5 fitness professionals nailing it on social media

Tracey Lydiard
Tracey Lydiard
Marketing at Timely
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Fitness is an industry that seems to have really hit the ground running (#sorrynotsorry about that stellar pun) when it comes to social media. There are heaps of ways to showcase what you’re about and to connect with potential new clients.

If you’ve ever been a little intimidated by social media (haven’t we all!), or unsure about where to start, you might want to check out these five fitness professionals nailing it on social media channels of all kinds, with all different types of styles.

Kayla Itsines

The New York Times called Kayla Itsines “Instagram’s biggest fitness star” and she definitely seems to be holding on to that title. She sells Bikini Body Guides that include workout and diet instructions, and an app called Sweat with Kayla. Along with regular blog posts on her website and videos on YouTube, she’s a frequent poster on Twitter and Instagram. Kayla has over 5 million followers on Instagram and 300k followers on Twitter.

So how does she do it?

It’s hard to break down exactly what sparked the Kayla Craze in the first place, but there are some a couple factors in her social media habits that to look at.

Social media for fitness with Kayla Itsines

Most of her personal photos are specifically of her body or her working out – she doesn’t muddle her message with photos of her social life (except pictures of her huskies, but seriously, who could resist?) or her home decor. Her goal is to inspire people to work on their fitness, and her photos almost always focus on that.

She is also overwhelmingly positive. While positivity doesn’t work for everybody (some people need to be yelled at while they work out) (this particular author, in fact!) her encouraging attitude seems to resonate with a lot of women. Kayla shares before and after pictures that her followers have sent her, giving her followers a huge amount of positive feedback.

How can you do it too?

There are some great lessons you can take from Kayla’s strategy, no matter how many followers you have. If your clients are game, start taking some pictures during workouts. Sharing how proud you are of your clients and their results highlights not only your skills but the care you have for the people who come to you for training. Following up on a session by posting workout pictures or before-and-after pictures (with permission, of course) shows that you care about your clients, even after the sweat has dried and the payment has been processed.

There’s a proven positive reinforcement from getting a social media boost – why not use that to reward your clients for their hard work and motivate them to keep going?

Nardia Norman

Nardia is a personal trainer, educator, author of the book Fat Attack: The secrets behind the world’s biggest loser, and founder the Freedomology and Crazy Body Love movements. She differs from most of the other social media pros on this list in that she rarely posts workouts or demos.

So how does she do it?

Nardia doesn’t just talk about training. In fact, she almost never posts workout plans or videos. Instead, she talks about the responsibilities of a personal trainer and the shortcomings of the fitness industry. As an expert in her field, she focuses on debunking myths around fitness and health, and critiquing the industry that she loves. Nardia doesn’t just want to sell a particular type of exercise or wellness: she wants people to understand how to care for themselves, and more importantly, why.

Nardia is most active on Facebook and her blog, which lend themselves better to the more longform content she produces. She’s trying to provoke a discussion about fitness and the ‘right’ way to approach it, which means she needs the freedom that Facebook and her personal blog supply.

How can you do it too?

Maybe you’re not as into critiquing the moral and ethical questions of the fitness industry as Nardia – that’s okay! You can still take away some ideas from her approach. Make it clear to clients (and potential clients) that you take your responsibilities seriously. Are you taking any classes? Attending any conferences? Receiving new certifications? Post about it!

Sharing things like these will it inspire confidence in your followers. It sends a message that you understand what it’s like to be a client. You know how it feels to learn something new and push yourself to a new level. That makes it easier for your clients to trust you when you’re pushing them past their comfort zone.

One sign of a true pro: they know there’s always something new to learn.

Cassey Ho

Cassey is a Pilates instructor and the creator of the wildly successful Blogilates. Along with the videos, her website also offers nutrition advice and recipes, downloadable infographics, exercise programs, and regular blog posts.

How does she do it?

Cassey’s YouTube channel is particularly successful, with over 3 million followers and over 340 million views. She posts frequent videos, most of them under 12 minutes (many are under five minutes). The videos are informative, easy to follow and regular; she posts 1-2 times a week, as a rule. They’re not all exercise, either – she offers a similar breakdown of content as on her website, with recipe videos and explainer videos in among the exercise ones.

Cassey’s funny, chatty personality comes across well on YouTube and the short length of the videos makes them really approachable. After all, you can’t really ‘try out’ a 30-minute workout video to see how you like it, but most people can devote six minutes to checking out one of Cassey’s videos.

How can you do it too?

Some of you might be thinking “I can’t afford to post all my workouts for free!”. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that! But one thing you can take away from Cassey’s approach is the consistency. She posts new videos every 3-4 days. Every third video is usually a recipe, and about once a month she posts an explainer video or a ‘behind-the-scenes’ video where she talks about the science of fitness or some of her personal struggles.

I can’t afford to post all my workouts for free!

