Brett Klika by Brett Klika

Post, boost, like, love, share, comment, pin—all in a day’s work!

There was a time when, if you wanted to get your thoughts, opinions or information out to an audience beyond your immediate social circle, the audio, visual and written media outlets would charge you dearly for advertising.

Today, however, thanks to social media, multimedia accounts of our experiences, thoughts and other musings can instantly be shared with just about anyone with Internet access. First developed as a way to interact more efficiently online, social media has become a powerful advertising medium for businesses to communicate with their fans and establish a brand and culture.

According to the Pew Research Center for Science and Technology, about 65% of American adults use social media. The results of a recent survey performed by LinkedIn suggest that about 81% of small-to-midsize businesses use social media, primarily for advertising.

As a health and fitness professional, communicating with your current and potential customers through social media can be a low-cost, yet extremely effective way to grow your brand. However, when used improperly or without a strategy, it can be a significant waste of time that can actually hurt your business.

If your ventures into social media hinge around creating awareness for your business and brand, it’s important to ask yourself three questions to determine whether or not you are using this valuable tool effectively:

  1. What are the defining characteristics of my brand?
  2. Who are the current, potential clients I aim to reach through social media?
  3. What metric am I using to determine the success of my social media use?

Without taking time to answer these three questions, the time and energy spent on social media can become a wild goose chase that confuses, disconnects and even offends your current and potential customers.

Let’s examine how we can use these three “filters” to maximize the potential of social media for your business, while also avoiding the pitfalls.

1. What are the defining characteristics of my brand?

What are the defining characteristics of my brand?

Every successful company has a mission statement. This brief, concise summary puts into words the intentions, mechanisms and values by which the company operates. Mission statements help focus a company’s time, energy and other resources, and should guide every decision and action a business makes.

What is your business and brand’s mission statement? What are the values, intentions or other mechanisms that make your brand unique?

All too often, health and fitness professionals fall into the social media cookie-cutter quagmire of ,“Look at my perfect diet! Look at my perfect six-pack! Look at me in a swimsuit!”

While these types of posts may help fortify your position as a “fitness expert,” are the terms “six-pack,” “swimsuit” and “perfection” in your mission statement?

Additionally, is your brand’s mission statement about you, or is it about serving people who need help?

Whatever your mission statement and brand values are, consider how your social media activity either fortifies or diverges from this.

If political, religious or other polarizing affiliations are not part of your mission statement, posting about these topics can inadvertently confuse and alienate your current and potential customers. This ultimately weakens your brand and hurts your business.

Not every brand is going to appeal to everyone, so don’t be afraid to be bold in differentiating yourself. It is important, however, to understand the implications of your actions on social media, so you don’t cause unintentional harm to your business.

2. Who are the current and potential clients I aim to reach through social media?

Who are the current and potential clients I aim to reach through social media?

At one time, the fitness industry functioned primarily to create bikini bodies and athletes. Today, potential gym and personal training customers have a much wider variety of needs and goals.

Reflecting on your mission statement, as well as the clients you serve the best, it’s important to define the unique aspects of your primary customer.

What is their average age? Do they have families? What are the critical elements of their lifestyles? What are their biggest health struggles? Where does exercise fit into their lives?

If your goal with social media is to attract 18- to 25-year-old single people, the bikini/six-pack selfie posts may speak to them. Perfectly measured, pre-prepped nutrition can fit into their “me” lifestyle, as well.

If you find that your current or intended clients have families, careers and other life commitments, realize their struggles may extend well beyond the six-pack and swimsuit variety.

All demographics want to look good, but this may not be at the forefront of their struggles with diet, exercise and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Instead of posting about your three-hour Sunday food prep of chicken and broccoli, offering a quick, healthy family dinner recipe may be a stronger connection point.

When you understand your current and potential clients, you can use social media to post things that are relevant to them. This strengthens your brand and broadens your reach to the people you serve best.

3. What metric am I using to determine the success of my social media use?

What metric am I using to determine the success of my social media use?

We all want to be “liked.” When we post something on social media with a yearning for social approval, research has actually demonstrated we have a significant physiological response when we get that approval.

However, if our goal with social media is to build a brand, this approval must lead somewhere other than making us feel good.

Most health and fitness professionals would claim that their goal with social media is to “get clients” or “grow their business.” Social media is also a powerful way to create a community for current clients as well. If this is the case, the time and energy spent on social media should accomplish these goals.

Likes, shares, comments and other forms of engagement imply an engaged social media circle. Unfortunately, these alone don’t pay the numerous bills involved with operating a business. It’s important to assess whether or not social media interaction results in the intended goal of a business transaction.

For a business and brand, the critical transactions are when someone signs up for a program or product, or when they opt-in to an offer with their contact information. At this point, they are your customers—they are part of your business and brand. Your goal now is to keep them engaged so they maintain their allegiance.

Not all posts must result in one of the previously mentioned outcomes. Posting relevant, interesting content frequently helps build general “brand awareness,” but this brand awareness should ultimately result in a sale when the time is right.

Many health and fitness pros have a large following of people who are always liking, commenting and engaging, but when it comes time to make a sale, the airwaves go quiet. Despite spending time and energy on social media, they struggle to attain, retain or sell products to clients.

In this case, their use of social media is not building or growing a brand. Rather, it’s consuming time and energy with little-to-no return on that investment. After reviewing questions one and two, a health and fitness pro may discover he or she has actually damaged the intended brand with irrelevant, unintentionally offensive, or alienating posts to potential clients.

Nearly all social media outlets have reasonably priced advertising opportunities that allow you to track the effectiveness of business-related posts. You can see how many people have viewed and clicked on a post, and you can track who actually went through to purchase as well.

Creating a free “opt-in” offer, in which people enter their contact information in order to receive something from you, is also a way to assess whether or not your followers are potential customers, or just voyeurs looking for someone to interact with online.

The three questions presented here serve as a powerful roadmap to determine if your current use of social media is helping or hurting your business and brand. Take the time to create a social-media strategy that will grow your business and enable you to change more lives.