By Tara ChristiansenThe American Quarter Horse JournalOctober 26, 2012
That's me, Tara Christiansen, tweeting from the Nutrena AQHA East Novice Championship Show. Thank you, Journal Editor Larri Jo Starkey, for capturing the moment.
I have something to admit, and this certainly is hard to say, especially with me being the AQHA Internet editor and all, but here it goes: I used to protest social media.
Yep, there it is.
I had my reasons, that’s for sure – namely that I didn’t want to be one of those conformist college students. And that was my standard answer when someone would suggest that I add them as a friend on Facebook. The conversation would go something like this:
“I don’t have a Facebook account.”
“What do you mean you don’t have a Facebook account? Everyone has a Facebook account!”
“Not me – I’m protesting social media.”
And that was the redundant conversation I would have up until June 1, 2010 – the day I started my internship with AQHA Publications. Now, “Publications intern” is kind of a loose term for what the job entails. In addition to aiding in event coverage, the Publications intern is called on to coordinate content for our daily blog, America’s Horse Daily, plus creates daily and weekly e-newsletters. Not only that, our intern administers the AQHA Guess That Horse contest. Back when I was an intern, we conducted the contest every Wednesday at 1 p.m. on Facebook. As you can imagine, it’s a little tough to conduct a Facebook contest if you don’t have a Facebook account.
For the first time, though, on June 1, 2010, I didn’t use my standard “I march to the beat of my own drum” line – I actually conformed. To tell you the truth, I’m glad I did. Since then, I’ve learned to embrace all the social media platforms on which AQHA has a presence – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. I’m particularly fond of Facebook and Twitter – the former allows me to share Chuck Norris facts with people who 1) find them hilarious or 2) probably wish I’d find a new hobby and sense of humor.
Recently, Jody Reynolds, the AQHA director of online/interactive communications – aka my Mr. Miagi – and I attended a social media seminar right down the interstate from AQHA Headquarters. Although the seminar, taught by Kevin Knebl, focused on principles to master LinkedIn (the platform that Jody and I are least familiar with) it also brought to mind principles that are not only handy for all social media platforms, but to business, customer service and human relations in general.
If you’re thinking right now, “I might be reading this online, but I’m no Bill Gates, computer-type person,” keep this quote from Mr. Knebl in mind: “Social media has nothing to do with technology. It has everything to do with people skills.”
AQHA’s Facebook page, if you haven’t visited it before, is part news resource and customer service center. It’s also where we create a dialogue with American Quarter Horse owners. It’s not uncommon for new owners to share a story and photo about the newest addition to their family and for breeders to brag on their newborns, plus ask questions about what coat color next spring’s foal just might happen to be. AQHA’s Facebook page is where we love hearing that owners love their American Quarter Horses, because we do, too!
Getting back to the seminar, our speaker Kevin, the self-proclaimed “Nicest, Friendliest, Most Positive Guy on Earth, and the Most Humble,” shares my distaste for the words “social media.” What he prefers, and I do too, is “social network.” Maybe the reason I can relate to that term, and not its ugly cousin, is because the horse industry really is a social network. It’s always been my belief that showing horses makes the world smaller; now we have tools to really bring it all in.
Think about it: Ten years ago, how hard was it for you to reach across the country, or across the industry, to contact a fellow horseperson for whom you didn’t have a phone number? In some cases, you might’ve made several calls, leap-frogging from horseman to horsewoman until you got the number you needed. Now, all you need is an Internet connection and a Facebook account. (It also helps when the person you’re trying to contact has a Facebook account. If all else fails, contact their spouse, child, second cousin, neighbor, farrier … My apologies, I digress). You get my point: Facebook makes the horse community pretty darn small.
But what if there was a network tailored specifically for business connections? (LinkedIn believers, you already know where I’m headed).
LinkedIn launched in May 2003 and now boasts 175 million users – that’s pennies compared to Facebook, which has more than 1 billion users – but LinkedIn is gaining steam. That’ll certainly be true once sales reps, entrepreneurs, job seekers, and pretty much everybody in the horse business figures out what the social network can do for them.
The platform can be broken down into three different parts: you, the employee; employers; and groups. You can think of groups as the metaphorical water cooler – they’re where people of similar interests share ideas, chit chat and make “connections” (it’s the equivalent to friending someone on Facebook or following someone on Twitter).
AQHA actually sports four official groups: the AQHA Professional Horsemen and AQHA Judges groups, which are exclusive to individuals who fit those descriptions according to the AQHA database, and the AQHA Show Managers and American Quarter Horse Association groups, which are open to anyone with an interest in them. At this time, these LinkedIn groups certainly aren’t robust, but Jody and I now have a clearer idea of how to use LinkedIn to improve the lives of our American Quarter Horse breeders, owners and Professional Horsemen. We’re going to be working hard to get them up to speed, and we hope to see you join one of them, too. Don’t forget, the word “group” entails “group effort.”
To sum it all up, AQHA's Linkedin pages and other Web properties are intended as interactive forums where fans of the American Quarter Horse can gather information and take part in an open discussion about the products and services of AQHA as well as the equine industry in general. Does that sound like it could benefit you? Good – we’ll see you there!
Social networking is where our community gets smaller – the more horse-interested people you “connect” with, the more you realize that the world is full of people “like” us.
Be sure to “like” AQHA on Facebook, follow us on Twitter at @AQHA, pin us on Pinterest and connect with us on LinkedIn.
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