How do you manage your social media when you’re a rider?
Over the last decade, social media has become an important part of our daily lives. Riders too have had to adapt to this new way of communicating. However, not everything is as simple as it seems, from the time it takes to stay connected with one's community of fans, to the dangers of a misinterpreted photo or word, to the commitment required by sponsors and the constant monitoring of news. We wanted to take the pulse of some riders and community managers.
After several years competing under Swiss colors, Marie Pellegrin now competes for France again and is based near Lyon. She has participated in some of the most beautiful competitions in the world with her partner Admirable (we remember their exploits in the Spruce Meadows Grand Prix in 2014 where the pair took 3rd place) and is now, at 41 years old, on the list of potential riders to go to the 2024 Olympic Games. It must be said that with her new string of horses, she who has trained many top horses, such as Une de L'Othian, now under the saddle of Harrie Smolders, could quickly become an important member of the French team.
Present on social media - Facebook and Instagram - Marie Pellegrin makes it clear from the start that she manages her online image herself, without any outside help or professional guidance. "Social media has two sides. There are the nice things, that we like to share with our fans, like the good times we have at the stables, then there are the expectations from partners and sponsors. You have to identify people, insert hashtags... and I'm terrible at that. I'm starting to do it out of obligation, even though I totally understand that it's necessary for our sponsors. What saddens me is that people are no longer interested in the individual person, but in the number of followers. The more you post, the more visible you are, the more you are followed. And this is even more true when you're a woman. A beautiful girl in a bikini is going to get more likes than a girl who works at NASA. It's sad! I like to share the nice moments at the stables, but when it's a work obligation, it becomes restrictive. I’m part of a generation that was born without a computer or a mobile phone. However, I understand that this is now part of riders’ lives."
Marie Pellegrin, who has been an ambassador of the brand Dada for a few weeks now, has become more present on social media, but doesn’t let a third party manage her account: "I had a little help from the Dada girls, because I have to admit that I put all my ill will into not wanting to do or understand all this. Yet, I know that a presence on social media is necessary, but I don't want someone to post things on my behalf. I want to be the one writing the posts and I want my account to look like me. I'd rather post a little less, but have it come from me. It would bother me if I didn't write exactly the sentences I wanted to."
Managing your own social media is not an easy task, because beyond taking time, it also requires particular attention to what you post in order to avoid trouble. "In principle, the photos that I post don’t call for particular comments. However, it's true that when I take a position on the French Equestrian Federation election, even though we have the right to give our opinion, it makes people react more," admits Marie Pellegrin.
The rider concludes: "Social media is useful for passing on certain messages, and it’s also good for showing team life and I understand that it is important for our sponsors. However, what I deplore is the completely artificial side. You get the impression, when you follow some accounts, that these peoples’ lives are perfect. But people don't live life anymore, they live to post online. That's dangerous because it's not reality."
For the management of social media to neither be a burden, nor too time-consuming, some riders use community managers. This is someone that is trained in the field of communication and who is in charge of creating content on social media. Even though she is rather well-known in the world of showjumping for her work with Stephex Stables and some famous international competitions, Noémie Renard-Andres also works with riders like Romain Duguet. She is the head of her communication agency, Nohe Agency, and was kind enough to let us in on some of the background of this facet of her job.
Why do riders use her agency? "Some are not comfortable with these means of communication; others don't have the time or simply don't know how to post information. They are aware that social media is very important, but don’t have the tools to do it better. So they prefer to rely on a professional." What does her agency provide for riders? "It depends on the contracts we have with them. Our role is to ask them to send us photos and videos so that we can post information on a regular basis. We stay in close contact with them. We're always after content."
When working for a rider, she says, "I have to completely disappear behind the rider. It's their page, so I post as if they’re the one writing, using 'I'." To do this, it’s crucial that a relationship of trust be established: "Obviously, the riders we work with are people we get along with well. We have complete trust in each other."
As a direct result of the growing importance of social media, riders are increasingly being asked by their partners to promote their brand through this channel. "It's really becoming an ecosystem and it has to be done well. Social networks have become the most important media platform in the riders’ and brands’ communication. If it's done poorly, the message can be misinterpreted by the community and that can lead to conflicts. Our role is also to check all the photos. For example, we don't post pictures of a rider without a helmet. We mainly convey values through the posts. The risk is that a photo or video will cause controversy and damage the rider's reputation."
Managing the communication of riders requires constant involvement: "We have to be very present on these networks so, during the competition period, we have to be ready to post up to ten times a week, it's very demanding for the company."
This is a real area of expertise, because in addition to their role of managing relations with the media, communication agencies have to keep up to date with all the news and technological developments of social networks: "You have to stay up to date, because social networks change every day. The social networks of last year and those of today have nothing to do with each other, they are constantly evolving."
Reigning Olympic Champion Roger-Yves Bost also spoke about the importance of social media in his life as a rider. The 2013 European Champion immediately stated that he acknowledges the value of this channel: "It's important for sponsors, because that's where people go now. Moreover, when I have a message to pass on, I take advantage of this channel to transmit it. We have to adapt to the times. If people are happy, we have to move forward with that too, to be better, and it also helps also with selling horses."
However, the French Champion acknowledges that he is not the one in charge of his account: "Someone manages it for me. It helps me a lot because I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise. I also ask my children for advice, which helps me to keep progressing. I try to stay young and modern." Yet, Roger-Yves Bost doesn’t share much of his daily life at the stables: "When there are sporting events happening, we share our sporting news, but the rest of the time, we’re not always active on social media. Some people are better at it than us. We don't really share our daily lives. Maybe we should. We take pictures occasionally, but that's it."
Roger-Yves Bost is not yet convinced that he should do it more frequently, more intensively: "I don't know. I'm not very good at it, but you have to admit that it's moving forward a lot. I get the feeling that we shouldn’t overdo it on the privacy front, but I don't know enough about it. You have to admit that people are happy to hear about our horses, especially when there are big breaks like now. It allows us to share how our horses are doing with our fans and it's nice to feel supported."
Featured photo: © Scoopdyga