Most club owners believe that they are leveraging social media effectively as both a marketing and member retention tool. In most cases they are not. The truth is, the majority of owners are only effectively using public platforms like Facebook to push non-targeted messaging out to the universe, hoping that casting a broad net will capture many prospects.
In that regard, public platforms are best served as a marketing tool when fully optimized. While having a Facebook presence is almost as essential as having a company website these days, social platforms like this are not the best environments for member engagement and member-to-member interaction.
The Truth about Attrition
Many gym members cancel their memberships due to social reasons. For example, maybe they don’t know anyone, are intimated or they feel out of place. Others cancel due to lack of use. It can be difficult making new friends and connecting with other people in the rush-and-push environment of a health club. And if something changes with your in-club social circle, you may not be inclined to use the club as much.
The good news is that unlike other cancellation reasons (cost, change in location, over-crowding) with the right tool, gym owners really can influence the social aspect and the lack of use issues. That leads to increased retention.
Technology to the Rescue
A private social networking platform for an individual club environment is the right tool to help members connect with other members, trainers and the club. Facilitating and encouraging this multi-directional communication, as well as content sharing, is the right approach.
Think about it this way: Online social networking has redefined the way we communicate for reasons of convenience and for a feeling of control and comfort that comes with a less-evasive method of communication. While not completely anonymous, people feel less vulnerable when reaching out to others online as opposed to in-person.
With a private platform, your members can make new friends and stay engaged, even when they are not in the club working out. They can engage with their trainers or other members right on their laptops, tablets or mobile devices and stay connected. Those connections will inspire them to go to the gym and use their memberships. Now you’ve effectively and consistently addressed the social needs of your members while heightening usage.
Why a Private Platform over a Public Platform for Retention
The power of a private platform revolves around control and exclusivity. Implementing a private networking platform establishes a unique environment in which club members, staff and operators are all interacting. It allows for a laser-focused approach to retention with no “unknown” people or factors.
From the members’ perspective, it allows for them to search for other members using their own customized search criteria, enabling them to make relevant connections with ease and speed. Plus, in a private environment, members will be more inclined to share and engage because they will feel a sense of protection and insulation. All of these factors contribute to an atmosphere that will heighten active participation, resulting in greater member retention rates.
Expand the Walls of Your Club
Interesting, relevant and topical content sharing on a private platform can also increase retention. Having a single environment in which you can house blogs, photos, calendars, videos and tips is a powerful force that draws your members even closer. Even when a member cannot come to the club for a favorite class, if the class has been recorded and posted, that member can still experience what they missed. That is truly a value that keeps members longer.
Let’s face it, replacing a lost member is much more costly than retaining a member. If you can keep them by leveraging cutting-edge technology, you’ll always be ahead of the competition and your members will know that you understand and care about what is important to them.
Sara Bowman is the director of sales for GymGroups, a private social networking platform creator and developer. She has been in the health and fitness industry in many capacities serving club owners and members for over 25 years. She can be reached at 832.206.9483 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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