In this age of social networking, it is imperative to connect with clients outside your facility via the Internet. Gone are the days of relying only on fliers and posters to tell clients about your offerings and events—now it’s all about engaging with clients on your blog, your Twitter feed or your Facebook page.
Technology makes it easy to communicate with clients this way—they can read announcements anytime, anywhere; they can easily insert your events into their smartphone calendars; and they can be enriched with a plethora of health-related information that you share.
But despite the endless wonders of the Internet, creating a blog or social network that clients actually use and benefit from is no haphazard, easy task. Follow these dos and don’ts to ensure that your Pilates clients use your blog and share your network page proudly:
- Stay on schedule. Choose a day of the week when you can commit to writing a blog post, or set a time each day to write a Facebook post, and stick with it. You will attract a more dedicated following if readers begin to rely on you and look forward to your posts. Perhaps Sunday nights might be the best time to announce the week’s schedule of Pilates classes or upcoming workshops. Maybe Saturday afternoons are your least-busy time at the studio, so you can dedicate an hour to your professional social networking. Whatever the day or time, be as consistent as possible (without allowing it to overwhelm you).
Jenny Grothe, founder of the Facebook page “All Things Fitness for GALS,” with over 118,000 followers, says, “When I first started the page 5 years ago, it grew very quickly. I was consumed with Facebook and keeping it up. Yet another thing I try desperately to preach is balance and first focusing on the family. I’ve had to allow myself to be okay with pulling back.” Moderate your time wisely, or consider divvying up the social-networking task among multiple instructors or desk staff at your facility.
- Edit. Even if you were not an English major, if you expect readers to consider you a trustworthy and intelligent source, you have to use solid spelling and punctuation. Your grammar snobs will snub you if your writing skills are poor. If necessary, hire an editor or ask a friend to proofread. If you’re a much better Pilates instructor than you are a writer, blogging may not be for you. Editing also shows you care about clients, by extending the top-notch quality from your studio to your social network page.
- Be accurate and honest. When passing along quotes, statistics, news and stories, make sure you’ve checked your sources. Present reliable, science-based evidence and consider presenting both sides of an argument. Avoid fear-mongering, preaching and extreme opinions, which can put off many readers.
- Let your own personality shine through. Are you straightforward and blunt? Are you humorous, cynical or sometimes way too open? Be you, and let readers make a connection with you. Grothe attributes her large following to the fact that she is very real and open. “I think the fact that I am a normal, older mom of two young adopted boys who finally decided to take care of her health as a late 37-year-old, size-14, 170-pound female resonates strongly with many women. I try as much as possible to share my real feelings, on everything.” When your personality shines through, clients make that extra connection that draws them into your facility.
- Be kind. Realize there are many schools and practices of Pilates, and be aware that trainers and studio owners must respect one another. We all want to help clients achieve their fitness goals, and there is no room for snobbery in an industry that should be client-focused. Respect your clients’ privacy and don’t turn their embarrassing stories into fodder for your humorous blog (unless they give you explicit permission).
Celebrate with your clients and make them feel part of your facility-family. Kristi Cooper, cofounder of Pilates Anytime, a subscription-based website offering over 1,000 classes taught around the world, has a Facebook page with more than 12,000 likes. She says, “We celebrate birthdays, milestones and positive sentiment. We also share the ‘behind the scenes’ photos of our recent guests, and I think this allows our members from different countries to be a little more in the studio with us.”
- Stray too far off topic. You will hook your Pilates following with great blog posts on Pilates exercises, healthy recipes and favorite workout clothing. But if your posts begin to sound more like random diary entries, you may be straying too far off course. Define what subtopics you feel relate specifically to Pilates and to your clients, and stick to them.
Jenna Hansen, who manages the Facebook page for her Pilates studio at Xcel Fitness in Holladay, Utah, keeps every post related to the facility and to bringing clients into classes. “We do a Facebook class of the week—a discounted class for the first five people who respond, which helps build lower-attended classes and gets new people in. Each post should be beneficial to clients and followers—otherwise they start to ignore you.”
- Overadvertise. Granted, blog advertisements can help drive revenue, but keep your posts more helpful in tone than hard-sell. Readers get bombarded with advertisements all day, from television commercials to roadside billboards. Cooper says the key to success is to focus on connecting and not selling. “Be real, be honest, and refrain from inundating folks with ‘don’t-miss opportunities,’” she says. “I think people want to feel connected, not sold to.”
Let your posts be a welcome break that merely recommends and shares honest, valuable feedback. Do, however, advertise yourself and your Pilates classes, which is the true purpose of blogging or social networking under your business persona.
- Overshare. When your clients’ Facebook feeds show too many of your status updates, they may begin to ignore your posts or “hide” you altogether. Ask yourself: Is this quote really worthy of posting? Should I save this post for another day? Is this post timely?
- Engage in drama. People say things online they would never say to someone’s face. You are sure to get naysayers who make inappropriate and negative comments on your posts. Do not confront them. Give a professional reply if it’s warranted; otherwise, delete the comment, delete the follower and move on with your life. Keep any discussion on your social-networking page friendly and respectful, and make it a policy to patrol for negative interactions.
- Get too casual. Remember that this is your professional blog or network, not your personal one, and you need to maintain boundaries. While it’s good to share some personal anecdotes and come across as human, avoid sharing excessive information about your personal life, including vacations, family relationships and social events that are unrelated to your professional purpose. Stick to experiences that relate to your Pilates practice. Avoid coarse language and swearing. Avoid sharing your political and religious views. Be friendly without being too chummy. Otherwise, you’ll end up with all your followers feeling they deserve the “friend discount.”
Follow these basic tips, and you are sure to boost attendance at your Pilates facility and build powerful connections with your clients.
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