“It’s oversaturated and no one is going to make any money in it.” That’s not me who said it, it’s Jennifer Sims discussing the state of influencer marketing in the equestrian industry.
Jennifer is better known as @styledequestrian, the popular Instagram account she started five years ago. The former professional model combined her love of fashion and horses to post creative #ROOTDs (riding outfit of the day). She was actively competing two show jumping horses at the time.
“Every day when I went to the barn, I had a fun, different riding outfit. I’d wear a cool rock n’ roll T-shirt tucked into a pair of Tailored Sportsmans,” she described.
The account quickly grew to 45,000 followers. “It was purely organic and it was so easy,” she said. Jennifer began receiving free T-shirts and belts. That turned into free breeches. Soon, she was working with the top equestrian brands including Ariat, Horseware, Cavalleria Toscana, and Equiline.
As brands started to see a decline in reach on Facebook and Instagram, equestrian bloggers and influencers felt the impact immediately.
“Before the algorithm (change), my account was growing so rapidly. I was getting 200 new followers every couple of weeks. I got caught up in all that excitement, how quickly it was growing, how many followers I was getting,” Jennifer explained.
Then Instagram began making tweaks to its algorithm, which affects the way users see certain posts and when, and it changed everything. It happened at the same time as Jennifer stopped leasing one horse and retired the other.
“I definitely went through some periods where I was bummed. I didn’t know what to post. I didn’t have a horse,” she said. “I’m not going to put on outfits and stand in my backyard to pose for pictures – that’s not very fulfilling.”
Jennifer decided to go on a riding holiday in Mexico with a friend. She fell in love with the concept of mixing a vacation with horses. She couldn’t find U.S.-based companies that offered the service, so in December 2017, she created her own business called EqGlobeTrotter.
By posting about travel destinations on Instagram, she was able to curate trips for people she’d meet on social media, offering a one-of-a-kind a concierge travel service specific to riders. Jennifer began taking small groups on equestrian adventures around the world with her. Rather than becoming a travel influencer, her focus is on the client experience.
“Everyone becomes so bonded. The two trips that I just did in Ireland, all of the girls booked a reunion trip for the same dates next year. That’s unheard of in the riding holiday industry,” she explained.
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Words can’t even express how much happiness this crew has brought me this week!! And to think we still have five days left here at @crossogue !! We have laughed so much that our cheeks hurt, we have shared stories of our love of horses and we have supported and empowered each other as new friends coming together. This is what an epic riding holiday is about! And we get to be in Ireland for it all?! Lol! #hellyes Thank you to my #crossoguecrew for being so rad! Love you all!! @botori.life @equestriankasiabukowska @lilydreamevent @scdrea @lorilore17 @briestruction @thedeathcowgirl @preppyfarmgirl @corntreats Missing from this shot @wildfoxcox @annie_jensen1 and @rebafoltz79 ❤️❤️❤️ #ridingholiday #equestrianblogger #equestrianvacation #equestrianvacation #irishhorses #crosscountryjumping #crossoguecrew #barngirls #horsegirls #barnlife #equestrianlifestyle #equestrianlife #horseholiday
Even though the fashion account was not a viable business, the transition required a change of mindset. Likes and follows don’t pay the bills but it’s easy to get caught up in the chase.
“Only 7% of my followers were seeing my posts, it was getting a little frustrating. When I found myself getting hung up on those numbers, I sat down and asked myself: “Am I getting what I want from this account? What am I getting? Is it just likes and followers?”
Social media is saturated with accounts competing for attention. There is no clear path to revenue. “Every industry is struggling. The modeling industry is struggling as well,” Jennifer explained. “Professional models are getting passed up by clients by girls that will do the job for free just in exchange of free clothes. It’s affected all influencer marketing.”
Jennifer has found her niche. Having the right audience was the key to converting followers into clients. “My audience is a little bit older and is also my target audience for the travel business. I want these women to be able to go on a riding holiday with me and get something more from the experience than a couple of likes on a photograph,” she said.
“I’m not one-dimensional anymore, posting the same exact riding outfits, boot socks, and all that jazz. I definitely dropped in my likes. I’m not getting 2,000 likes per picture anymore but I think what I’m getting from it is so much more valuable,” she continued. “Maybe not from a brand perspective, I’m still figuring out how to negotiate that part of it. From a fulfilling position and changing and affecting people’s lives, it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. To turn that into a business that I can do full time is incredible. I would have never thought this is the path I would take.”