Equestrian Rider | Woodruff

How to Leverage Social Media to Reach the Horse-Owner Market

Social media may be the key to reaching a powerful market segment

From ponies to riding lessons to Breyer Horses, little girls across the country can tell you that horses are a big deal. The recent Economic Impact report from the American Horse Council shows that “big deal” doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Nearly 100 years ago, the equine population of America was 25 million, and they did everything from serving as transportation to pulling plows and wagons to ensure that the ag economy thrived. By 1960, just 40 years later, that population had dropped by 88 percent to a mere 3 million animals. Today, that number has climbed to an estimated 7.2 million.

Infographic: Did you know 31% of horses are in 5 states? Texas, California, Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma
Source: The Innovation Group, 2018 Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry, American Horse Council Foundation.

Beyond the number of horses and where they reside is the section of the study that homes in on the horse enthusiast. Only a small percentage of Americans, 1.3 percent, actually own horses. But nearly one-third of American households include a horse enthusiast. These include participants in equine activities who don’t own a horse or those who spectate at equine events without owning or participating. These enthusiasts tend to be younger: 38 percent of horse participants are under 18.

And don’t be fooled that spectators are just watching — they are spending money. The equine industry makes a $50 billion direct contribution to the GDP and adds a total value to the U.S. economy of $122 billion.

So how do you reach those horse enthusiasts? Social media is a great place to start.

The connection to social media may seem logical because of the age group. But the reality is that equine enthusiasts are community oriented. From shows to clinics, it’s about interacting with other horse people and the lifestyle it represents. Social media gives them a way to tap into that community at any time, from anywhere, regardless of age. Beyond the sense of community, each platform has a different niche or purpose in the community.

Twitter

The equine community has embraced hashtags, and nowhere is that more evident than #equestrianproblems. Going back at least six years, this hashtag crosses breeds, disciplines and age groups. It has spun off into Pinterest pages, Vines and too many blog posts to count. It’s a place for equestrians to commiserate and feel part of the community.

YouTube

While Twitter may be about the community, YouTube has become the go-to source for learning new tricks and techniques. Trainers, veterinarians, suppliers and a host of others use the channel to get their message out to equestrians. You can get how-to videos on grooming techniques, choosing the appropriate bit, judging horse conformation and everything in between. But don’t think that it’s just about learning. There are more than a few equine marriage proposals, funny horse videos and this video of Einstein, the smallest foal in the world, which has been viewed nearly 8 million times!

Instagram

If YouTube is inspirational, then Instagram is overwhelmingly aspirational. From the perfectly groomed horse to breathtaking photos of horse and rider, this is where to go for swoon-worthy images of horses and the equine lifestyle. A combination of personal pages and company representation, Instagram helps equine enthusiasts dream, laugh a little and escape to that perfect ride or event.

Facebook

Facebook is where the community piece comes into play, where enthusiasts can bond over not just their love of horses but also their brand loyalty. They can build their relationship with a brand and often learn things about a product that they have used for decades. From boots to saddles to fly care, enthusiasts can connect with companies and like-minded equestrians on Facebook.

Bottom line is that equine enthusiasts are on the Internet, and they are social. Very social. Companies who can find them, who can thoughtfully insert themselves into existing communities, can begin building their own niche with a little effort and patience.

The social ecosystem is certainly crowded, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for equine brands. If you’re not sure what platforms should be in your stable, start by researching where your targeted customers are and what they’re saying. Look at the hashtags they use and the channels they’re most active on. Competitor research may help you prioritize, too. And if you need some help sorting out where you should be and what you should be saying there, we can provide some clarity — or just take the reins.