Flickr is not a horse but can horses teach you a few things about social media?

I recently had a great weekend in Sydney and one of my highlights was horse riding. I have always been crazy about horses and started riding and vaulting at 5.

When I was eleven I was asked to look after an elderly lady’s horse and I was in heaven! I loved riding, brushing and even going for a swim in the lake with the horse. The horse needed a lot of training and much patience was required. By only rewarding positive behavior we formed a very strong bond and trusted each other. I was never worried riding him without saddle and bridle and he was never worried when I asked him to jump. As a result of this trust, we won many ribbons at various tournaments.

Most horse owners however were really cruel to their horses and if a horse did not perform, it’d be turned into dog food. They had no patience and were not prepared to put in work.

By the age of 17 I quit horse riding. I did not want to be part of a community that had no respect for animals and made fun of me for being different.

About 10 years after I got back into the saddle. I read about natural horsemanship and Join Up. Join Up is a method developed by Monty Roberts, THE horse whisperer from the USA and is based on trust, respect and that “violence is never the answer”.

To my delight, I also found out that one of Monty’s accredited trainers, Rob Horne, lives just outside Sydney and teaches Join Up among other things.

The reason why I tell you all this is because what I’ve learned during Join Up is not just about horses. “It is also about philosophies of communication and relationships. Join-Up proposes that not just horses, but humans too, thrive in a cooperative and safe environment and falter in a climate of fear and submission.”(Monty Roberts)

So Join Up teaches you about communication and relationships and these lessons are invaluable to any company venturing into social media.

Social media is a long term asset that grows over time. Patience and excellent communication skills build a sustainable and long term relationship with the community. Mutual trust and respect are vital and short term goals such as profit targets or clumsy sales messages have no place in social media.

Without trust and respect, social media is hard. There are plenty of examples of companies “doing social media” without a long term strategy and the willingness to put in work. Two of my favorite examples are BP and Nestlé. Their unethical and dishonest behavior may have paid off short term, i.e. $$$ but did they consider the negative effects this behavior will have in social media? The question is now, can BP and Nestlé ever regain credibility and survive as a business?

Sadly, they will. People forget and most people are not bothered in the first place. It’s like the thousands of people going to horse races and not thinking twice about horses being whipped.

For me personally, it is absolute BS (read this if you want to find out why horse racing is BS) but I am not worried. I can see everyday that companies are changing and pennies are dropping. Corporate social responsibility and social media are still in their infancy,  but increasingly more companies are caring for the environment, the community.

Let’s hope the momentum continues to build.

Here’s a great example of fun & reward working to reduce speed from motorists.…rather than fines and scare tactics


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