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Marketing Mondays: Facebook Content

We’ve returned from another impressive edition of the Canadian Supreme, in time for the full onslaught of the changing of the seasons and another edition of Marketing Mondays. If you missed it here’s a link to last week’s discussion on Twitter. From there you can follow links back from to all of my Marketing Mondays posts, or simply choose Marketing Mondays in the tag cloud at the right.

This week, a discussion on the social media venue we all love, and simultaneously love to malign.

Many equine businesses are harnessing the power of Facebook in an effort to tap into the portion of it’s 600+ billion users, particularly of course, those who own horses. A vibrant Facebook community of western riders North American-wide exists within which many engage for a constant source of entertainment, inspiration, and often, for myself, interesting leads to stories I might not be privy to in my regular circles.

For the purposes of this piece, we’re going to assume you already know how to set up your own Facebook page, and have done so. If you haven’t and need a primer, this article will get you up and running seamlessly.

It might appear to be putting the cart in front of the horse with this discussion of content in advance of a strategies for procuring fans or friends, but for the Western Horse Review brand, it was important to figure out content prior to large scale plans of securing a following.

Western Horse Review kicked off it’s Facebook page back in November, 2009. Initially, we refrained from posting  a great amount of content, but gradually we’ve found our way to managing a Facebook page which we hope keeps our readers empowered with the latest information in western riding, offers entertainment and asks for engagement along the way.

Here’s some suggestions for content on your own brand’s Facebook page.

1. Step out from your logo.

If you’re only all about this week’s 20% off sale at the store, you might find it a tough track to the top. You simply won’t be human enough, and Facebook is all about sociability. Step out from behind your logo once in a while and show us your personal side. Share experiences of your life in the horse world, not just your brand.

2. Embrace giveaways and contests.

Facebook is an perfect venue for contests and giveaways. I do this often, particularly at the last minute and as a way to remind people about an upcoming event or show we’re going to be attending.

3. Give someone a chuckle.

It’s a beautiful thing when you can gift someone in the world with a chuckle.

4. Go for the “aawwww” moment.

We love these sorts of posts, and judging by the feedback, so do our viewers.

5. Throw the controversial out there.

On Facebook, each user is held accountable for his or her comments with the posting of a name beside the comment. It keeps it real and invites serious dialogue.

6. Remember our deep ties to pop culture.

Secretariat, John Wayne, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers, these are all a part of our deep history and love affair with all things western.

7. Be interesting and real.

I snapped this photo late one afternoon, and paired it with an old cowboy saying to share the feeling of peace it left me with. There is everything right about sharing a moment like this. It has nothing to do with our brand, but then, it does. . .

8. Invite discussion.

Our audience always seems up for an early morning debate.

9. Ask questions.

We’d like to know what products you’re using in your barn, and daily horse life. So we ask. . .

10. Don’t be anal about it all.

You need common sense, inquisitiveness, a bit of humor, and self-editing skills, not a structured business plan to be successful at Facebook posting. Naturally we examine our analytics a great deal, it’s amazing what we can discover about our audience through the feedback we receive. Still, we try not to graph it too much, and instead, let it flow.

I hope these 10 ideas for posting have been helpful. See you next week.

Marketing Mondays: Patti Colbert

I kicked off Marketing Mondays last Monday with a post on the crazy world of social media. We'll have more on that on future Mondays, but this morning I wanted to introduce to you, someone who I completely admire as a marketing genius.

Should you ever be in the frame of mind that you could never be an equine marketing professional because:

– you grew up in a small hamlet in Saskatchewan;

– you were conveniently playing hookie and devouring french fries and gravy in a downtown cafe in same said small hamlet, during business and marketing oriented classes at high school;

– sort of skipped out of most college marketing and business classes;

– equally and conveniently missed University (entirely);

– possess a phobia of public speaking and, or, speaking your knowledge to a general public;

– are scared as dickens of pushing yourself out of your safe little corner of the world;

– really only want to hang around your place petting horses, walking the dogs, photographing migrating birds and growing tomatoes.

Wait – I think I just described me.

Well, if you're in the same wagon train, believing you'll never get anywhere in today's fast-paced marketing world, I encourage you to take a look a look at a small town ranch lady and riding coach, who grew up to capture an enormous mainstream America following through her visionary Extreme Mustang Makeover. She then took a cue from American Idol and together with Tootie Bland, creator of Road to the Horse, went forth with another phenominally successful program, Project Cowboy, a television reality show, focusing on a search for “The Great American Horseman.”

Primarily because of her work with Extreme Mustang Makeover, Patti Colbert caught the attention of the western world in a big way, and in 2009 was named one of the “Top 15 Westerners to Watch” by American Cowboy magazine.

Here's a short interview I found of her discussing the genus of the wave of support behind that project.

Canadians had a great opportunity to listen to Colbert this January when she spoke at the Horse Industry Association of Alberta's, Horse Owners & Breeders conference, and I want to share some of her excellent insight into the horse industry with you.

Patti Colbert believes the equine world as we know is on the cusp, indeed, in the centre of great changes. Change which is due to the generational, cultural and world influences of this new century. She knows these changes present a huge challenge to an industry which is steeped in tradition, but she insists, if we equine business owners of today wish to survive, we had better learn to not only understand, but embrace these monumental changes.

