By Randi Thompson, Founder of the Award-Winning Facebook Business Page “How to Market Your Horse Business”
 
In my first article of this series, I explained how “offline” businesses can benefit by having a presence on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. I left you with a two-part “assignment” for getting started:
1. Look at what other businesses like yours are doing on social media sites and web sites to promote themselves. What do you think their marketing strengths and weaknesses are? Are you clear about what they have to offer? How can you incorporate some of those ideas in your marketing?
 
2. Talk to your existing customers to find out what they’d like to see from you in the social media world. What do they do with social media? Where are they “hanging out” and who do they think are the “movers and shakers” of the horse social media world?
 
Now let's continue by exploring content strategy.
 
Developing Content: What you share on social media will attract people looking for what you have to offer.
 
The expression “Content is King” originally referred to print and broadcast media but it’s equally true in the online world. A great comment, photo or video may get people to visit your web site or follow you on social media for a while, but if your content doesn’t remain valuable to them you’ll quickly drop off their radar and their newsfeeds.
 
Our goal is to get people to respond to us and interact with us through the comments and content that we share. Here’s why content and comments are the secrets to success for marketing on social media:
 
1. Good content builds loyalty. If a business had to get a new customer to make every sale, their marketing challenge would be enormous! A horse publication, for example, doesn’t make most of its money from people picking it up for the first time, it makes money from people who realize its content has ongoing value that they need, so they subscribe. Really successful Internet sites, blogs and social media pages also get most of their traffic from repeat business, based on the value of their content. It’s the content we share that gets people interested in what we have to offer and, most importantly, gets them to respond to our comments. When people respond to your comments, those comments go viral on the newsfeeds and you are then exposed to more people who are looking for what you have to offer!
 
2. Relationships lead to sales. When you build loyalty through high-value content that encourages people to interact with you, you’re actually creating relationships with people who are interested in what you have to offer. We’d all rather buy something from someone we have come to know, like and trust.
 
3. Well-planned content helps people find you. Search engines like Google and Bing are a way of life, zipping through the virtual universe to recognize and rank content that most closely matches a user’s query. You can help your content be recognized and ranked through the use of “Search Engine Optimization” or SEO. A whole SEO industry has sprung up to specialize in using the right “keywords” that will get a site recognized early and ranked highly on Search Engine results lists. But you have to do more than focus on keywords – your business has a better chance of flourishing if you provide great content first, while having a decent understanding of SEO and keywords.
 
But What Should You Be Saying?
 
It’s exciting to think of all the ways you can communicate on social media – your comments, photos, audio and video can be fun to think about and create. But the most important step in determining your comment strategy is deciding what you should be saying so people will respond and your comment will be shared on their newsfeeds.
 
If you want people to purchase your products or services, you need to be able to tell them what you have to offer in a way that’s easy for them to understand. Even more important, you have to show them how what you’re offering will benefit them. The first step in creating “benefits-driven” content is to organize your own thoughts about what you’re offering and how you are going to promote what you have to offer.
 
1. Start by making a list of the products and services you offer. If you have a retail store you don’t need to list every saddle and bit – just the product categories. If you have a boarding barn, you could include types of stalls; types of turnout; specialized services; what type of riding rings you have and whether you have trails your clients can ride on. If you’re a trainer, you could include group or individual lessons; discipline specialty; working with green or problem horses; offering weekend clinics, etc. No matter what specific horse business you have, you need to break it down into specific products and services you feel prospective clients will be looking for – you can’t promote what you can’t describe!
 
2. For each of your products or services, identify what is different about your offerings – and hopefully unique or better – than what the competition offers. Find those things that set you apart so your potential customer can understand why your offerings are the best choice for them.
 
3. Think about your priorities in terms of what you should be promoting first or most actively; you want to be sure what you’re promoting is not just relevant but is also of high value. For example, if your barn stays full of boarders but you need to add revenue, you could emphasize other things like lessons, summer camps or “adult pony club” activities. If you’re a retail store, you may have certain products that offer repeat purchase opportunities and better profit margins than other products. Here’s why prioritizing is important: on your own web site you can provide comprehensive details of your total business but when you’re marketing through social media, your comments have to be briefer and more targeted. The good news is that you can use social media comments to drive “target customers” – people who are looking for what you have to offer – to your website or social media network.
 
Giving careful thought to each of the three areas above will help you develop a content and comment strategy as the foundation for all of your marketing activities. So get started! In my next article I’ll talk about how you can use your comments to sell what you have to offer.
 
Randi Thompson is internationally recognized in social media for her award winning “How to Market Your Horse Business” and “Horse and Rider Awareness."  She is a keynote speaker at national events, author, and expert legal consultant for the horse industry. 

For a FREE copy of Randi Thompson’s e-book, DIY – Get Listed Locally, How to Get Your Small Business Listed Online in the Local Searches!, go to
http://www.howtomarketyourhorsebusiness.com/downloads/DIYGetListed.pdf.   You can also join Randi on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/howtomarketyourhorsebusiness.