So even if you can’t (or don’t want to) post a slick new video once a week, you should still set yourself a schedule and stick to it. That way, people know what they’ll be getting if they follow you, whether it’s three pictures a week of you demonstrating proper form or one post a week with a new protein shake recipe.

Don’t try to master every kind of social media sharing, either – if you try to share personal pictures and workout demonstrations and recipes and product suggestions and client stories PLUS run your business, you might just end up doing a lot of those things not very well. Choose one or two things to focus on and do them well and consistently.

Tone It Up

Tone It Up (TIU) is the brainchild of personal trainer Katrina Scott and sports and fitness model Karena Dawn. They’ve created an impressive empire, selling branded workouts, nutrition plans, athletic gear and beauty products.

How do they do it?

Social media is definitely part of TIU’s fame, but it’s tricky to point to one channel as the reason for their runaway success. It’s more about the cumulative effect and the community they’ve created around their brand. They’re not just talking at their followers – they’re organizing meetups and retreats, encouraging them to post under specific hashtags, and providing online spaces for them to connect, report on their progress and support each other.

This focus on community and two-way connection has turned their followers into ambassadors. Katrina and Karena aren’t just bringing fitness to their clients, they’re bringing a whole social group and support system.

How can you do it too?

Making your clients into your marketers can be a slow process, but it’s worth the effort. If you lead group classes, this an easier option for you. Encourage people to post about their progress, tag them in your photos or posts (always with their permission, of course), if you have a class or a fitness program think about starting a hashtag for participants to use.

Something that’s really key in this is offering a place for your clients to connect and to sing your praises – for a lot of trainers, this will be Facebook and Twitter. Make it easy for them to be your fans!

Jessi Kneeland

Jessi Kneeland is a personal trainer, coach and creator of Remodel Fitness. She’s also a wonderful blogger whose writing exudes radical honesty and compassion. She calls Remodel Fitness (among other things) “an honest attempt to start the conversations that need to be had around how we treat our bodies in this culture.

How does she do it?

Jessi is active on Instagram, with 14.4k followers, where the focus is on herself as she exercises, travels, and lives her life. She writes not just about fitness and her business on her blog, but about her life, offering personal stories, advice and encouragement. Apart from having some really inspiring, insightful writing, this also has the effect of making her readers feel deeply connected to her.

Social media for fitness with Jessi Kneeland

You might notice this is the opposite approach to Kayla Itsines! This strategy works because it aligns with Jessi’s brand and makes it clear that she’s living her philosophy. She practices what she preaches; if Jessi encourages body confidence and being comfortable with being naked, you can bet she’s posting naked or mostly naked photos for the world to see! She gains trust and credibility by allowing her readers in on some of her intimate thoughts.

Jessi advocates a way of approaching life, not just a way of approaching fitness, which is why her deeply personal sharing is a really important part of how she markets herself. In fact, it’s almost the opposite of a brand – she’s worked hard to make her voice so authentic that her strategy is just being open and honest.

How can you do it too?

Jessi’s approach can be difficult (almost terrifying!) for the more private among us, but this strategy will really resonate for some of you. If you already know you feel comfortable sharing your life and philosophy online, why not start talking about it? See if you feel comfortable writing a blog, or maybe even filming videos talking your thoughts out instead of writing them. Or maybe you’re already sharing personal photos on Instagram – why not start explaining more about what’s going on in the photos, why you took them, how they represent the kind of life you’re trying to live?

This type of personal sharing can draw in a huge number of people who either want to know more about your thoughts and about your life (we can’t get enough of watching other people’s lives, whether on TV or online!) or are looking for a trainer they can connect with. For clients who are slow to trust, or nervous about starting something new, getting to ‘know’ you online before they approach you in real life might be the difference between sitting at home thinking about getting in shape, and actually taking that first step.

Starting on your social media journey

No matter what direction you go in, you’ll need to have a plan. Decide what message is most important to you, which social channel feels most comfortable and useful, and commit to a schedule!

How many pictures do you think you can post a week?

How many times a year do you do promotions?

Do you have the resources to film some workouts?

It doesn’t matter how many followers you have – consistency is king. Once you get the hang of it, you can even start scheduling posts in advance, which means you’re still active online even if you’re taking a few days off.

If potential clients look at your Facebook page and see that you posted seven times in 2014 and then once for New Year’s 2016, then disappeared into the aether, they can easily assume (unfairly or not) a similar flakiness about you personally. So if you don’t think you can keep up with a regular Instagram page, don’t start one!

Focus on strategies that play to your strengths, whether it’s snapping pics, writing, or making demo videos.

Even if you’re just posting once a week, giving your clients something to interact regularly with online will allow them to connect with you and (hopefully!) share your posts with the world, which will increase your reach and your brand awareness.

It doesn’t have to be word-perfect or professionally filmed. It just has to be there for people to find, look at, like and eventually, share.

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