As she related, “My personal opinion is that the horse show industry, as we know it, is in a downward spin and if we don't pull our heads out, our numbers will continue to decline and our customer base will decrease.”

This former director of the American Quarter Horse Association, suggests we all need to learn to love, “non-horse owning people, because they will grow your events and business. Just because their horse IQ isn't as high as yours, or they don't give a darn about showing, or will never own a horse, they can still generate growth in the horse industry.”

She certainly proved that with Extreme Mustang Makeover.

She suggested it is time for all of us to put on our thinking hats, and “kick the side out of the box or arena you live in. It's time the horse industry evolves into an aggressive well-marketed outdoor life experience.”

During her presentation, she gave some excellent advice and insight on generational trends and how they apply to the industry. She suggested there are three major demographic section's in today's society.

1) Baby Boomers: according to Colbert, “these are our biggest market. Everyday 8,000 of them turn 65. We need to realize that not all of them will want to ride, but may want to be involved at another level.”

She noted that this generation “demands respect” and wants to feel welcomed in our barns and businesses. They'll want to bring their grandkids, and might even buy them a horse.

2) Generation X: Colbert calls this your businesse's “sweet spot.” The mid-30's woman – and a target market for many equine businesses. She suggests you remember this segment of society is busy, so flexibility in your program and schedule will go a long way to accommodating them.

3) Generation Y: And, finally, those we may have the most difficulty understanding – the generation of cell phone texters, and video gamers. Colbert notes this demographic requires a quick connection and “your program had better be exciting.” Really great points: Generation Y has empathy for the rescued horse and they are typically into “green” practices.

Read more of Patti Colbert's marketing and equine industry advice in the April issue of Western Horse Review. We're in production now and it's shaping up to be a great issue. Subscribe this week and you'll still catch the mailing list for it.

Hope you enjoyed this week's Marketing Monday. See you next week!

9 Weeks ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

So I’ve been counting down to Christmas and sharing some of my best gift ideas with you over the past few weeks. Catch up at the beginning with 12 Weeks to Christmas.

This is one of the simplest gifts you can give your family. And, it doesn’t have to “cost” you anymore than time spent with them and a bit of grocery money.

This book is not just a cookbook, it’s a journey into learning to provide a cleaner diet for your family.

I love Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution right from the opening statement on his website. . .

“This food revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way you eat. . . it’s a movement for you, your family and your community. If you care about your kids and their future take this revolution and make it your own. Educate yourself about food and cooking. Find out what your child is eating at school. Make only a few small changes and magical things will happen. Switching from processed to fresh food will not only make you feel better but it will add years to your life. You can…”

It’s about throwing away the packets, bottles and stuff sitting in your freezer in boxes pretending to be food. It’s a simple enough concept. Our mothers and grandmothers knew it like the backs of their hands.

You begin with a few essential tools.

And a well-stocked pantry. All the more essential when you live in the boondocks, like I do.

Jamie Oliver’s food revolution, and his cookbook, based on the movement, is about learning how to cook with real ingredients – simple ingredients.

Rediscover the cucumber salad – with four delicious variations.

Or try it out with tomatoes.

Salad dressings are really incredibly simple to make, but we’ve all become so accustomed to the colorful commercial varieties, it feels like a gourmet venture to whip up our own. How crazy is that?

In this household, we’ve made a concerted effort to rid our diets of packaged and processed food over the past few years. And, I’ve taken the time to teach some basic techniques to my kids. Teenager makes a killer chicken noodle soup from scratch, and in a pinch, Wee can whip up scrambled eggs and bacon.

My mom cooked everything from scratch. I swear the only items she purchased at the grocery store were flour and sugar.

Oh, and ketchup. But, she even made that herself for a few years.

I wish she had taught me to cook back when I was a kid, but then I probably wasn’t very receptive to it. I likely would have choosen the barn over the kitchen any day of the week.

But, nowadays, I like to cook. In another life, I lived in the city with a girl who was French Canadian and taught me how to make things like caesar salad dressing and spaghetti sauce from scratch.

The connection between the heritage and recipes beats me too. But, her love of cooking from scratch and entertaining awakened the same qualities in me.

She’s become my lifelong friend, and we still exchange recipes. Cooking together is something we both look forward to when we meet up.

Nowadays I can make a beautiful and healthy lasagne from scratch. But, someday soon, I’m going to try Jamie’s.

I’ve always loved the “it takes a village” concept and Jamie’s philosophy embraces it. He’s spent a lot of time teaching ordinary people in his neighbourhood how to cook and dispersed throughout this cookbook are their stories. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the book.

Meet Tracey & Andy. They now own Sunday dinner roast.

Geoff, who has the most amazing set of coffee mugs above his windows!

and Julie, who learned how to cook out of her traditional box.

Last night I made this. Yum.

So, if you’re still haunting the aisles of your local Costco freezer section, go out and buy this cookbook, I dare you to.

It’s loaded with photos and step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow. Perfect for the beginner cook, for lazy cooks, for busy horsepeople, like me, like you, who don’t have time to spend all afternoon in the kitchen, and for anyone who just needs a little bit of inspiration in the kitchen.

If you already practice clean diet, aka, cooking from scratch practices, pass it on! To your kids, your spouses, your friends, and neighbors. I promise it will be one of the best gifts you can give – at any time of year.

Besides, how hard is this guy to look at. . .

Ahhhheeem, where were we on that recipe?