The importance of social media in the health and fitness industry
This month we have the wonderful Keely Maree from Personal Transformations, talking to us all about social media’s growing presence in the health and fitness industry – with a warning about where it’s going.
Once upon a time, we lived in an age where the best way to ensure your business was known by the masses, was to take out an advertisement in the local phone book or pay for a placement on tv or the radio. In the good old days, word of mouth was the community telling their neighbour about your business and relying on the fact that there were limits to how many competitors were operating in your sphere of influence.
Ahh, small business could flourish and the big chains were a luxury for the city trips or big shopping centres.
Then it all started to change with the advancement of that pesky thing called the internet.
You might have heard of it, it’s kind of a big deal these days. In fact, if you aren’t using it effectively, you might as well concede defeat as a business in this decade.
That’s right, because you don’t really exist to the consumer.
Websites are the new business card.
Facebook is the new phonebook.
Instagram is the new billboard.
YouTube is the new tv commercial.
And the generation leading the charge in online content consumption, who are labelled “millennials,” are the future of how businesses will succeed.
No longer is a brand simply able to be one dimensional and be just one thing.
No, now they must have a soul. Intimacy and connection with their target market. This new wave of content consumption means we want to know who we are investing in and why.
And that demand created the manifestation of the influencer.
They’re not celebrities. They aren’t corporate moguls. Hell, they might not even have an actual job, but suddenly, we found ourselves listening to the opinions of real people on pretty much any topic we could potentially invest in.
And one of the most saturated industries when it comes to “experts” and “influencers” is that in the realm of health and fitness.
We’ve all seen THAT girl – you know the one – she’s got flat abs, toned legs, big(ish) boobs and looks flawless while she’s showing you a video of her “work-out.”
And here are these “influencers” telling the average person how to live their best life. Then they tell us we can have that too if we buy this shake/skinny tea/diet program etc.
And brands are falling all over themselves to collaborate with this online phenomenon of the influencer. They will send people who have decent following free products, in the hopes that they will strategically be placed in these people’s posts. Bigger brands will pay for their products or services to be plugged by these twenty-first century ambassadors. Not so long ago, it was mass marketing, using famous faces to talk to the masses. Now, we want THAT girl to tell us her “honest” opinion…
And you know what?
Good for them, they figured out how to monetize their online presence.
But not so good for the vulnerable, non-expert in the topic, as many of these online influencers and experts don’t have the experience, qualifications and in some instances ethics to offer a substantial opinion on the very subjects they’re promoting.
Why does fitness have such a big audience?
The fitness industry is an easy target for online social platforms, because it’s been manipulated into representing an aesthetic, which can be brought and sold.
It’s proven time and again that people enjoy looking at attractive people, and while there’s essentially nothing corrupt in admiring a beautiful human, there is this undertone created to make the average person feel that they are inadequate and the outcome unattainable for them.
The manipulation comes when there is the suggestion that someone could attain such a thing if they pay for a product or service associated with it.
Obviously, this is not a new concept and it’s worked for big companies for decades. But now the everyday “influencer” can get a piece of this, perpetuating the whole representation of what it means to be fit and healthy.
The fitness industry has many sub-branches that stem into clothing and apparel, diet shakes, books, diet and exercise plans, webinars, television shows and the list goes on. It can be moulded into a million different expressions and ultimately plays on the insecurities of people’s desire to want the magic formula.
This would be all good and well, except the ideal keeps shifting, forever making the audience need to keep consuming if they want to look/feel a certain way.
How do I utilize it for my business?
When I started running my own business, it was more of a side project, to help me bring in extra income. Part of my learning was to eventually release my “safe” job and dive into supporting myself through my talent, experience and education. The practical side of what I did was fairly easy in comparison to developing my skills around marketing strategies, using online platforms and making a whole bunch of mistakes.
Since my journey into running a business back in 2012, I have noticed that the way social platforms have changed has made it somewhat more difficult for small businesses to grow organically. When I was starting out, Facebook would make growing a following a lot easier and rewarded original content for free. I was lucky to start building an audience then, so I have accumulated much of my audience for free.
I now use Facebook as my essential “advertising platform” to talk to my followers about what we are doing within the business and our community, but also offer them free advice, insights into how our community works and sometimes just some light-hearted moments and memes.
Constantly throwing sales pitches at people doesn’t work and I have lost online support this way.
My top tips for using Facebook in the health and fitness industry:
- Do your homework about using their Ads Manager and set-up campaigns instead of boosting posts.
- When creating a paid ad campaign, really consider your target demographic, so you can use your budget wisely.
- Whenever you post something to your page, make sure you have an image. People are statistically more likely to look at your post if there’s an image with it.
- Make sure you set up all your admin links properly to avoid annoying people. Think – phone number, address, website, service prices etc.
- There’s a privacy section that allows you to ban profanity or certain words you don’t want associated with your page. I would suggest this.
- Get customers or clients to put their reviews on your page! You’d be surprised how many people will actually check these!
- Utilise video content where possible. Facebook rewards video content more highly and people like to watch video’s (sometimes more than read) But just be sure to keep the video short and to the point.
- Install a Facebook Pixel into your website, so you can track conversions.
- Stay true to your purpose and don’t mix personal stuff in there. No-one wants to know you had a fight with your partner last night. It’s not about you, it’s about your message. On that note, don’t go on an ego trip and post lots of selfies either. Stick to your mission.
How I handle social platforms
Although I have a YouTube and Instagram account, I will honestly say I find them to be more time consuming than I can allow for. When I create video content, I will post them to my YouTube account, but as a service-based business, I don’t utilize it as my income and therefore surmise that it doesn’t convert well into my income strategy at this point. The important thing to remember with social platforms is not to spread yourself too thin. Focus on one or two mediums at a time and work out what best monetizes your business.
I personally find Instagram a little superficial and very, very time consuming as a business person. To build a big following now requires more time than I have to give and their algorithms require a lot more paid strategies than before. I prefer to channel my budget into Facebook advertising, as it covers a wider net on my demographic. Instagram is most heavily used by people under the age of 35 years and in my business our most consistent age group is over 35’s. So, all things considered, my energy is not best spent on this platform. So really analyze your data metrics and work out who is looking at your content the most.
I have been lucky enough in the past to wrangle some awesome collaborations with brands like Cotton-On Body, Vital greens, Vani-T and work with influencers like Lola Berry and most of this was accomplished by positioning myself as a micro-influencer. I offered exposure for their brands with my clients posting and sharing photos of their products and using the hashtags they requested. In exchange, we got products and services offered at no cost. Brands don’t necessarily care about big numbers of follower’s anymore, they are looking for engagement and interaction. So be sure to encourage any type of engagement you can from your audience.
My final advice
My biggest piece of advice is stay authentic to your purpose and what you set out to do. Don’t try to be someone else, because you’ll never do it quite as well and people want originality. I have always tried to stay true to my “why” and I find that I attract the best people when I am in tune with that.
Social media and the fitness industry are a match made in heaven and I could have easily brought into it. There were times where I was tempted to post photos of unrealistic diets or bodies, but every time I come back to the conclusion that the world has enough of that and everyone needs to feel like they can relate to you as a person and as a business.
It all comes back to remaining true to yourself.
If you’d like an analysis of how your social media strategy is going, and how it can be improved, we offer FREE Social Media Audit’s to all New Zealand businesses. You can get yours here: