American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise
on

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to providing virtual group fitness to clients. Every instructor’s goals, needs and budget are different. The following review of digital tools specific for delivering virtual classes should serve as a resource to jump-start your research. It’s important to evaluate which of the virtual tools make the most sense for you and your participants given the goal of your business.  

Keep in mind, as the use of virtual group fitness becomes more commonplace, the tools will evolve and more will become available. Choose based on your current needs and consider emerging technologies as your business grows. 

 Virtual delivery option tools can be broken down into three broad categories: 

  • Digital video platforms
  • Video conferencing platforms
  • Social media platforms

Digital Video Platforms 

Digital video platforms provide end-to-end solutions for showcasing, monetizing, granting access to, and delivering your asynchronous (video on demand) and synchronous (livestreaming) classes. While not all digital video platforms are created equal, they provide the most comprehensive solution if you plan to develop a business around your virtual content. Examples include IntelivideoUScreen and Vimeo OTT. 

Depending on the platform, you may have options for: 

  • Storefront display and multiple options for subscriptions
  • Gated options for access (paywall)
  • Housing and displaying content
  • Scheduling and delivering livestreaming content 
  • Metrics on video plays and engagement
  • Integrations with member management and email marketing services

Typically, digital platforms provide the best user experience for your customers, as the purchase and access are part of the same process. For you, while the investment might be a bit higher than the options discussed below, you will be combining several technology requirements into one investment and, most likely, have opportunities to add mobile applications and smart TV applications if your business expands.  

It is important to find a platform that can become an essential partner for your online business, providing tech support and education on how to improve and grow your business. Many of these solutions provide resources and tools for content and production strategy, marketing of your offerings and understanding the behavior of your subscribers, as well as the trends in virtual businesses similar to yours.  

Be aware that a digital video platform, as described above, is different from an integration with a video conferencing or social media platform. Most integrations offered by scheduling and payment software systems you may already know of or use often integrate with video conferencing platforms (see below for more information). 

Video Conferencing Platforms 

Video conferencing platforms are another option for delivering virtual experiences to members. Sometimes referred to as virtual meeting rooms, platforms such as Zoom, Skype and GoToMeeting are easy to use, moderately priced and provide one-way or two-way broadcasting. While you may have the ability to record the class, services such as this are primarily used for livestreaming. You would need to transfer the recorded content to another platform, which requires you to control—and your clients to use—two access points.  

While the investment might be less with video conferencing platforms, and may even be free, you will need solutions for: 

  • Building and displaying your class schedule
  • Selling, registering and/or reserving access to your classes
  • Providing access details to appropriate attendees 

Keep in mind, participants will need the link in advance and possibly a bit of training on how to access the class, best practices when it comes to muting themselves to avoid distractions and the ideal set-up to get the most out of the experience if they have never used the meeting platform before. As the meeting host, you are responsible for understanding and troubleshooting the software settings to provide the optimal experience and possibly assist participants if they are having trouble on their end.  

Social Media Platforms 

Social media platforms are possibly the quickest and easiest ways to get up and running with offering virtual classes. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube provide options for livestreaming and video on demand. However, when using a social platform, you run the risk of your content being taken down at any time and/or the platform changing the way it operates, which could leave you scrambling to reorganize your business. The only thing you need to begin using a social media platform to create a virtual group fitness business is an active account. Much like the video conferencing platforms discussed above, there are additional considerations before using social media if you are trying to monetize and grow your business.  

You will need a solution for: 

  • Building and displaying your class schedule
  • Selling, registering and/or reserving access to your classes
  • Providing access details to appropriate attendees 

While it’s possible to use social media to monetize your offerings, it may be best to consider it a way to gain awareness for your offerings and drive potential customers to another platform that is easier to control.