Many fitness facilities have built a social media marketing presence, and some are doing a good job of keeping their “real estate” current and dynamic. But not many facilities can claim a multilevel, departmental approach. Why not establish a separate page on your website for the personal training department?

The personal training department is a business within a business, with goals that are similar to those of the facility as a whole. By keeping the larger business plan in mind, your department can meet its goals while reaching a wider potential client base. You can also generate exposure, increase traffic to your website, build new business partnerships and bring in new qualified leads.

However, just having a static Facebook or Twitter™ account for your department will not automatically usher you into the promised land. Of the facilities that are currently implementing social media marketing, many are just scratching the surface of this tool’s potential. This article explores best practices for launching your personal training department’s social media presence.

How to Get Started

The more you invest in your department’s social media strategy, the more that strategy will pay off. Before you start, make sure you have a sturdy foundation.

Know Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing. To leverage the power of social media, management (that’s you) must take that power seriously and provide the staffing and funding to develop and manage for the long term. Gauge your own level of commitment before pitching your plans to your staff.

Use the Four “E’s” to Reach People. For social media the process of reaching your community is just as important as the content you provide. The process is represented through the four E’s: Engage, Excite, Educate and Evangelize. Make sure each post, picture, video and message meets at least two of the following:

  • Engage. Involve the reader. Extend an invitation—ask for feedback. Get readers involved in a survey. Propose an action you want the readers to take. For example, ask members if they’d be interested in express sessions or small groups.
  • Excite. Grab attention through passionate personalities, startling stats, tantalizing titles and viral videos. For example, do a “secret life of a trainer” blog where a staff member shares how she shops for food, manages injuries and stress, etc.
  • Educate. Don’t constantly fish for sales. Make the consultative sale by first educating with content. Share personal tips from your trainers. Make instructional videos that demonstrate proper technique. Both share and sell.
  • Evangelize. Remember: before someone will purchase a training package, he needs to believe that your personal trainers can transform him. Do your messages show this? With a client’s permission, post transformations that were a direct result of that client working with one of your personal trainers.

Get to Know Your Target Audience. Determine your brand and audience. First, write down your strongest brand attributes. Enlist management, department heads and personal training staff to develop five key words that embody what you want your department’s brand to be. This will help you deliver a consistent message. Here are some sample words: cutting-edge, encouraging, positive, holistic, intense, educated, results-oriented, client-focused.

Next, target an audience and its attributes. For example, you may want to reach people who are 35 and older. Find out what their needs and interests are, and make a list. Then, via your social media efforts, regularly address those interests and needs.

Choose Media Well. With hundreds of options for social media sites, it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew. Rather than trying to join all of them, pick just one or two of the most popular sites, and focus your energies. Facebook and Twitter™ are must-haves for your department. You may also want to post a departmental profile on YouTube and Flickr™ and take advantage of the millions of unique visitors these sites have. Don’t forget about blogs. Many people consider them to be the heart of social media. They can certainly be entertaining, educational and intriguing.

Commit to Content. If you cannot personally commit to writing, shooting videos, taking pictures and maintaining your department’s social media site, that’s no surprise. Instead of viewing this as an obstacle, though, see it as an opportunity for others in your department to showcase their talents. Find out if any of your team members can commit 2 or 3 hours a week to creating content and building the online community. The key here is to assign the function, set measurable outcomes and, most important, provide financial incentive.

Think Multidimensionally. There are many communication streams; for example, texting, pictures, polls, discussion boards, podcasts and video. Offer at least two or three of them. Invest in a good-quality video camera and/or digital camera and consider buying a microphone for podcasting and to reach your auditory learners.

Best Practices, Brought to Life

There’s no need to make the same mistakes that others (including myself) have made. Here are some tips that will help you succeed in your departmental marketing efforts:

1. Be Open. This is social media, not hermit media. It’s not you against the world. Include links to other bloggers, forums, status reports and videos. We are all helping each other get business, grow our communities and influence more people.

2. Talk Back. Recognize your audience and open the lines of communication with them. Don’t underestimate the power and positive reinforcement of responding.

3. Be Transparent. Share your personal side. People want to know the individual behind the blog, profile or tweet. Show what’s behind the personal training department. When trainers are seen as “normal people,” readers have an easier time relating to them. The barriers to communication can start breaking down.

4. Create a Real Community. Comment in, link to, promote and read other fitness professionals’ and trainers’ blogs, tweets and Facebook postings. If you want others to interact with you, interact with them. If people read something funny or intriguing that you wrote on another trainer’s site, they will be drawn to check you out.

5. Go Hollywood. Post video blogs and tips/tricks on a regular basis. A realistic goal is to post two videos per month for the next 6 months.

6. Stay One Step Ahead. Update your picture, background, logo, banner and bio; content gets tired fast.

Social media marketing has the power to bring your personal training department to life. Use it to help existing and future clients taste the sweat, feel the burn, hear the passion and see themselves as a part of your successful client base.