I’m jumping on my high horse and I’m not coming down. At least not until things get prettier, smarter, and savvier: let’s talk about creativity, let’s talk about mainstreaming equestrian sport for the masses, let’s talk about building and growing your business model. And hot damn, let’s talk about your Instagram.
As silly and superficial it may seem, having a solid social presence is crucial in the equestrian industry. Riders, both professional and amateur, as well as trainers, barns, show management, retailers, brands, equestrian enthusiasts, artists, photographers, and everyone else in the biz - you need to get social.
So how do you create a solid social presence, you might ask? This is Marketing 101 folks. I find it hard to believe that our expansive community, including the greatest talent and minds in equestrian sport to date, are incapable of taking Instagram by storm. I watch the hoards of young 20- and 30-somethings killing the lifestyle influencer game. At first glance, it may seem unimportant, but they're damn marketing geniuses. So if Gen Z can do it, why not equestrians? Reports show that those who grow up on horseback are, like, 150 times more likely to gain a higher education, to be problem solvers, multi-taskers, to become entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and the like. Yes, that statistic was totally fabricated, but there is some truth in there. Long story, short: we got this. Watch out interwebs, because here comes the equestrian-set - and we’re ready to break the internet (cliché, but whatever).
Creating a solid social presence begins with purpose. 'Why?' Is the question, and the answer is what should fuel your continued marketing efforts. If you are a professional, the 'why' seems more of a no-brainer. Remember the days, those of you over the age of 30, when the business world stated in nausea-inducing repetition that if you had a business, then you had to have a website? Yeah, yeah, yeah. We got that. Now, fast forward a decade or so, and the world is once again stating that a professional or business needs some element of a social presence. Good news is, most folks have jumped on board and created an account. The bad news is that many lack the savviness to make that account truly work in their favor.
Professionals, trainers, sales programs, and barns: your 'why' is to build your brand, attract new clients and sponsors, and give followers a deeper insight into your business. We are living in the age of more is more. Consumers want instantaneous and they want to feel more intimately involved in a brand or athlete that they admire. Giving the people what they want ultimately results in a further rooted interest, which transfers to loyalty, which of course transfers to money. Social media is a business, and likewise, your marketing efforts should follow that same track.
If you are not a professional, and simply want to create a social presence for the heck of it, then perhaps your 'why' is a bit more fun, wild, and free. This is where the social platform evolves to become a means of expressing yourself and your creativity. Everybody needs a creative outlet of some sort.
Here’s another 'why' to consider for all you professionals, aside from growing your own brand: it’s time to take equestrian sport mainstream. We’ve heard the conversations, the objectives of the major federations and so on. But the team here at NoëlleFloyd.com believes that mainstream acceptance is on the cusp. Equestrian sport is so close to achieving this that we can all practically taste it. Fashion houses, editorial organizations, creative types and more are all dabbling in the horse world. I’ve been saying this for years, but horses are hot right now. Dior just wrapped up their Dior Cruise 2019 presentation at Chantilly where they included the mesmerizing Escaramuza lady riders. It was raining, it was overflowing with horses, it was spectacular, and the crowd went wild. Kendall Jenner just signed on with Longchamp to revamp their latest campaign, which includes a stunning equine-human encounter on the streets of Paris. So, let me convince you with this - showcasing the equestrian lifestyle to the best of your ability can result in mass appeal when executed correctly. So let’s grow this sport, let’s see it gain more airtime, let’s see it covered by more major studios, let’s rejoice when celebrities take up horseback riding. Not everyone will actuallyget on a horse, but the intrigue and allure of the sport will grow.
You’ve established the 'why' but now it comes down to the 'how'. This is where you get to exercise your marketing chops.
Let your voice/aesthetic develop on its own. Momma always told us to just be ourselves, and so did Mr. Rogers. When it comes to the world of the digitally-inclined, there is no better platform to just be yourself. We are all equally sick and tired of this fake Instagram-Life. Life is messy. Life is complicated. Life is filled with ups and downs, sorrow and joy. So if you want to connect with your audience, you have to let them into the true you.
Show off, but don’t be too aggressive about it. What do we want to see? We want to be inspired. We want to see the pretty but we want it to be savvy. We want to come across an image and say out loud, ‘that’s bananas.’ We do not want to see picture after picture of you and your luxury car. Unless your feed is based on luxury car content, then have at it. Otherwise, please refrain from all show off d-bag debauchery.
Now onto the most important element of all when creating a stellar Instagram presence: photography. People, please, stop flooding my feed with your crap photos. There is no excuse these days. No more poorly lit selfies, no more ill-composed outfit shots, no more fuzzy ugly pictures. We’re standing up as the Instagram version of Seinfeld’s 'Soup Nazi', and we’re simply saying no. Because if you can’t get your photography together, then we are going to scream from the sidelines ‘No Insta for you!’. New phones come equipped with some of the best cameras your hands will ever have the pleasure of holding, and editing apps are a dime a dozen. If you do not have decent photography, then you don’t have squat. So what to do? Sit down and play with that phone of yours, remember practice makes perfect, and have some fun. And when all else fails - get a camera, hire a photographer, buy the digital show photos, whatever it takes. Feng shui your insta-game with a thoughtful series of harmonizing photographs, practice continuity in your filters, mix up the frames and composition of the pictures, and remember, it does not need to be all horses, all the time. Do as the Turkish sprinkling Salt Bae would do, and sprinkle in some non-horsey lifestyle stuff. And if you were living under a rock six months ago and don’t know who that is, then google it.
