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How to use social media to market and grow your online fitness training business

It’s 2017. Virtually everyone and their mother is using some form of social media. Especially Facebook. Moms love Facebook.

Most businesses understand that they need social media profiles, but very few understand how to properly utilize them.

Assuming you know the basics of social media, I want to dig into how to effectively market your business through these channels. Paid social media ads are effective for obvious reasons. I’m not going to go into those just yet. It is incredibly important to understand some truths before you even consider paying for any kind of advertising.

Let me set one thing straight…

“Likes” do not mean a damn thing.

All of the major social media channels (Facebook, Instagram & Twitter) have a system that allows a user to click a button, or double tap, and “like” a post.

A like is not engagement. 13-year-olds will do anything they can for a “like” because to them, social media is a popularity contest. The more likes you have, the more popular you are. But you are a business, and you know better. A “like” is the equivalent of getting a head nod by a stranger walking by. That was the extent of your entire life-long story with this stranger.

A quick acknowledgement, and nothing more.

“But my recent Instagram post got over one thousand likes, doesn’t that mean I’m doing something right?”

As a matter of fact, no, it really doesn’t mean anything.

In the beginning of the year, I ran a test on my own Instagram account to see if I could get likes for posting something that I knew nobody was going to read. Here is the post:



120 likes is a respectable number, sure, but at the time, I had just as many followers. Did every single one of my followers “like” my post? No, only a couple of my followers did, actually.

I was able to pull the analytics on this post, and they show that this particular post only reached 114 unique users. Wait, how do 114 users like a post 120 times? Because mostly all of the “likes” are automated. I added some of the most commonly used fitness hashtags into the caption, and the likes came pouring in because so many users set up automated services as a way to “engage” with accounts. If you’re in the market for a bunch of likes, I recommend the hashtag #fitfam. People love that one.

Please, don’t get any ideas. If the thought of “maybe I should automate some likes for my account” crossed your mind, even for a second, I need you to give yourself a firm slap to the face.

I’ll wait.

120 people “liked” my post, but I did not communicate with any one of them, and I couldn’t name you one person out of that 120. You know why? Because “likes” mean nothing.

Social media engagement only means one thing- real, human interactions.

Those same services that allow you to “like” certain posts also allow you to automatically comment on posts that contain a certain hashtag. That’s right, I can tell an app to write “Cool!” on any posts containing the hashtag #strong. So if somebody posts that their grandmother just passed away and now more than ever they need to stay #strong, my account would reply with “Cool!”

Nice, huh?

Avoid automated services: check.

Don’t worry about likes: check.

So, what actually can you do to utilize social media for your online fitness business?


1. Hustle.

Most entrepreneurs know what the hustle is like. They dedicate 12+ hours per day to their business. They cold call, travel all around the world, network, and sell like mad to support their business. Unfortunately, not as many people bring that same mentality to social media.

If you want people to engage with you, you need to engage with them. And yes, this takes effort. Unlike the automated services I mentioned above, if you want people to truly engage with your brand, you need to have dedicated time for social media. Start with one hour per day. Every social media channel has some form of an “explore” page where you can quickly and easily find pages based on keywords or interests.

Go through and leave 50 real, quality comments on related accounts. You’re not going to get a response from every one of them, not even half of them. But, if you keep doing that, then you start to foster relationships. If a particular account sees your name coming up every single day and you are posting REAL comments, then they’ll begin to engage with you. Just like in real life, you begin to build a trusted relationship. You can’t post things like “love this!” or just comment with a flexing emoji and expect results. If somebody did that on your account, would you consider that a trusted relationship?

An example: if you come across a bodybuilder who put out a deadlift video, comment on their video with a real question. “Your form is flawless. What do you usually do to warmup before your deadlifts?” It will take you an extra 30 seconds to type, but the single-word comments are guaranteed ineffective, so why not spend the extra time?

Doing this every day is going to feel tedious, and maybe a little bit silly, but treat it like any other part of your business. Have a dedicated social media hour where all you do is comment and reply, and you’ll begin to see the results. Social media isn’t just for play, and an hour is time well spent.


2. Choose the right platform.

My personal favorite is Instagram, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. As a designer, it’s the medium that makes sense for me. But your business is different. Fitness models and apparel companies can benefit hugely from Instagram due to their brand’s visual nature. A gym will benefit most from Facebook, where members can find business hours, write reviews, and read updates (for example, if the gym needs to close due to inclement weather). Twitter is a very effective tool for trainers. Having the ability to send out fitness tips will boost your credibility and keep people coming back to read what you have to say. Twitter can be a very effective networking platform for any type of business as well. Being text based, it’s the best way to show your support for other businesses and accounts that are doing things you admire.

You can absolutely use any and all social media platforms you desire. However, if you’re not going to dedicate the time, then don’t bother even setting it up. Having a Facebook page for your business, but not using it, is actually more harmful than not having one at all. If you hop online to research a business, but you come across a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated since 2014, how does that look? Lazy, disorganized, and unprofessional.


3. Always prioritize content.

No amount of money spent on ads is going to turn horrible content into good content. So before you even think about spending money on ads, you need to be sure your content is appealing to your intended audience.

Gary Vaynerchuk said it best: “The biggest thing people don’t understand is that quality content is so important to marketing to anyone under the age of 40 right now. Anyone in that demographic discovers a business for the first time by either: (A) Google searching or (B) finding their content on social media.“

Sometimes it can take a lot of trial & error to figure out what content lands, but that’s all a part of the job. Every once in a while you’ll strike gold, but they can’t all be winners. Just keep focusing on posting about what you care about, and surely there will be others out there that care, too.


4. Have patience.

Building up a quality social media following takes time. Much like real relationships take time. If you want QUALITY followers, you have to be patient.

Keep spinning up quality content. Don’t sell out for “likes”. Useful content has no expiration, and if it’s good enough, then it will get shared as you build your audience. Your Instagram post from 6 months ago may get dug up from the grave when it gets discovered by a new fan of yours, and that share can get you new leads for your business. That’s the beauty (and sometimes scary part) of the internet- anything you create online will live forever.

If you’re feeling down at any point because you thought you just put out the greatest post of your life, remember this analogy:

Social media posts are like commercials. When you see a commercial, you don’t typically run out and buy the product right then and there. But as you see more commercials from that brand and a couple friends mention the product to you, you’re itching to go out and get it.

That’s how social media works.

Very rarely is somebody going to find your business for the very first time and immediately be converted into a customer. They must first become a fan, then they have to build up some trust, then they will become a client.

Social media can (and should be) very fun. And before you dig into me, trust me, I know that I don’t have much of a social media following. But I am aware of it, and to me at this point, that is perfectly fine. I have not yet put in the time necessary to truly build up a large following. I’m beginning to ramp it up, and I know with time I will get to where I want to be. Like I said, these things take time. Unless of course you post lots of booty selfies. I don’t do that, but it’s a surefire way to gain lots of follows from the creep community.

For me, I just want to put out content that I personally would want to see. I’m in the Web Design business, but my goodness, how horrible would it be if I used my Instagram account to post website screenshots every day? Instead, I create custom fitness-related graphics that range anywhere from stupid & ridiculous to serious and inspiring. My only criteria is that it’s something that I would be interested in if I came across it.

So what is your social media strategy?

I’d love to hear which channels you are currently using and how effective they’ve been for you!


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