Regardless of the industry, it would be an understatement to say that social media has influenced how customers interact with businesses. In this day and age, whenever consumers have a good or bad experience, instead of sharing through “word of mouth,” or picking up the phone, they head to the Web. They jump onto the various social media platforms created over the course of the last decade, including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+.
There in lies the danger of social media. It’s much easier for consumers to share their negative experiences with the World Wide Web. Although, on the flip side, it’s much easier for consumers to share their positive experiences. This is why Cary Wing, the author of “101 Tips for Effective Social Media Marketing in Health/Fitness Clubs,” has believed that social media marketing is an absolute must for all health clubs.
“I encourage clubs to embrace social media and use it to their advantage,” said Wing. “Fitness is a business. Social media should be a part of a club’s business strategy, and an asset in attracting and keeping members through engagement, exceptional customer service and creating an online community. This says it best; ‘If your business is not on the Internet, then your business will be out of business,’ which was said by Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft.”
How do you know which social media platforms to use? How do you pick and choose between Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others? According to Wing, you don’t have to make use of every single social media platform out there.
“While many types of social media exist, there is overlap among the groups,” explained Wing. “It is not necessary to use all of the social media platforms in a marketing strategy. A club should focus on the most commonly used social media platforms that provide the best return on investment — the technology has the ability to increase the reach of a club and reduce marketing costs and efforts.”
GoodLife Fitness, a Canadian fitness chain, has focused its social media marketing resources on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Foursquare, and has used each platform for a different purpose.
Justin Cipparone, the marketing manager of social media for GoodLife, explained how each platform has been used by GoodLife — with the overall goal being to utilize each platform for continually building GoodLife’s sense of community.
“We post branded content pieces that are fun, quirky or thoughtful, and ask our followers to ‘like,’ ‘share’ or ‘comment,’” explained Cipparone. “We also run a lot of our contests through Facebook’s platform to encourage sharing and increase the reach of our contests. We are still new to Google+, but we use it similarly to Facebook. In the future we would like to start using the Google Hangouts feature to do ‘Q and A’ sessions with our trainers.”
Google Hangouts has the potential to benefit GoodLife’s members, as Cipparone discovered that they love to stay up-to-date with their instructors’ comings and goings, via social media. “One of the trends we have noticed, especially with our fitness instructors and team coaches, is that social media — Facebook groups and Google+ communities — has become a fantastic tool for our members to follow their favorite instructors and coaches,” he explained. “Especially with our MyBootcamp and TRX Team Training programs, social media allows our coaches to stay in touch with previous participants even after the six or nine week program has completed, and helps encourage repeat participation.”
In addition, GoodLife has used Pinterest and Foursquare to complement its presence on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. “Right now we use Pinterest primarily as a secondary platform, to share our branded content pieces from Facebook, and give them some extra leverage,” explained Cipparone. “We are also new to Foursquare, but we use it to track how popular our locations are with the social crowd, and to share our special promotions.”
According to Cipparone, GoodLife has focused on posting on all of its various social media platforms. “Most of our content is what we call ‘engagement pieces,’ which involve a creative component, tied to a call to action — ‘like,’ ‘comment’ or ‘click,’” he explained. “We also have five blog posts per week at blog.goodlifefitness.com, which we share across our social channels. These are usually health and fitness tips or workout advice.”
Snap Fitness, headquartered in Chanhassen, Minn., has utilized YouTube and other video and photo sharing sites. According to Katie Bresnahan, the social media coordinator for Snap Fitness, content posted to Snap Fitness’ social media accounts have included workout tips, success stories, healthy recipes and inspirational quotes — in hopes of further promoting Snap Fitness’ brand in the online world.
“We’re about creating a culture where we help members get results, and celebrate their success,” said Bresnahan. “That includes the online space.”
When picking a social media platform, Wing suggested clubs keep an eye on trends — after all, a new social media platform could pop up in a nanosecond. “It is a quickly changing industry,” she said. “A club should stay informed and monitor new applications regularly.”
According to Wing, there are multiple mistakes that health clubs make when it comes to social media. “Offering specials and discounts is an effective marketing strategy,” said Wing. “Too many clubs, however, tend to go to the extreme — constantly offering promotions. This strategy can have a negative impact by devaluing the ‘brand’ and devaluing the relationship.”
Additionally, in terms of the relationship, Wing suggested that clubs refrain from removing negative posts from social pages. “The inclination is to block or ignore negative feedback posted on social media sites,” said Wing. “Instead, a club should respond in a proactive, positive manner, acknowledging the feedback, and letting members know how the club will deal with the situation. Everyone will appreciate the effort.”
Cipparone said managing social media has been a learning process for GoodLife. “We have had to correct things that should not have been posted in the past, but it’s been rare and it’s a learning process,” he said. To further prepare, “We are in the process of creating a social media committee to establish best practices and enhance our social media policy to allow more of our local clubs to manage their own social media accounts.”
Despite the learning curve, both GoodLife and Snap Fitness agreed that any tribulations of social media are worth the ability it gives them to easily communicate with members. “Social media is a great way for our members to share feedback about what is happening at the club,” said Cipparone. “We have found it especially useful for identifying and resolving broken equipment at the clubs. I think that some members feel more comfortable posting on social media than they do calling or approaching someone at the club, so we can address a larger base of members than we might with just our phone number or front desk.”
“People are less social in person than they once were, especially in the clubs,” explained Bresnahan. “Now you get a lot of members who scan their cards, come in with their headphones on, work out and go home, without ever having to interact with another person. By engaging them in the social space, we can make those connections and offer that same experience online.”
By Rachel Zabonick