Shannon Fable by Shannon Fable

Whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay. So as a fitness professional – a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, manager or owner – it’s time to invest resources in this arena because the results are both local and global. More people in your clubs or programs, as well as more people in general, are leading a fit lifestyle, so social media can be the most effective way to increase your reach.

Fitness professionals have tried every trick in the book to get more bodies in clubs, classes or programs, but we are still reaching only a handful of people with our current strategies – direct mailers, word-of-mouth, signs in the club, membership promotions, websites and traditional advertising.

Social media helps expand our reach to people who might not hear our messages or, better still, those who might be intimidated by what we’re trying to push! Let’s face it; to some, all those spandex-clad bodies seemingly knowing what they’re doing can present a barrier to entry, which is the LAST thing we need or want!

Social media is brilliantly personal, yet anonymous. You can scope out just about anyone or anything online without having to interact face-to-face. If you search hard enough, you can really ‘hear’ what people are saying about a program, trainer or gym and become comfortable without having to purchase. This alone has legs to help our industry explode – but only if we use the medium effectively.

Here are five big picture rules to help you use social media to your advantage.

Rule 1: Stop Selling & Start Sharing

The only way to truly reach more people using social media is to keep them interested. When you SELL too much, they just tune out. Capture people first by being an unbiased source of health and wellness information; a one-stop shop for everything that will help them lead a fit lifestyle both inside and outside of your walls. Then, once your ‘readership’ expands, you can ‘soft sell’ or ‘hard sell’ every so often.

I like to preach the concept of the Three T’s: Team, Touch, and then TASK. Publish posts that are interesting to a wide variety of folks who might share or comment; then submit posts that are individually touching (read on for more ideas) and, finally, TASK and ask for something (attend a class, buy a membership, etc). You should spend more time on the first two T’s than the last. Build trust in your brand and your message because then, they’ll buy what you’re selling.

Rule 2: Know Your Market & Cater Your Message to It

You know the type of client you have or desire to have in your facility. Now, you’ve got tons of information to share via social media! Before you do, you must determine your “lens” based on the clients you have, the clients you want to attain, and the services you have to offer.

For example, if your center doesn’t have childcare, you might not cater to the 9am mom crowd, so recipes for family dinners, getting your kids into fitness and great treats for toddlers won’t necessarily hit home. But, you might have more of the stressed out executive population where posts about traveling, finances, and stress might be more appropriate.

Rule 3: Remember that People LIKE Themselves

There’s no sweeter word than the sound of your own name. This saying stays true in social media.People set up searches on Twitter to find their mentions, Facebook defaults to YOUR wall, and we set up notifications to know when people are talking about us. Use social media to get to know your clients and potential clients, and let them get to know each other. Highlight success stories, share pictures and videos (with permission), catch people doing great things and sing their praises. People like to share their own good news.

Rule 4: Carve Out Time & Create a Habit

Social media doesn’t have to take tons of time; in fact, there are great white papers out there that teach you how to do it in less than 10 minutes a day (ask me how!). It does, however, need to be ongoing, predictable and dynamic. Put it on your daily list of things to do and commit. Sometimes we must slow down to speed up. Get to know social media and spend some time building your strategy because the return will be worth it.

Rule 5: Think Bigger

Social media is boundless while your facility, your classes and your programs have geographic limitations. And, why is it you got into this business again? Oh yeah, to change lives! Well, in front of you is a FREE medium that can help you reach people who may have never been available before. You just need to take some time to get familiar, master the art and business of social media, and commit to doing it on a regular basis.  The rewards are tremendous.

I love what fitness entrepreneur, award-winning instructor, social media mogul and author Chalene Johnson has to say about social media’s potential:

I may get some guff for saying this, but I believe that if we are truly in the health and fitness industry because we have a desire to inspire and help others, then we have an obligation to devote considerable amounts of time learning the advanced practices in social media that are available in order to take our mission global. I’m sure most of us can agree our calling is bigger than the room full of smiling faces we see every Tuesday night.”

Enough said.

For more information, check out the presentation from Symposium, “Easy Social Media DIY Tips to Grow Your Fitness Business”