By: Greg McCoy
Social media has changed the game for most industries. Marketing fitness facilities is no different. It has never been easier to interact with more potential members than it is today. What once took hours of presence at a local health-fair can be done faster and more effectively from a smartphone or computer. This should not replace important traditional recruiting functions, but it should take very high priority in your club’s marketing mix.
First, consider how you view social media. Many clubs make the mistake of only taking advantage of the output function. We all read about how important creating content is, but simply putting out good content is not the goal. The goal is to attract new business, entertain and educate existing business, and be SOCIAL online. Creating conversation, outreach, and connecting are key ingredients to successful club marketing on social media.
This article is about Instagram; so the first question is: Is Instagram an important platform for your club? All social media platforms are not created equally; they have distinctly different user bases. If you’re marketing a Silver Sneakers program, you should quit reading this article now because you will not find any new members on Instagram. At the time of this writing, 90% of Instagram’s 600 million monthly users are under 35.
Tip # 1 – Watching Location Tags and Liking Photos
As you know, Instagram comes with a cool feature that allows users to check into the location where they took their photo. This is great promotion for you when members post photos from your club. It’s also a great tool for finding potential members! Where would your potential members be? Maybe shopping at the health store a few blocks away, maybe training at the big box gym three miles away, maybe shopping at the boutique fitness clothing shop nearby. You can pull up those location tags and engage with all of those potential members. How do you engage? Tastefully. You need to be cool about this. Don’t be a stalker. This is a dangerous tool if used incorrectly. The most tasteful way is to simply “like” an appropriate photo. Make small tasteful engagement moments that encourage people to look you up.
Tip # 2 – Monitor Hashtags
Hashtags are used so that Instagram users’ photos are searchable and grouped together with similar photos. Ask yourself another important question: What would my potential members be hash-tagging? This one takes some thinking, and likely some trial and error. If you search, for instance, #gymflow (a popular hashtag where people post photos in the gym), it will result in something like 4.7 million tags. That’s not going to help you much. Think about hashtags that might include local words in them. #RunDallas #NewYorkMuscle or even tap into other businesses’ marketing efforts. If a local health food shop has made a push for their own hashtag, there might 500 local users interested in healthy eating just waiting for some attention.
#3 – Tasteful Comments and Replies
The goal of creating good content is ultimately to create engagement. If people comment on your posts, you should always write them back. You work to create that interaction. If you ignore the results you worked for, you’re missing the point. Not only do the most recent Instagram algorithms consider comments and increase the chances of your content being seen, they create important conversations amongst your online fans. Be careful outsourcing this activity though. You must think about, even define, your brand’s voice. Weird or inappropriate comments can be very impactful in the wrong way. One common mistake is seeing club owners talk in a first-person voice. If you want to be you online, then be you; don’t be your business. You should have a business account and a personal account, and behave and comment appropriately as each role.