Twitter Me This, Twitter Me That

Best Practices: How personal trainers can benefit from using Twitter.

Imagine sending a short, preworkout motivational note to a client without seeing, texting or calling him. What if you could find new boot-camp ideas from top trainers around the world without ever doing a keyword search on Google? Imagine developing genuine relationships with industry colleagues, having never met or e-mailed them. Now envision doing all of these simultaneously on a free, Web-based platform in no more than 140 characters.

Those who follow Internet trends have probably heard of Twitter (www .twitter.com) or are already using it. If not, it might be worth your time to find out about this cleverly named service. Launched in 2006, Twitter is described on its site as “a service for friends, family and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

People initially used Twitter to report a play-by-play of their lives (“waiting for the plane,” “stuck in traffic”). Although this kind of “lifestreaming” still occurs on Twitter, fitness professionals are using the technology for more practical reasons. Read on to learn how you can effectively use Twitter to enhance your client-trainer communication, increase business marketing, expand your professional network and support healthy behaviors—5 seconds at a time.

The Basics of Twitter

Technically, Twitter functions as a microblogging platform (similar to a blog, minus the lengthy posts, videos, photos and ads). Each post (called a “tweet”) has a maximum of 140 characters and is time-stamped, then listed in reverse chronological order on your profile page (known as your Twitter “stream”). You can tweet directly from the Web, your cell phone and/or other third-party applications (www.twitter.com/downloads). People then subscribe to or “follow” your Twitter stream to see what you are up to.

Twitter is used for different purposes, which makes defining this tool a bit complicated. Lee LeFever, principal of Common Craft, a video production company known for making complex ideas easy to understand, explains Twitter best: it is like seeing someone’s life “between blog posts and e-mails.” Although tweets vary in content and frequency, they all have one thing in common—they are short, which makes them more likely to be read.

Twitter also acts as a social networking site. Its simple interface attracts many users worldwide, making it a premier place to expand your social network. When you “follow” people (like “adding a friend”), their tweets begin showing up on your Twitter stream (similar to watching a news feed). Unless you set your profile to “private,” anyone can follow (or “unfollow”) you at any time and watch your updates. By responding to other people’s tweets, you engage in miniconversations (similar to texting back and forth with a friend), which might eventually evolve into deeper relationships.

Hitting Multiple Birds With One Tweet

The question is not in how to tweet, as Twitter has quite the low learning curve; rather, it’s in what to tweet. The contents of your tweets can determine who follows you and the conversations you will have with them. Below are five suggested reasons why Twitter might be useful for fitness professionals.

Reason #1: Enhance Client-Training Relationships
The relationships you establish with your clients are invaluable and can be extended to Twitter. Lisa Druxman, MA, 2007 IDEA Program Director of the Year, founder of Stroller Strides® and and author of Lean Mommy (Center Street 2007), started using Twitter only recently. “It’s a great tool to keep clients motivated, send quick tips and stay connected,” she says.

Reason #2: Engage Your Professional Network
Often it is much easier to connect to a fitness professional or colleague through Twitter than via e-mail (where you may never get a response). Stephen Holt, CSCS, Baby Boomer Fitness Authority blogger and 2003 ACE Personal Trainer of the Year, says, “I use Twitter to suggest resources to other trainers, stay in touch with the world’s top trainers and tell everyone what projects I’m working on or ask for advice.” Twitter also allows you to send direct messages (called “DM”) to your followers, which makes for a more personal interaction with them. Direct messages do not show up on a Twitter stream and can be forwarded to e-mail and/or phone.

Reason #3: Complement Your Marketing Efforts
Coupling Twitter with your other marketing efforts may significantly increase your online presence and brand awareness. Trainers and fitness professionals often add outgoing links within their tweets to direct additional traffic to their website and/or blog.

Reason #4: Support Healthy Behaviors
Regular folks tweet about going to the gym, struggling with exercise and reaching their goals. For trainers, replying to these tweets is a way to show your support and motivate people around the globe to stay healthy! (Note: putting the “@” symbol in front of a username ensures that the person gets your message even if you are not following him.)

Reason #5: Customer Support
Health clubs and fitness companies are using Twitter as a forum for business support and information updates. When people have a quick question about a product or training service, answering their “tweet” saves you and them the hassle of e-mails and phone calls. For last-minute class cancellations or weekly promotions, Twitter works like an announcement feed.

Following is an example of a conversation with Polar USA regarding the upkeep of one of its heart rate monitors.

The Many Faces of Twitter

With Twitter, as with any social networking site, it takes a conscious effort to balance your personal and professional communities. While you can blur these lines on Twitter, given its informal environment, some people maintain multiple accounts to separate their audiences. If you follow Lance Armstrong’s Twitter feed, you get a sense of his daily lifestyle as he tweets about his workouts, his family and his social life. But if you follow his LiveStrong feed, the tweets are centered on the events regarding the cancer foundation.

Whether Twitter is in your bag of social media tools or not, keep in mind that there are multiple ways to reach out to your clients and enhance your business. The question is never in the technology itself, but in how you use it. Happy tweeting! n

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April 2009

© 2009 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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