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Beyond the Big Three: Exploring Social Media Channels for Fitness Professionals

When fitness professionals consider hopping onto social media to market their business, there are obvious channels that come to mind first. Both Facebook and YouTube have over 1 billion users, making it hard to deny the need for a presence on either site. There’s also Twitter, a channel we discussed in the previous Trainer Tech article, “The Best Social Media Platforms for Business Owners” in IDEA Trainer Success. Although the user base is not as robust as Facebook’s or YouTube’s, Twitter deserves consideration, given its longevity and popularity.

Whether you’re already set up on one or more of these social media channels, or you don’t yet have a presence on social, keep reading. In this article we will explore three of the most popular emerging social media channels—as well as opportunities to spread your reach, engage with more users and grow your business.


Instagram (www.instagram.com) certainly isn’t new, but it is one of the younger social media channels—and one we haven’t discussed yet. In 2015, Instagram reached 400 million users, outpacing Twitter’s 320 million (Kharpal 2015). Instagram is a 100% visual social media platform that has served savvy fitness professionals well. Users looking for inspirational images, workout tips and more expect to see gorgeous shots, action-filled videos and behind-the-scenes photos.

How Instagram Works
Instagram is an app that is functional only from your smartphone. Users can open the app, take a photo (or upload one from the smartphone library), add a caption and post the shot. It’s as simple as that.

However, there’s more to Instagram than uploading a picture and adding a caption. There are plenty of fun features to help you optimize your posts. Instagram users expect interesting, artsy, high-quality photos, but don’t worry if your photography skills are lacking. Instagram’s rich selection of photo filters and enhancements helps everyone become a better photographer.

Much like Facebook, Instagram allows you to tag other users. On Instagram, you can do this in two ways:

  1. Tag a user directly on the photo, so that the user’s handle will show up in the picture (a notification will be sent to that user).
  2. Tag someone in the caption of the photo, using that person’s handle. This will notify the person and also create a clickable link to the person’s Instagram account.

Instagram also uses hashtags, as Twitter does. They are searchable and clickable, and they will help users find your account. Lots of users search hashtags in order to find new people to follow. For example, searching a hashtag on Twitter will bring up everyone who has used that hashtag in a caption. Instagram sorts hashtags by “Most popular” and “Most recent” posts.

Instagram Best Practices
Here are some best practices to ensure you capture and engage your audience:

  1. Show your human side. Instagram users love sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes info and human-centered photos. They want to see you sweat; they want to see you work; they want to feel connected to you.
  2. To make your photos more interesting, optimize them using Instagram filters and tools.
  3. Tag people! Tag accounts that are relative to your photos, so that those people know they’re in your pictures. For example, tag the equipment you’re using or the clients you’ve included in your photo. To really add a personal touch, tag clients who skipped your group class, to let them know you missed them.
  4. There are no hashtag limits, so use away! You can create your own branded hashtags for clients to use, but you’re also encouraged to do some research on popular fitness hashtags. If you teach a specific class, like #yoga or #musclesculpt, those are the best ones to start with. Also research hashtags for your area. Many times, location-based fitness hashtags have caught on. For example, Richmond, Virginia, fitness enthusiasts use #ActiveRVA, #RunRVA and #BikeVA.
  5. Social media is all about being social, so engage with other accounts. Follow clients, other fitness professionals or people in your area, and make sure you like and comment on their pages. You can also download apps like Repost (http://repostapp.com) to “repost” other users’ posts to your feed. If you find something inspiring or if you were tagged in a photo and you’d like to share it with your followers, this app will allow you to grab the post, repost it and give credit to the original poster.
  6. Make fun mini videos using Instagram’s Boomerang app (http://blog.instagram.com/post/131684343987/boomerang-from-instagram). Boomerang takes a burst of photos and stitches them together into a high-quality mini video that plays forward and backward.
  7. Use Instagram’s Layout app to make collages that can be loaded directly into your Instagram account (http://blog.instagram.com/post/114416360957/layout-from-instagram).


Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) is another social media channel that relies on visual content. Launched in 2010, the platform has grown to 100 million users and continues to expand (Yeung 2015).

How Pinterest Works
Pinterest is all about collecting ideas that can be organized on “boards.” If you like an image or an article, you simply hit the “Pin” button and select an appropriate board to place the item on. You can also upload your own images or pin articles from other websites. Pinners love collecting how-tos, inspirational posts, recipes, infographics and other content that they want to save for later. Any user can have a recipe board, fitness board or DIY board; however, you want to make sure you organize your pins. Unlike Instagram posts, pins can be either images or articles. What makes Pinterest so visual is the way the articles are displayed. Users see only the picture and a short caption.

Pinterest Best Practices
While an interesting photo of a yoga pose or a short how-to on using kettlebells would be great for Instagram users, Pinterest fans expect different visuals. They want to know, step by step, how to do something. They want inspirational quotes, recipes, ideas, etc. Here are some best practices:

  1. If you have a blog, pin your blog posts and create images that will catch a user’s eye.
  2. Use a tool like Canva (www.canva.com) to create infographics such as step-by-step tutorials or short workouts.
  3. All of Pinterest is searchable, so use keywords in your captions.
  4. Pinterest users love recipes! You could create a board and instruct clients to check it out for healthy meal options.
  5. For any image you create on Pinterest, add your logo so that you continue to get credit for it as it gets repinned.


Periscope (www.periscope.tv) is one of the newest social media sites out there. It’s a live-streaming video app that was purchased by Twitter and is growing rapidly. Its premise: to give users the ability to stream quick, simple moments. According to Wired magazine, Periscope gives the user “the ability to put the viewer in the director’s chair and actually participate in the stream. It’s more immediate than Twitter, Instagram, even Snapchat. It’s life, right now, through anyone’s eyes [you] choose. It’s intoxicating” (Pierce 2015).

This makes Periscope an excellent app for fitness professionals. Why? Because it lets you share inspiration, motivation, ideas and workouts in the moment. Your career is built around inspiring, motivating and facilitating fitness. What better way to do that than with Periscope?

How Periscope Works
Open up the Periscope app, press a button and begin live streaming. People who are following you will get a notification that you are on Periscope, and they can opt to watch or ignore. That’s it. You can also host private broadcasts for select users, and you can save live streams for up to 24 hours. Users who are watching your stream can leave comments that you, as the broadcaster, can see and respond to.

Periscope Best Practices

  1. Use a tripod whenever possible, to reduce shakiness.
  2. Title your broadcast, so users know what they’ll be watching.
  3. Hold your smartphone vertically.
  4. Ask your audience questions, and answer their questions in real time.
  5. Share the live-stream link on your other social media channels.

Deciding which social media channels are right for you can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to use them all! Choose a few that suit your style and personality best, do some research on what your target audience is using, and then make your decision.

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