14 Tips for Marketing Your Fitness Brand on Social Media
By Amanda Vogel, M.A.
Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram much? With the popularity of these and other sites, a lot of fitness pros and companies are “all over” social media for fitness marketing. However, having a Facebook Page (or a Twitter account or Instagram feed) isn’t what matters. It’s what you do with those social channels that counts—and how often. Here are 14 big-picture principles for successfully promoting a fitness brand on social media.
1. Your Facebook Page Is Not Your Brand
It’s no secret that many fitness pros and companies jump on the social marketing bandwagon before they have a fully fleshed-out vision of what their brand is, or how to consistently and professionally represent that brand with the right voice, messaging and content.
Consider your Instagram account or Facebook Page as a vehicle from which to communicate, promote, support and gain awareness for your health/fitness brand. The account itself isn’t going to somehow craft your brand identity for you; that’s up to you. For best results, first establish what you are marketing. Then leverage Facebook—or any other social media site—to spread that message.
2. Social Media is Like Speed Dating
Think of how you scroll through your favorite social sites. Do you look at other people’s posts carefully and slowly, or scan and speed-read? Most of us do the latter. Like speed dating, social media users make snap decisions about what content might be a good “match” for them; they scroll past the rest.
Fortunately, fitness marketers can turn those speed dates into long-term relationships with their followers. Social media users do slow down to read a post in earnest (and interact) if it interests them and/or if it’s from a trusted source. Successful social media marketing relies on:
- Publishing relevant content that attracts your audience, and
- Communicating in a way that reinforces your brand as a trusted source worth following.
The rest of this article explains more about how to achieve these two goals.
3. Social Marketing: It's Mostly About Them, Not You
One of the biggest mistakes fitness brands make on social media is churning out content that revolves almost entirely around the brand itself—in other words, nothing but sales promos, product links, “here’s us at the latest tradeshow” photos, etc.
It’s actually fine to post this type of content as long as you focus on your audience, too, with posts that help build relationships and foster interactions. For example, ask questions, seek opinions and provide useful tips and resources.
Promoting stuff on social media is expected. Just be sure to cultivate connections with your customers at least half the time (preferably more).
4. Why You Can’t Cross Twitter Off Your To-Do List, Ever (Hint: It's Just Like Exercise)
Imagine a new fitness client comes to you saying she’d like to lose 15 pounds this month and get in shape for a triathlon next month…but she can only commit to working out once a week for 20 minutes at a time. What would you say? Good luck! You can’t expect those results in that timeframe with such minimal commitment and effort.
The same is true for social media. Many fitness brands set up accounts and then essentially cross that task off their to-do lists, posting only sporadically and without a true long-range plan. In reality, results-driven marketing on social media is an everyday (or almost everyday) effort. It doesn’t work nearly as well to use it only when you have a spare moment.
5. There’s an Adorable Puppy Photo in Everyone’s Facebook News Feed
Every post you publish on social media is at risk of being “crowded out” by someone else’s adorable puppy photos, or cute baby videos, or hot fitness selfies, etc. Competition on social media is steep. Making your content stand out requires forethought, savvy and strategy. When marketing, you should know the purpose of every post you publish (see tips #6 and #7).
6. Just Because Content Exists, Doesn’t Mean It Should Appear on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram
One of the most common mistakes fitness brands make is posting content on social media just because that content exists! Whatever makes that photo of your lunch interesting in your eyes might not resonate at all with the majority of your audience. Avoid the “Who cares?” factor by having a strategy for why you're posting what you’re posting!
A well-thought-out strategy will guide you in deciding what to post, when to post and who is the best person (or people) in your company to be posting content.
Even with a strategy, however, remember that your ultimate goal is to reach a receptive audience. Think about them before you hit “publish.” Will your followers care about the post (and why)? They are more likely to identify with a post if it meets one or more of the following criteria: interesting, helpful, entertaining, newsworthy, memorable and, above all, relevant.
7. What Every Social Media Post Must Have
To help you navigate the criteria described in tip #6, consider that every post should have a clear goal or call to action (CTA)—in other words, what do you want your followers to do when they see the post? You won’t always explicitly tell them what you want them to do, but you should still know. For example, the most obvious CTA might be for people to click a link and read an article or purchase a product. Maybe you’re counting on them to “like,” share or re-pin an eye-catching photo or inspirational meme. Or you’re hoping people will respond to a question you ask.
In deciding what to post, remember there are many ways to generate content—aim for variety. For example, you might shoot a series of short exercise videos with your smartphone or on mobile apps from Vine, Instagram or YouTube. A common client question about fitness could become a Facebook post. It’s easy to design your own graphics, collages and photos with text overlay using online resources like PicMonkey, Canva and Pinstamatic.
