You’re already an active blogger, and you’ve got hundreds of Facebook fans and TwitterTM followers. You consistently post relevant, informational updates and messages. You encourage feedback, and you foster conversations among your followers. Your clients are engaged and enthusiastic.
But you feel you’re in a bit of a rut, or you see that your audience isn’t really growing. Now is the time to mix in other social media tools and tactics.
The options for online networking, social bookmarking, social reviews, social news and social-network aggregation are increasing. So how do you determine your next steps and know when to “pull the trigger”?
Take a Strategic Approach
Biray Alsac-Seitz, a fitness technologist from Charlotte, North Carolina, and a longtime proponent of social media, has some advice. Before exploring new social media options, ask yourself these key questions:
- Am I maximizing the basic tools?
“Discover additional ways to take advantage of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter—these platforms are always adding new features or upgrading current ones. Consider adding a reading list (powered by Amazon) to your LinkedIn profile; add past milestones on your Facebook timeline; or promote your Twitter feed to non-Twitter users with statements like ‘Text BEFITT to 40404’ so they can follow your status updates, too.”
- Will this tool align with my marketing strategy?
“[This] should highly depend on professional goals. Research the tool and see how others are using it before jumping into the space.”
- What is my time commitment?
“Will adding another social media marketing tool end up being one more thing to update? You want your social media tools to complement each other, not duplicate your efforts.”
Explore Current Trends
Once you feel you are equipped and prepared to take the next step, you need to know what other tools are out there and how to use them.
“Apps that help people track their diet and exercise are really popular, and they have social elements where [visitors] can get encouragement,” says Tim Baker, vice president of Digital Strategy at the MWW Group, one of the nation’s top independent PR firms. “Answer sites like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and Quora (www.quora.com) are great for professionals to answer questions and establish themselves as thought leaders. I would definitely suggest getting involved in those if one has the time.”
Similarly, IDEA Health & Fitness Association offers IDEA Answers (www.ideafit.com/answers), a Q&A platform where fitness professionals can offer insights on a variety of topics (this has the added benefit of elevating a specialist’s expert status).
“I’m seeing a lot of location-based apps, like Foursquare (www.foursquare.com), used to advertise and promote real-time behaviors [AroundMe (www.aroundme.com), Qrious (www.qrious.com), Gauss (www.getgauss.com), etc.],” says Alsac-Seitz. “If I can turn your ‘like’ into a real-life action, then it works to my advantage. Location-based apps have the potential of leveraging your online presence to create more offline interactions.”
Both Baker and Alsac-Seitz agree that the power and influence of mobile apps are growing significantly. Beyond their usefulness as marketing tools, mobile devices are becoming a strong platform for fitness products and services. And that creates new opportunities for the fitness professional.
“Having a profile on DailyMile (www.dailymile.com) or MapMyRun (www.mapmyrun.com) can be a great way to discover new clients or colleagues in your area,” says Alsac-Seitz. “If a cycling instructor were to post a status update about his upcoming cycling class, he should care less if a follower from another country ‘likes’ the update. He should care more that his message reaches that gym member at home reading her news feed, contemplating whether or not to come to his class. Social media helps fitness pros educate and impact the behaviors of people in their own backyard—which, to me, is success.”
You can also achieve greater social media presence by ramping up your existing efforts. “One of the quickest and most effective ways to build up an audience is to advertise on Facebook,” says Baker. “It’s inexpensive, and you can microtarget to the people you are trying to reach. After you get them, it’s about nurturing them with compelling content that really provides value.”
Sharing articles, images, videos and other content that your regulars will likely pass along to their own contacts is a good way to keep your audience growing. Remember, the more active your followers are, the more visible your posts are to others.
For people who are just on Facebook and Twitter, Baker recommends adding YouTube to the arsenal. Video is a huge tool that can have a significant impact on a large number of people. As mobile speeds and browser performance continue to improve, video will become more and more prevalent.
Fitness professionals should also market their expertise and services through social networking sites. Alsac-Seitz suggests using a site like Meetup.com, which features local groups that already meet face to face. Some groups display their meeting times on their page, providing you with the perfect opportunity to contact the organizer about being a guest speaker. Fitness professionals can also sponsor a group, join a group or create one of their own.
Take a New Approach to Your Audience
As social media grows and participants become more savvy about this tool, be prepared to use a bit more finesse and creativity to engage your audience. Some of the most successful online marketers focus on creating enjoyable, and often humorous, ways to increase interactions with their fans and followers.
Games and contests are another way to get people interested in your product or service. Gaia Essentials, a small boutique in California specializing in homemade organic soaps and all-natural skincare products, boosted its sales by participating in a Twitter game focused on local companies. Each morning for a month, a community portal tweeted a trivia question, and participants submitted answers for the chance to win prizes. “To find the answer to the Gaia-related question, visitors flocked to the store’s website—and many stuck around to do some shopping” (Inc. Magazine 2010).
To get more from your online audience, consider giving something back. Do you have a product, service or discount available for a limited time? Have you considered offering it exclusively to your followers on a particular network? Offering discounts, savings and special deals is a great way to grab customer attention and foster general goodwill.
Embrace the Challenges
As more fitness professionals get involved in social media, there is greater awareness of the role that social media plays in the overall marketing strategy. Unlike other marketing tools, social media gives you access to a global audience while also strengthening personal and professional connections locally and across the industry. Identifying how to take your social media presence to the next level can be tricky, however, because how you do it depends on what that “next level” is. For each person, it’s something different.
Alsac-Seitz suggests that you start by determining what your resources are and how much you are willing to commit to marketing. Time and money tend to be among the biggest hurdles to clear when you want to increase your social media activity, so it’s important to consciously plan and spend the time needed to do the job right.
“It’s all about sustaining your efforts in the long run,” she says. “Social media isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. It takes hundreds of blog posts, thousands of tweets and months of liking, ‘fan’-ing, friending and following to make your efforts work.”
Remember, there are a lot of tools and tricks out there that can help you maximize your online presenceand your return on investment. Just don’t get carried away.
“Anything good takes time,” says Baker. “Those who truly dedicate the time to make connections with people will be the ones who have the most success. Think of it as a party—you can be the richest guy in the room, but nobody wants to talk to you if you have nothing to say. People need to take the time and invest in it if they want it to work for them.
“Read lots of blogs on social trends, but don’t get caught up by the snake oil salesmen online telling you that you need to be everywhere,” he adds. “Make sure you do your research and know where your audience is spending their time. If your potential audience is only on Facebook and YouTube, don’t worry so much about the other outlets. Fish where the fish are. And be patient.”
Inc. Magazine. 2010. Playing marketing games on Twitter. www.inc.com/magazine/20100501/playing-marketing-games-on-twitter.html; retrieved July 15, 2012.