More than 50 million people belong to over 30,000 health clubs in the United States. They join these clubs to get in shape and stay healthy, to play sports and socialize, to pass the time and relax. When they’re working out, they’re essentially a captive audience to club owners and staff, there primarily for the exercise, of course, but in the right place and mood for chitchat and conversation.
What about all the time when they’re not at the gym? How do health clubs stay in touch with their customers when they’re not on the premises? How do they keep them coming back for more action and fun? How do they ensure that they’re not both out of sight and out of mind?
Enter social media. Just as they’re willing to make a commitment to a membership, many people are glad to cozy up to the clubs they belong to on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. After all, as fans and followers, they feel a special bond to their third place, their destination of choice if they’re not at home or the office.
Today, health clubs, fitness centers and gyms are using social media in a variety of ways to not only attract the attention of prospective members, but to remain engaged with their existing customers. Here are 10 different ways they’re flexing their muscles on these online communication channels – and how your facility can, too.
1. Contests. Almost everyone is up for a challenge or competition, especially those who are already motivated enough to work out on a regular basis. Put a prize up for grabs and watch your engagement rates soar. Encourage participation. Ask for fan input. Show people how much you appreciate hearing from them by rewarding them for their feedback.
2. Inspirational Images. The goal of any post on social media should be to appeal to the audience’s interests. If you can strike common ground with your customers and prospects, you can earn their trust. After all, like minds stick together. Memes. Graphics. Visuals. Add a few words of inspiration to a strong image of any kind and you’re in your audience’s wheelhouse. You have a chance of going viral.
Example: The Bar Method Miami on Instagram
3. Tips. A hard sell doesn’t work on social media. People don’t want to be promoted to by your account. They want to be informed, entertained and educated. They want your knowledge, expertise and advice. Share everything you know about injury prevention, weight lifting, cardio exercises, running, stretching, nutrition and more. Treat your fans and followers to a ton of terrific tips.
Example: Fitness Formula Clubs on Pinterest
4. Recipes. Food plays well on social media for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it’s such a universal pleasure. Who doesn’t like to eat? Pictures of food can be particularly colorful as well, so they stand out in a cluttered news feed. Healthy eating? Now that’s the perfect combo for this particular audience, people who can certainly appreciate good food, but who know that food that’s good for you…well, that’s even better.
Example: CRUNCH on Facebook
5. Profiles. With so many clubs competing for attention, sometimes the best differentiator are the employees behind the scenes. Showcase the human side of your brand. Put those who work for you front and center. Introduce them. Interview them. Include them prominently in your social media stream. Remember that people do business with people, not brand names and corporate logos.
Example: Youfit Health Clubs on Instagram
6. Polls. Do you ask your social media audience for feedback? When’s the last time you asked them a question of any kind? If you show an interest in what those on the receiving end of your communications have to say, not only will you boost the level of engagement you have with them, but you may even receive feedback that you can actually use to make your business better.
Example: Balance Health Clubs on Facebook
7. Promotional Offers. While there should be far less promotional content in your social media stream than informational, educational and other types, that doesn’t mean you can’t tout your products and services on a regular basis. At least 10% of your content should be driving traffic to your business, maybe more, depending on your audience’s receptivity to such offers. Test for yourself. Incorporate discounts and deals into your messaging and see what sticks best.
— Commonwealth Sports (@CommSportsClub) August 9, 2014
Example: Commonwealth Sports Club on Twitter
8. Customer Service. Using social media to answer customers’ questions and keep one step ahead of their requests for support is a great use of these channels. As opposed to a phone call or live chat, it’s often a quicker and easier way to put out a fire. Prepopulate your streams with answers to FAQs. Enlist a variety of listening tools – such as Radian6 – to identify brand mentions and respond in a prompt, friendly fashion. In this day and age, real-time, social customer service is what’s expected of brands.
9. News and Information. Think of yourself as a publisher or broadcaster with each social media channel representing a near instantaneous way for you to get the word out about what’s going at your club. Hosting a road race on the weekend? Talk about it. Changing your hours of operation for the big holiday break? Announce them. Hiring a new fitness instructor? Introduce her. Don’t be shy with your updates. Stay top-of-mind with your constituents.
Example: NY Health & Racquet Club on Facebook
10. Philanthropy. Your facility may be involved in a number of different fundraising campaigns already, but you may not be publicizing such benevolence. Are you connecting with those local nonprofits that have a social media presence themselves? Are you leveraging online fundraising sites such as Firstgiving, Crowdrise and Fundly to raise money among your network? Don’t hesitate to announce your cause marketing efforts to your social media connections. Doing well by doing good is the best of two worlds.
— The Atlantic Club (@theatlanticclub) August 18, 2014
Example: The Atlantic Club on Twitter
Note: This post, “10 Ways for Health Clubs to Flex Their Social Media Muscles,” was originally published on ClickZ on September 9, 2014. To read the post there, click here.