that my advert ends up in front of them, or hope that they’ll take the time to click on my website. Because once my Facebook followers have liked my page, my status updates and my photos land right in front of them, in their leisure time, in amongst all of their friends and family news.
So, I thought I’d just tell you about the things that I think are most important in both attracting, and keeping, followers on Facebook. Like I said, there is so much to Facebook for businesses, so this is just a starting point.
1. Tag Like Your Life Depends on It
Tagging!! Tagging on Facebook is the best invention ever, in my opinion. Every time I post photos from a shoot, I tag the client in their images. And then I tag their Mum, friend or whoever I met on the day of their shoot, if I think they’d want to see the photos. That means that not only my clients see their images, but so do all of their Facebook friends. And the likelihood is that my horse-owning clients have plenty of horse-owning Facebook buddies. This is what I feel has had the biggest impact on the growth of my business on Facebook. Every time I post the images from a recent session, I nearly always receive a photoshoot enquiry within the following hour, and it’s usually a mutual friend of my client.
If you’re not a photographer, photos and tagging can still be invaluable to your business. If you are an equine therapist, a riding instructor, or offer a service of some kind, take photographs of your happy horsey clients, upload it with a little anecdote about their session, (how they reacted or behaved, what you liked about them, their back-story, etc.) and tag them. If you make or sell a product that you send out to your clients, like browbands, for example, photograph the product before it goes out in the post and then ask your clients to send you a photo of their ponies wearing their new accessories or using the product. Upload it (with their permission, of course), compliment them in the description, and tag them!
Don’t abuse the tagging feature, though. Firstly, Facebook gets very upset when you do this and starts asking you all kinds of security questions. Trust me, been there! And secondly, people will get annoyed with you. If you tag people that aren’t interested in being tagged, you’ll only irritate them and that definitely isn’t conducive to gaining happy Facebook fans.
2. Post Real Time Updates
If somebody has followed your Facebook page, they’re interested in what you’re doing. We love to live vicariously through others and see into the lives that interest us, so now that we can get 3G/4G pretty much anywhere (except at my house!), posting real time updates whilst you’re out and about is a great way to engage your Facebook followers.
I’m actually not so great at remembering to do this, but when I do remember, I take photographs of the locations I shoot at, of my equipment and of the horses I’m photographing. I took the above photo of the four leafed clovers we found when I went to visit a friends’ yard the other week. Nothing directly to do with equine photography, but it still received plenty of interactions, as you can see. There are all kinds of things you can take pictures of whilst you’re out and about on the job. Instagram is really fab for this, too. People love to see behind the scenes images, whatever work you’re doing.
3. Get Personal
This is something that some business owners will disagree with, but I think it’s mega important. I did a little market research the other day, (on my Facebook, of course) asking what it was that people felt was most important when booking a photographer. And as I’d expected, people place huge importance on the personality of the person they’re hiring.
Everything you post online, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, your website or your blog, does one of two things. It repels or attracts potential clients. And that’s great! I know I’m not the photographer for everybody and I don’t want to be, either. I want to attract clients that like me, that like the way I work, the way I think, that will get on with me on a personal level and that will feel comfortable in front of my lens. Putting my personality out there, on my Facebook and all of the my other social media platforms, ensures that I will attract like minded people to book me.
Anybody following my online posts closely will know that I drink a lot of tea, I am obsessed with my Cocker Spaniel, I’m really close with my family, I don’t have a pony right now and am missing it dreadfully and that I like pretty, sparkly things. That is my voice. And it’s important for my customers to hear it! If somebody hates dogs, or hates girlie-girls, or wants a formal, sensible photographer that doesn’t talk to animals in baby voices, they probably aren’t my type of person. And that’s absolutely fine with me. Just like in every other aspect of our lives, we are never going to get on with everybody we meet, but I firmly believe in surrounding ourselves with people that have something positive to bring to our worlds and people that make us feel good about life.
So, get personal on Facebook. People connect with people, not organisations, so show your customers that there is a person behind your company logo. Obviously, I don’t mean that you should post every time you go to the toilet, or if you’ve had an argument with your other half, but if you’ve bought a new pair of shoes that you absolutely love, show your followers. If you’ve spent your Saturday night filling your face with Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream and watching The Notebook, post about it and you’ll attract other chick-flick, ice-cream loving Facebook users to your page. If you find a quote that resonates with you and that you feel applies to the way you live your life, share it. You are the best asset your business has and it’s you that sets your business apart from every other business out there, so don’t be afraid to show you!
4. Be Sociable and Be Genuine!
This post started off being ‘3 Top Tips’, but as I was writing, I decided that I couldn’t leave this out. None of the above will matter if you aren’t two things. Sociable and genuine.
It makes sense that the best way to utilise social media is by being sociable. The clue is in the title, right? And by this, I mean that you have to get involved with the online community that you want to take notice of you. Don’t just advertise and post about ‘me me me and my business’. Ok, I realise that sounds a little contradictory to my last point, but it’s all about striking a balance.
I assume that if you’re running a business within the equine industry, you’re a horsey person yourself, or at least have some level of interest in horses. Join groups that are appropriate to your business and your area. Comment on people’s statuses, even if it has nothing to do with business. Wish your past clients happy birthday. It all goes back to the getting personal thing.
However, you have to be genuine. If you are genuinely interested in other people and the things they have to say, you will endear yourself to your ideal customer, without a doubt. Make an effort to find common ground with people. Comment on things you are genuinely interested in. Quality is definitely preferable over quantity. Rather than writing ‘nice horse’ on a hundred different pictures people have posted in a horse-owners group you have joined, think of something meaningful to say, something that reflects your personality and how you truly feel.
I hope this helps you understand firstly why I feel that it’s so crucial to have a Facebook presence for your business, and secondly just a few of the ways I’ve found to best use my Facebook page. This is something I’m really geeky and passionate about, so no doubt I will revisit this topic with more little findings at some point in the future, but I felt this was a good starting place.
Why not share your Facebook page link in the comments below? I’m a mahoosive fan of supporting one anothers’ businesses, so I’ll make sure to follow you back!
And of course, check out my Facebook page at Sophie Callahan Photography.