One caveat: If your goal is to assert yourself or your brand as a fitness authority, make an effort to create at least some content from scratch. Avoid lazily falling back on posting only or mostly other people’s content (e.g., shared posts, reposts, retweets, links to other people’s articles).
8. Social Media Is Not Free
While signing up for a social media account is free, a lot of what comes after that isn’t, at least for many fitness marketers who wish to remain competitive.
Some companies shell out cash—from a few hundred dollars a month to hundreds of thousands a year—for advertising, campaigns, contests, detailed analytics and/or someone to consult on or manage accounts.
And did you know some people buy fake followers to create the illusion of heightened popularity on social media? These fake accounts either don’t belong to real people or belong to people who are not genuine social media users.
9. Size Only Matters If …
Buying fake followers might make you appear quite popular at first glance, but an account with an impressively large following and little engagement is never a good sign. The size of your audience only matters if your followers are actual people who could potentially interact with you—and that includes making purchases. Fake followers won’t ever buy from you. So why bother? (Tip: Sites like SocialBakers.com and fakers.statuspeople.com reveal if a Twitter user has a large percentage of fake followers or not.)
10. Yes, Social Media Can Make You Money
One of the most misguided ways to use social media for business is to initiate a flurry of posting activity only when you have something to sell. A good strategy involves periods of both indirect and direct promotions.
The indirect promotion—where you create top-of-mind awareness for your brand and build follower/customer loyalty and relationships—lays the foundation for more successful direct selling, such as offering a discount or a special.
It’s easiest to measure conversions on direct sales with trackable links and purchase orders. However, most of the less-measurable “magic” happens when you’re busy creating customer connections (see tip #11).
11. What Your YouTube, Facebook and Twitter Audience Wants You to Know
As a general rule (with exceptions to every rule), the best way to gain traction with a post is to keep it short, simple, specific and shareable. These types of posts are easiest for followers to understand, consume and share on the fly, which helps capture attention in the competitive space of social media (remember all those adorable puppy photos?).
Look at these two examples from Twitter:
- Tweet #1: My newest blog post: xyzfit.com
- Tweet #2: My newest blog post reveals truths and myths about high-intensity interval training: xyzfit.com #HIIT
The first tweet is short and simple, but it’s not specific or shareable (you don’t know what you’d be retweeting because you don’t know what the post is about!). The second tweet is a bit longer, but still simple and much more specific, making it more click-worthy and shareable, as well.
12. “Your” Is Sometimes Spelled “You’re”
As a consumer of social media, you might mostly scan and speed-read content, but when it comes to your own posts, be sure to proofread with a careful eye. Don’t underestimate the importance of a professional image, even in the casual world of social media.
Still, everyone makes mistakes—correct them when possible. For example, if you notice a typo in a tweet that’s just gone out and hasn’t gotten any engagement yet, delete and repost (yes, it’s a hassle but it’s worth the extra step when you're tweeting for business). Another option is to pre-schedule content from your computer or a mobile app using a service such as Hootsuite. (They offer both free and paid accounts.) Pre-scheduling allows you to give your content a second look and catch any mistakes before it goes live. On Facebook, you can edit published posts, which preserves the likes, comments and/or shares that might have already accumulated on that post.
13. Just When You Have It All Figured Out
Social media trends shift rapidly and the “rules” for best practices change often. Some people are finally getting the hang of Twitter just as more of their audience is migrating to Instagram! Or Facebook changes its whole layout, and you’ve got to quickly modify your cover photo to fit the new specs.
The best way to adapt to an ever-changing social media terrain is to be open to the changes. And always retain ownership of one or more central sites, like a blog or website. No matter what happens in the world of social media, you’ll still have that url.
Finally, be curious but cautious about new social media sites, features and trends. Go where your audience goes (in fact, get there first!), but stay true to your strategy and goals for being on social media.
14. Your Social Media Success in a Nutshell
When you’ve put your mobile phone down and logged off Facebook for the day, how do you know whether your marketing efforts are paying off? Look for a steady gain in followers—you don’t have to be netting huge numbers for it to be meaningful. Do people regularly engage with your content (and are you engaging back)? You can “eye-ball” each post for its impact, or analyze engagement statistics via the social sites you use or third-party apps.
Most importantly, is your planned-out presence on social media leading to increased opportunities and sales in the offline world? After all, “likes” are just “likes” unless they ultimately lead to something bigger for your business.
Amanda Vogel, M.A., human kinetics, is a self-employed fitness pro and writer. In addition to being a HootSuite Ambassador and social media consultant for fitness brands and public figures, Amanda owns Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for the fitness industry. She blogs at www.FitnessTestDrive.com and has contributed to numerous magazines, including SELF, Reader’s Digest Canada, Oxygen and Women’s Health. You can reach her at www.ActiveVoice.ca, @amandavogel (Twitter) and @amandavogelfitness (Instagram).