'Nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to selling, and social media is basically word of mouth on a global scale," says Teagasc's Declan McArdle.
The equine specialist adviser is on a mission to increase the use of social media and technology in the marketing and selling of Irish horses.
"For any breeding enterprise to be successful and profitable, you must get clients through your gate to buy your animal," he adds.
"But there is a multitude of ways in which you can now bring your horse to the buyer."
He wants breeders and producers to harness the extraordinary power of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube in their quest to attract potential buyers.
The online social networking site Facebook has more than 800 million active users worldwide.
Here in Ireland, 50pc of the population over 15 is now on Facebook and the average Irish user has 160 Facebook friends.
With around two million Irish people on Facebook, many are familiar with how the network operates, allowing people to share news, pictures and other tit-bits with friends and the general public.
Businesses can create their own pages, on which they can promote their animals for sale through photographs and text, as well as linking to video clips on YouTube, the online video sharing website.
However, Facebook has a whole other dimension to it that horse breeders and producers could use to great effect in selling horses -- targeted advertising. By choosing the option to 'deepen relationships', a business can choose the type of person it wants to see its ads.
For example, I could create a Facebook advertisement for 'Poulatar Stables' and have it targeted at:
- People who live in Ireland;
- Aged 25 and older;
- Those who have categorised their likes as horses, equestrianism, horseback riding, horse breeding and horse breeds.
By setting those criteria, the 'Poulatar Stables' ad is now targeted at the 34,240 people in Ireland who meet these parameters.
I can also choose my budget for advertising, based on a fixed monetary sum or a length of time. For example, I can choose to spend €50 over the lifetime of the campaign, which I can set to be from 5am on January 4, 2012, to 5am on January 5, 2012.
Given that Irish horses are sold to both America and Britain, I could also choose to include Facebook members with equestrian interest in both those countries.
Mr McArdle maintains that horse breeders and producers should also be using YouTube to upload videos of horses performing, so that potential clients can assess the horse without the necessity of travelling to see it.
"The days of describing a horse over the phone are gone. Everyone has a different picture of what a 16.2hh grey sport horse might look like," he says.
"Instead, you can now give a potential client the link to a YouTube video of the horse working on the flat and over poles," he says. "The buyer can quickly make up his mind if the horse is what he is looking for."
The Waterford Sport Horse Breeders Group, facilitated by Teagasc equine adviser Ruth Fennell, recently used photographs and video to promote their young stock for sale. Prior to their class at Dungarvan Show, all the horses were photographed and videoed on the flat and over jumps. The animals were also promoted on the group's Facebook page in the run up to the show.
The successful Go for Gold event horse sale at Goresbridge also used an online catalogue with video and photographs of all the sale's entries. This allowed overseas buyers from Britain, Europe, the Far East and America to pre-select the horses they were interested in before travelling to the sales.
With many Irish horses being sold to the US, YouTube is one of the main tools employed by dealers selling top showjumpers.
However, Mr McArdle warns that successfully using these new technologies to sell horses requires time and effort.
He says there is little point in uploading a video of an unkempt horse struggling to jump fences in the midst of distracting mayhem. Equally, uploading bad photos of a horse resting a hind leg while stood in front of a distracting background is discouraged.
"Take the time to turn out the horse correctly, stand him in the open stance against a plain background," he advises.
"For the video, clear the arena, get rid of bystanders and other distractions like dogs. Allow your buyer to concentrate on the horse," he insists. "Make sure your lighting is good, make sure the video operator can use the zoom function correctly and edit your video before you upload it."
The continued growth in the smartphone market is another factor for equestrian businesses to consider.
Recent research is interesting. In one week, 81pc of smartphone users browsed the internet, 77pc used a search engine, 48pc watched a video and 63pc accessed a social network. Even though 82pc of smartphone users noticed a mobile ad, 79pc of businesses do not have a mobile-optimised site.
What this means is that a business website appears on their phone in the exact same layout as it would on a desktop or laptop computer. This layout does not suit mobile browsing and may turn off potential clients, so Mr McArdle advises equestrian businesses to consider developing a mobile-friendly version of their website.