With many people choosing not to ride during the current coronavirus pandemic, or at least reducing the intensity of exercise or the number of horses being ridden, many riders are finding themselves with a little more free time on their hands. Even if riding has reduced and you’re not out competing, there is still a lot that you can do to help grow your brand online and get yourself in the best possible position for when everything starts up again. And you don’t need to leave the house to do it.
Two key areas you can really work on are you website and your social media channels. Both of these have the ability to attract sponsors, owners and opportunities, and both often get neglected during the season. The thing is that now, more than ever, there’s more competition for every sponsorship package, every ride, and every opportunity. And the competition for these things isn’t just from riders at the same level as you — far from it. So in order to be in the best possible position to seize those opportunities, you need to get everything you can.
Let’s start with your website — your online digital home. Many people have others manage their websites for them and if this is the case — even if the company has moved to a reduced level of support due to coronavirus and furloughing staff — you can still do all the ground work (as you’d have to anyway) for them to action when they’re back at work. Or you can just crack on if you edit your own site.
First of all, look at your homepage. Have a look at the images. Are they a true reflection of you and your team now? Maybe your header image shows you competing at a lower level? Or was taken five years ago? Maybe you have much better images you can replace them with now? Maybe a bit further down there’s a picture of you with a different colour of hair that you haven’t have since 2015? Or maybe your team picture only shows two people who are still with you? Now’s your moment!
Look through the images you’ve bought at events and contact the photographers about gaining permission to use these images on your website. There might be an additional fee for this or certain conditions you need to adhere to in order to use the image for free. Please, please don’t bury your head in the sand on this. You don’t want to bill for copyright infringement and an upset photographer on your case. Just send them an email, explain where you bought the image and how you’d like to use it and if you can have permission to do this. That’s all you need to do. And then wait for them to respond and go from there.
If you’ve had professional commercial shoots done at your yard, look through those images and see which you can use in different areas on your website.
Refreshing your images will transform your site really quickly.
And now look at the homepage copy. Is it up to date? Many websites say something like ‘I’m a x-year-old rider who’s competed up to y level’. Are both of these still correct?
Now move through your site and do the same for your team, horses, sponsors and other pages. Maybe your horses have changed? Maybe your sponsors have changed? Maybe there’s the opportunity to add more about your sponsors and make sure you’re helping promote them through your website? Have their logos changed or been updated?
Go through every page of your site and make sure it’s relevant for now. If you’re looking to attract sponsors and they go to your site and it says you’re five years younger than they know you are, you have a competitor’s brand as a sponsor (even though you no longer work with them) and your top ride is no longer ridden by you, what message is that sending out?
Social media platforms
As per your website, have a look at your bio/about/general info on all the relevant platforms. Are they correct? Are they up to date? Is there anything else that you could add that would show what you’ve been doing lately?
Check your links too, particularly on Instagram, where you only get the one (unless you use a links service like Linktree when you can add a few) — is it the right one? Sometimes, if there’s been a specific promotion or competition going on, maybe with a sponsor, the link in a rider’s bio will be changed to reflect this. Did you ever change it back?
Have a look at your social media posts and get into the analytics. This can be as basic as looking at which posts have performed the best and which haven’t in terms of likes and comments — it doesn’t need to be any more detailed than that if you don’t want it to be. Which posts have got the most likes/reactions/comments and shares? What can you learn from this and do more of?
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your followers what they’d like to see more of at the moment from you. Maybe they’d like some training tips? Information on how you’re keeping fit? This will help you to generate content that is going to help you grow your brand and following during your downtime. And don’t be afraid to get your sponsors/brand you use and love and your team involved with this content too. If people want to know how you’re managing the horses during unscheduled downtime, why not chat to your farrier about taking shoes off and which horses can handle it? How about asking the nutritionist at the feed company you use about changing feed ration from a horse that was out competing one minute to being in the field the next? There are LOTS of opportunities available to generate really good content at the moment that will help you moving forward. Use this time to do that and it will pay you back many times over in a few months time.
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