What can horses teach us about Web 2.0?

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I imagine if my horses could manage a keyboard and were connected to the Internet, they’d have a lot to say about how dumb some people are when it comes to communications. In the herd, horses learn who to embrace and who to avoid and they follow the one who is courageous, caring, kind and fair in how they treat others.

Horses follow caring leaders

Relationship building is a purported hallmark the Web 2.0 movement and smart small business owners (most who got this long before the internet came to be) are incorporating the tools and technology afforded by this claimed new marketing think to bolster their businesses. The savvy ones are listening the herd of customers and prospects they’ve already lead with understanding and responsive solutions to concerns by selecting what works based on feedback from their trusting and supportive clan. They’re not wasting energy on what doesn’t work given welcome and forthcoming feedback from a respectful fan base. Of course, this has tremendous applications for equine professionals (and their approach to online communications is probably more telling than they would like on how they handle their human and horse students).

Ever feel like some people who are celebrating Web 2.0 as their sandbox and turf come at you with teeth bared and heels flying with their unrelenting “embrace me and my offerings” barrage of messages and never consider what might be comfortable for you? They may get an initial sale, but early buyers tend to lament their decision and warn others of the danger.

Do you sell, or get buy-in?

Usually there’s another mare in the herd who commands respect through fear (or in human terms, selfishness). She gets her pick of the hay pile, is first out of the gate and chases others away from water until she has her fill, but no one will follow her. They avoid her. Some commanding the Web 2.0 moniker as their platform for selling, using it a justified excuse to be in-your-face, fail to recognize their methods results in retreat. Sure, they might get a few early followers, but ultimately, the herd sways the lemmings away from the cliff.

Human or horse – herds tend to behave the same

I learned a lot about horses (and humans) when I fenced in 26 acres last year. Initially, I divided the herds for compatibility, but as time passed, horses were sold, and winter bore down, I culled out the broodmares (a requisite to weaning foals), and combined the rest. An interesting thing happened. I was most concerned about a client’s horse that had shown extreme aggressive behavior with the boys. I was worried about him hurting the babies with his dominant tendencies. He tried, and was immediately lambasted by a three-year-old filly (who’s the leader of the herd now) and banished for his actions. He is not permitted to eat with any of the other horses anymore and must wait until all others are settled with their feed before he gets his.

We do have another mare in the herd. She’s hostile, bossy and avoided. She gives her message in an obnoxious way and gets what she thinks she wants – but isn’t respected, just avoided.

So, how does this apply to social media (and combating some of the economic challenges the small business and horse industry is facing right now)?  If you’re there for others and show you care, they’ll follow you. Those who feel they can bully buyers with manipulative and self-centered approaches may get their way at first, but won’t likely gain a following.

Think about how you operate with people who are just getting to know you over the seemingly impersonal venue of the internet. Are you putting yourself out there as a leader willing to be on the line to help others gain security and traction, or are you operating with a selfish approach to making your needs heard without regard to how others may feel?

Get real

Horse or human, it’s not rocket science, but does seem to be an elusive insight for some. The buzz around the new Web 2.0 is no different than what successful small business owners have always known about being smart in building relationships and gaining traction with centers-of-influence. Give and you get exponentially. Do nothing but take, or defend your turf, and your gains will be fleeting.  Do you want to be avoided or embraced? It’s your choice, but don’t blame the herd if they choose to dismiss you.

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