Tricks of the Trade
We choose social networking vehicles based on what is popular with our mainstream target market. Right now this includes Facebook, a little bit of Twitter (but we are not big fans) and LinkedIn®. We think MySpace is dead, so we just do not use that site anymore.
We use online social networking to create awareness of our presence as professionals in our community, as well as to educate clients and potential clients about our philosophy and the benefits of what we call the “continuous modification of functional exercise.”
Ninety-nine percent of our business comes from referrals from our current and former clients. These clients are well connected on social network platforms, and their friends online see what they post. By planting the seed and raising the question “What is functional training?” or “What is CrossFit?” we are able to generate dialogue and create awareness and interest, without spending money on ineffective advertising. (In the past, advertising has had a very low rate of return for us.) We intentionally create as much dialogue as we can online about Pacific Personal Training and CrossFit Hillsboro. This dialogue is essentially like free advertising to our primary target market.
Blogging also lets us express our personality more than our website does, so we are advocates of this method. These are our blogging goals:
- 1. Create dialogue about our status as professionals in the area.
- 2. Direct people to our professional website. (We are very proud of our online presence. If we can get people to our website from our blog, we dramatically elevate the chance that they will fill out our "Get started" request and become clients.)
- 3. Show that we have personalities and share similarities with our guests--like careers, kids, soccer games, diapers and margaritas--so they know they are training with real people who understand that sometimes life happens. These are all things we blog about, and the blogs and Facebook are very popular right now.
Chuck Gonzales, CSCS, CPT
Owner, Pacific Personal Training
and CrossFit Hillsboro
Certified CrossFit Instructor
I utilize multiple online social networking tools, but at different levels of engagement and for various reasons. The two that I use daily and find most valuable in enhancing my professional efforts are LinkedIn and Twitter.
For keeping my contacts organized and engaging in industry conversations, I use LinkedIn. Although the site has been around since 2003, the upgrades and features added over the years have made this network a dynamic destination for all professionals. Like Facebook (minus the frills of games, pokes and photos), it allows professionals to follow the career paths of colleagues, evaluate and assess their strengths and experiences, learn from others’ expertise and participate in various industry groups and discussions.
Twitter is the other online Web tool I use regularly. Although it has been labeled the new “it” tool of choice, it has been around since early 2006. When I sent out my first tweet 21/2 years ago, Twitter was still in its infancy and its applications to marketing, social networking and fitness were still being explored. These days, people use Twitter for all sorts of purposes—from life-streaming their moment-to- moment activities to increasing brand recognition. I have found Twitter most successful in cross-promoting my professional efforts and enhancing my industry relationships after linking it to my blog, Facebook page, business website and cell phone. (Editor’s note: Check out “Twitter Me This, Twitter Me That” by Biray Alsac, MS, in the April 2009 issue of IDEA Trainer Success to learn more about Twitter’s fitness applications.)
Because so many social networking tools are available on the Web, you should be selective about where you choose to spend your time. To remain present and relevant in these online spaces, it is best to determine what your business-related objectives are first, and then select the technology or Web-based tool that will efficiently satisfy that objective.
Biray Alsac, MS
I am a firm believer in using current technology to market one’s business. I know several entrepreneurs who have benefited from incorporating social networking sites and blogs in their marketing plans. That said, I have chosen, for the most part, to forgo use of these sites, as well as other popular mass-marketing techniques. I do have one exception to this rule: when I have an opening for new clients, I post it in the status line of my Facebook page. I am comfortable doing this because my Facebook friends are all people I know well, and I rely on them for referrals. This method has worked well for me in terms of attracting clients from my social circles. I choose to limit my use of social networking sites for marketing purposes out of concern for my personal safety.
I am a solo, female, in-home personal trainer and am extremely careful about how I attract new clientele. Knowing that I will be entering a client’s home on my own, I rely primarily on referrals from clients, other trainers, friends and family. I have also used speaking engagements and other face-to-face opportunities to market my services. I have been personal training for 15 years, nearly 10 of which have been in my current community. Being fairly well established in my town has definitely helped me to grow my business. Each time a client refers a friend, or a former client calls out of the blue, it is a testament to how far a business can go by providing great service and value. When you touch the lives of your clients in a positive way, they remember. This strategy alleviates my need to seek new clients from the broader population.
Some professionals may say I am limiting the growth potential of my business by not jumping on the high-tech train. This may be true. However, I find it a contradiction to promote health and fitness for other people without having adequate regard for my own well-being. As we all know, Internet-based communications are not always what they seem. Several years ago, a “British woman who was planning to relocate to the United States” sent me an e-mail, enquiring about my services. After a few e-mail exchanges, it became clear that whoever was writing to me was attempting to run a check scam. While I am happy to say I was wise to what was happening, it left a bad taste in my mouth and reminded me of the precautions we should all take when conducting business with strangers (via the Internet or otherwise).
Dana Schlossberg Weatherspoon, MS
ACE-Certified Personal Trainer
Owner, Custom Health Concepts
I use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For Facebook I have a professional page where “fans” can read notes, blog-posts and articles I’ve written for other outlets. They can post questions to me or fellow fans, add their own comments and even share valuable links. It is a good way for people to feel connected, as it creates a sense of community, which in turn keeps them coming back. There is no direct benefit to me revenue-wise, but it builds my platform as a fitness professional and writer and increases my credibility.
Twitter has been a great resource in terms of learning. I am connected to fellow professionals all over the country—people I normally would not meet. These professionals often post links to useful articles and videos, which I then share with others. My participation in Twitter has not driven much traffic to my site, but again it has allowed me to expand my own knowledge and provide others with helpful information.
LinkedIn, for me, is a strictly professional site that functions primarily as a networking opportunity. It is less personal than Facebook and Twitter in that it does not allow much semipersonal banter or interactivity. It works more like an online resumé or showcase for my skills and services.
I would recommend picking one or two main social media sites in which to actively participate. If you make a half-hearted effort, it shows, and participation drops off. Find a social network that you enjoy, and freely share what you know. Promote other professionals as well, and take advantage of the multidirectional communication that social networking offers.
Helen M. Ryan
Personal Trainer and Freelance Writer
Flex Your Body
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I know several entrepreneurs who have benefited from incorporating social networking sites and blogs in their marketing plans.