"Feng shui your insta-game with a thoughtful series of harmonizing photographs, practice continuity in your filters, mix up the frames and composition of the pictures, and remember, it does not need to be all horses, all the time."
The Anatomy of a Solid Instagram
I’m putting on my judge's cap and breaking down the fundamental components of some great Instagram profiles in the equestrian world. As far as I’m concerned, these folks have it going on. They are telling their story and conveying their brand, both professionally and personally, to the best of their ability. They’re using tools like IG Stories to further engage their audience, Boomerang to add movement, and Highlights to keep folks coming back for more. It’s time to take note.
Hannah Selleck’s Southern California boutique breeding operation and stable, Descanso Farm, produces true quality in the ring, and their social presence echoes that same level of quality. Why is it so good? From a recognizable logo, to a clear biography, to solid photography and more, the @descanso_farm Instagram feed is legit. See for yourself.
Tip: What else is Hannah Selleck’s @descanso_farm profile killing it with? A very particular set of tagging skills (insert Liam Neeson voice over). Not only is every major sponsor tagged in the photos, but the shows for which this team is attending and competing is tagged. And to top it off, the tags are organized in a very attractive and easy to navigate layout.
The Instagram feed for Nacho Figueras and Delfina Blaquier’s Argentina-based Polo breeding/training/competing operation @criayatay is a total stunner. Granted, they have a bit of an advantage - world travels, one of the most expertly designed and constructed stables in the world, top athlete notoriety, and amazing animals. But they also have two additional elements that almost any company/individual can incorporate: branding and an in-house photographer. @criayatay’s branded image is stellar. The logo is easily and instantly recognizable, and you see that logo and the business name constantly reappearing in the feed. As for an in-house photographer, @criaytay actually has many photographer credits attached to the content they create. But they also have a secret weapon in the form of Delfina Blaquier, who happens to be a very talented photographer in her own right. Delfina consistently captures the simplicity and beauty of their business, their stock, and their travels, allowing fans an insiders look into the world of @criayatay.
Tip: The Instagram presence of @criayatay is further leveraged by the Instagram feeds of the people associated with the business, such as @nachofigueras and @delfinablaquier. If you have personalities and characters behind your business, encourage them to develop a social feed that compliments the feed of the show barn/retailer/trainer.
Things We Love: We’ve got a crush on grids right now. The individual components of a grid do not perform as well as a singular piece of content, but a grid-based image is very eye-catching when visitors peruse your account. Plus, they help break up the monotony of an Instagram feed.
May we have your attention equestrian retailers? In this vast digital landscape, we are believers in showing off - showing off your goods in the best way possible, that is. The world is your oyster, so attract those clients, showcase those products, present intriguing and engaging content. Just do it right. Case in point? The Instagram feed of @guibertparis. Oh la la la la la, YES! Whatever these folks are selling, we’re buying. The same rules for individuals and riders apply here. The vibe is entirely consistent, from the colors to the tone, to the composition of the images.
Tip: For web, products shot with white backgrounds perform best in sales. The product is the focal point, and you want to funnel potential customers into that product with zero distractions. Zip. Nada. But for Instagram, white background product images have no pizzazz, no flair, and no intrigue. A white background product image on Instagram is like a performance metric kiss of death, resulting in the dreaded scroll-right-past-it-and-forget-it level of activity. So what’s a retailer to do? Consider tight frames of your product shots, or a palette of backgrounds limited to just a few colors. The result is still engaging enough, yet maintains that all-important focal-point-making quality.
They say there is no such thing as bad PR. Now, we are not suggesting that you take your scathing reviews and turn them into social content (unless you are a public relations wizard that is acutely aware of how to turn bad into good), but we are saying that if you (cough, cough, professional riders) garner some good press, then for the love of you know who, please post it. This is your moment to brag, to show off, to let the world know what you are capable of. We love following riders such as @linneaaarflot, who not only have sponsorships and collaborations with major luxury partners, but do a damn good job of showcasing those partnerships in the press.
Tip: Ask for the PDF tear sheets of any and all articles where you gained some exposure that you can post on your social feeds, include in your website, and keep in your files. And be sure to let your sponsors know when you’ve garnered such press, so that they can propagate that exposure even further.
Ok. So, have I convinced you? Maybe. Have I inspired you? Whatever your take away, let me leave you with this. It’s time to up the ante and show the world just how downright awesome this equestrian lifestyle actually is. Get creative, get savvy, get your photography in order, and let’s give the Instagram Influencers a run for their money.
Written by Alli Addison
Rode-before-she-could-walk California girl Alli Addison spends her days in the whirlwind that is kids, husband, career, horses and real life. She favors Cubano-Style lattes, black and white stripes, gel manicures and a good pair of sweatpants. She also continues to ask Santa for a dappled grey jumper, year after year, to no avail.