Social Media for Gyms, Made Simple – Strategy and Tips

For Gym Operators

Social Media for Gyms, Made Simple – Strategy and Tips

Author of Socialnomics, Erik Qualman wrote, “We don't have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.” Social media influences 93% of buyers. Ninety percent of people trust peer recommendations over 14% who trust ads. This article emphasizes a simply approach to social media. Learn how to access and amplify content that’s being created across your organization. Discover how giving over the “keys” to employees and members can boost your social media presence.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2016 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Kerry Bedgood, Vice President, Marketing and PR, Active Wellness

Social Media Basics

Social media success often relies on the strength of your club’s brand – the collectiveness of all aspects coming together with one unique voice and personality. A solid social media foundation can help a club engage with its members and influence brand awareness for the organization.

Club owners and gym operators can effectively and practically take on social media marketing without big budgets and the resources third-party agencies offer. An independent club or studio owner can, without an elaborate infrastructure of people and money or extensive marketing team, establish social media basics, develop simple strategies, concentrate efforts, and effectively engage existing resources.

A simple yet effective strategy amplifies the club’s best advocates to create social media content. Your professional trainers, dedicated staff, and amazing members are an unlimited resource for content. They are your content writers. They have wonderful success stories and valuable insight your social media can leverage to influence and retain membership.

Do I Have To Do It All?

What’s the right mix of different social media? Determine which social networks are relevant for your club. Ask your members. What do they use? Where do they search for information, reviews, or news?

Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Periscope... play around with different social networks, test them with different content, do what works, do it well. Select the best tools that fit your club and remember you only need to do a couple of things right versus trying to do a lot of things.

Social Media Platforms to Support Your Strategy

Social media platforms such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social offer the ability to manage and monitor all your social media pages in one place. Platforms can monitor for key words to alert you to when people mention your business or a competitor in posts. This can be a great feedback mechanism to reward staff, support the user experience, build community, and generate leads. For example, if you see a less than stellar review post on a competitor you might direct message that person to let them know your club can provide them with a quality fitness experience.

These platform management tools can also schedule posts -- an excellent time-saving tool. There are content calendar functions to plan weekly content that is timely and relevant. Again, this provides the convenience of setting it and forgetting about it and allows you to focus on authentic, real-time moments that happen within the club.

Other platforms allow you to visually plan and schedule photo and video content across social networks such as Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. Apps like Repost let you share and repost content.

A critical element of a simple and effective strategy is accessible content at your fingertips. The ability to repost or share easily facilitates content creation goals. Follow or like businesses, industry experts, local sports teams, or local businesses, so when you see something cool or relevant to your members and followers, you can easily repost and share.

There are also platforms and apps such as AdRoll that retarget visitors to your site and on Facebook. So when visitors go off your social media pages, they’ll see ads that redirect them and will keep your club top of mind.

Content Calendar

Develop a calendar of content foundation based on your marketing and organizational goals. Start simple. On Mondays give members motivation to support them for the week. Mid-week might focus on nutrition. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a topic; it can be a quote, photo, or video. Consider content to be published monthly, such as a member focus or employee highlight. Create content that fundamentally portrays what you hope to communicate, weekly and monthly, to members on your social media networks.

With this content foundation, preload posts using the management platforms. This allows you or your team with limited time and resources to capture “in the moment” activity curated from followed pages, your instructors, trainers, and members to achieve engagement and results.

Hashtag Library

Use a hashtag library to get more visibility for your posts. Hashtags help members and followers find posts. Establish hashtags around your club’s three unique marketing aspects. Create hashtags for special club events and member challenges.

Shareable Content

Sharing content is a practical tool to keep a main staple of social media content flowing on your pages. Set your business pages to follow other businesses and organizations to share content they’re posting.

Here are some shareable content resources:

  • IHRSA and other industry associations. These groups post trends in fitness and health wellness. 
  • Equipment manufacturers have incredible videos that you’re likely not able to create. 
  • Fitness and wellness media – Shape magazine, Your Fitness, Men’s Fitness, etc.
  • Local media and neighborhood business partners can offer strong engagement and repost opportunities. Set up cross-promotional relationships. 
  • Local sports teams provide newsworthy content your members relate to and like to chat about inside the club or gym.
  • Celebrity trainers and fitness bloggers.
  • National holiday calendars provide notable days for content, promotions, stories, and videos to post.   
  • Follow your followers, your employees, and members. They’ll have great stories, endearing moments and offer a new community of followers.

Build a News Room

Fifty percent of employees post about work. One-third of those post without being asked. Leverage this activity to your advantage. Cultivate content creators that work to amplify the club’s efforts.

Management or the social marketing team is ultimately responsible for administering and overseeing the social media content. They are the protectors of your club’s voice and image. However, there exists a wealth of untapped accessible content from creators whose directed efforts can benefit the club. 

Social Media Ambassadors

A single employee has on average 300 friends on Facebook, 208 followers on Twitter, and 55% have over 300 connections on LinkedIn. Strengthen the club’s internal marketing resources and content creation by having employees and members become social media ambassadors of the club.

The ideal ambassadors are employees and/or members who are power users. They’re loyal to the club and likely have an amazing following on social media. Make them ambassadors of your brand. Monitor, manage, and train them. Give them a platform to express their enthusiasm. Emphasize how exciting it is to have them as part of the team. Talk about all the ways they can engage and participate as social media ambassadors.

Provide ongoing training to your ambassadors. Review social media policy and teach social media best practices. Educate them on data and trends. Highlight examples and give good feedback to help incentivize and motivate your ambassadors.  

Give Them the Tools

Of course, don’t let them set off alone without first understanding your social media policy and guidelines. These tools can provide direction for those who you choose as ambassadors. Provide a checklist of ways they can engage with the club on social media. Train them on best practices and a set of standards. Continually refresh instruction on practices and guidelines.

It’s important to coordinate with human resources or a legal consultant to establish a social media policy. A policy should set out and communicate how employees can engage with the club on social media. You can include specific language that applies to trade secrets and personal confidential information. Standard practices are built around a policy. Your human resources team can help navigate possible influences on labor practices.

Place your social media policy, standard practices, guidelines, and check list in the employee handbook and have employees sign it. Educate employees that social media can also adversely affect the club as well as negatively impact their professional and personal brand. 

Check List

  • Create a document that clearly outlines where to follow the organization with hyperlinks.
  • Ask members and employees to check in on social media when they come to the club. Employees can share they’re excited to start their day. Members may want to remark on a group class or personal training session they’ve taken.  
  • Send friend requests to build their on-line community to support the club’s social media efforts.
  • Tagging – provide a basic understanding for tagging people in posts.
  • Post videos – action caught in real time is often the most engaging. Establish standards for making and posting videos, e.g. use of quality cameras, length of video, etc.

Include a segment on what and when to post. Help ambassadors understand the “why” behind the club’s efforts by providing data from member surveys and Facebook analytics.  For example, communicating the most interaction on Facebook for a given type of post at a certain time of day demonstrates the impact of an ambassador’s ability to fulfill content goals.

Accessibility to Content

Now that you have developed key social media ambassadors for the club, how do you acquire and manage the content? The easiest is to set up a curating system. It can even be manual.

Process content suggestions by using a webform, e.g. Google forms or an online form builder such as Contact123. This allows people to submit ideas for content, articles, videos, photos, etc. that they would like highlighted on the club’s social media networks. These submission forms are reviewed by the marketing team for approval, editing, and posting. 

Alternatively, ambassadors and others can drop it into a shared location on Google or Dropbox.

Social Media Case Studies

An Example of an Employee Power User

  • Checks in on social media when at the club
  • Features gym’s brand on cover of personal page
  • Constantly posts and tags all of his or her co-workers and trainers.
  • Leads by example to show others within the club what to do on social media.
  • Posts videos and creates Facebook Live videos

Social Media Network Takeovers

This is a program for an employee or member. Review followers, keywords, and hashtags to find power users with remarkable social profiles. They might be bloggers, affiliated with retail sporting or athletic activewear companies, associated with local media or have close ties to the community.

Once a potential ambassador is identified, direct message or contact them. Ask if they’re interested in taking on your Instagram feed or other of your network feeds. Discuss what they enjoy about the club, their activities inside and outside of the club. What do they do with their personal time?

Topics could vary and typically are based around the interests and passion of the ambassador. Perhaps chronicling weekly training for an event such a marathon or triathlon on Facebook or WOD (workout of the day) posts on Instagram. Begin working with the ambassador to review and schedule posts… and then turn over the keys! The results of a social media network takeover could net an increase of a few hundred new followers.   

A Day in the Life, Behind the Scenes, or Sneak Peak Stories

Create a “Day in the Life” feature post of an employee or member. Perhaps you have an employee that makes amazing things happen behind the scenes for members, but often goes unnoticed. Or a member who has overcome incredible odds and gives back unselfishly to the community. Highlight these stories in a week-long series of Facebook posts.

Build excitement and anticipation for a new program or feature at the club with a Sneak Peak story, such as the renovation of a room as a new cycling studio. Post photos of the bikes arriving, the installation of the new video screen, or testing out the new wearable fitness technology.

An Employee Highlight

On social media or through e-newsletters and internal newsletters let your members know how much you care about your employees.

Pick a day of the week to highlight an employee as a feature of your social media. Have managers and employees nominate their fellow employees on Facebook. A prospect employee candidate should love what they do and enjoy working at supporting the organization’s mission and culture. They should demonstrate professionalism and a depth of experience.

Formulate a standard bio with five to seven questions to include their background, thoughts about the club, and something fun or unique about them.

Give the highlighted employee a check list of things that they should do to make sure they’re tagged and sharing on their social media feeds.

Other Helpful Advice

Consider compensating employees for their time working as social media ambassadors. Likely, the club would have to pay an agency or consultant for similar work. Graciously thank members and recognize them with special privileges, club merchandise, or free dues for a month.

Have social media ambassadors sign a release indicating that what they create is the property of the organization. For ambassadors who are no longer employees, you may need to search through and delete relevant photos and content.

Avoid the negative aspect of employees using their devises at work. Take a different approach by encouraging positive reinforcement of the use of social media to benefit the club and its brand. One exception of course is for service desk staff where eye contact and a friendly greeting when a member walks in the door is essential to the user experience. 

Instill an understanding that employees can post what they want when it is their personal pages and on their own time. However, use social media as a teaching tool. Educate employees on what it can mean for their personal brand and career development. Fewer issues arise with education and training. Use examples of how employee peers have followed best practices and guidelines to gain new personal training clients and increase referrals. 

The end goal of social media is to create loyal fans which can generate new members and retains those you have already.  Three out of four YouTube users agree that if there is a brand they love they tend to tell others about it. Beware, because the opposite, those negative experiences, can also happen. So build a solid social media foundation and make sure to amplify those amazing stories and incredible moments that are accessible right at your fingertips.