The power of an online community and its impact on your personal trainer business is extremely high. Building a solid online community adds to your credibility, while also helping you attract new customers. This is especially true for fitness businesses that thrive on customer recommendations and online reviews.
Demand Metric's Online Community Benchmark Study from 2014 showed that 75% of large organisations already maintained an online community around their brand back then, as opposed to 40% of small companies.
Inversoft went a little further and put together a comprehensive infographic on how branded online communities can help your fitness business by improving ROI, reducing marketing costs and increasing brand awareness.
Setting up a Facebook Group is not enough though. Engagement is the key to keeping your community of followers interested and loyal. Here are 6 easy ways to keep your community engaged so it can grow organically into one of your business' best assets over a longer period of time.
1. Foster a Community Culture That’s Unique to You
Take the example of the online community built by Nike+ Run Club. NRC offers an open space via an app for runners at all levels of fitness, to interact with each other, learn from professionals and seek advice from experienced coaches. The community is non-judgmental and highly-inclusive, creating a culture that’s based on the belief that ‘anyone can start running at any time’. This is what makes NRC tick.
As a personal trainer, you can create your community based on a specific culture or niche. This culture should reflect your beliefs and principles. Remember, members respond to a community’s integral belief system and the culture you create will be a magnet for attracting and retaining members.
Patrick Umphrey has done an amazing job building Eat, Train, Progress on Facebook that it has 15k+ members now. The group practically runs itself and provides leads for his online coaching business that was born out of that community. He decided to hire My Personal Trainer Website to design his online coaching website once he felt that was the next step in his online marketing strategy.
2. Offer Personalized Support to Members
The most successful online communities are those that listen to their member’s problems and offer instantaneous support. A great way to keep your members with you is to offer personalized assistance.
Set up discussion forums and FAQ pages. Allow members to post queries either through direct message or on community boards and spend time answering their questions. Have a conversation with the member and personalize your support to suit their requirements.
Facebook is not the only platform you can use. You can give members access to tools and technology to foster communication based on their preferences. Today, you have many software and tools like GetSatisfaction and UserEcho that you can incorporate to serve your members.
3. Enlist the Services of Experienced Community Managers
As a trainer, you may not have the time for the maintenance and upkeep of your online community. In these cases, it’s good to have dedicated community managers to keep an eye on your online community and bring any important questions to your attention.
The community manager can take care of everything from publishing content to providing backend support to members, depending on how many tasks you would like to outsource.
It’s important to choose someone who is just as passionate about your fitness business and supporting your tribe as yourself and who can add value to your members.
You'll more than likely find a willing and awesome community manager among your list of clients.
4. Integrate New Members into the Community from Day 1
The first experience a new member has with a community will color the relationship between the community and member for the rest of the association. This is why it’s important to engage new members immediately, upon joining.
As good practice, send across a welcome mail or a newsletter, introducing the new member to the culture of the community. Provide tricks on navigating the community and tips to getting the best out of the association. You can even send across games, surveys and quizzes to understand your new member and then custom-curate content which he/she will enjoy.
If you are running a Facebook Group, it's a good idea to welcome your newcomers regularly, tagging them in the post, giving them directions and encouragement on how they can get the best out of their group membership.
Another way of making sure they understand the dynamics of the group is to create a pinned post with the main principles, rules and contact details of the community manager(s) in case they have any questions.
On our PT Business & Marketing Academy group we welcome our new members on a weekly basis and the pinned post directs them to a Business Health Check tool and provides them with my contact details if there are any questions.
5. Use the help of moderators to involve members
Research by Needle shows 84% of customers feel comfortable asking questions and seeking clarifications from brand advocates on online communities than speaking to customer representatives and salesmen from the company.
This is where community moderators come into play. Moderators are existing community members, who’ve been in the community for long and are extremely knowledgeable about community rules, culture, behavior and more. They are often brand advocates and can help you find prospects for your business.
They are one of the best ways to engage members, as they can act as buddies and help ease the members into the community. They can show members around your site and help them with any query they have. They can also help maintain decorum within the community by keeping an eye out for inappropriate posts or community regulation violations.
Using moderators will increase your community’s credibility and image; as it will position your community as a thought-leader, as opposed to a promotional platform.
6. Encourage Community Members to Contribute Content and Feedback
Whether you’re starting a discussion or creating fitness challenges, it’s important to involve your members every step of the way. One way you could do this is by encouraging members to provide feedback after every challenge or activity you launch on the community. This way you’ll know whether your members enjoy these activities or not and if they find it difficult or easy to complete.
Another great way to encourage member involvement is to ask them suggestions for content. If your members want to learn about healthy diets, curate content related to nutrition and fitness. Ask your members to suggest content which can be helpful to other members. Encourage them to introduce new topics of conversation on the community.
You can also help members get in touch with other communities that they’re interested in. Let’s say the Fitbit community has a great article on ‘tricks to improve user experience using the tracker’. Sharing the article on your community is a great way to add value to your members.Many members on your community may use the Fitbit trackers and may find this article very helpful.
Remember, the more useful information your members find on your community, the more value they associate with your business and the better you establish yourself as the expert in the field. This means when they will be ready to buy, you will be the trainer on top of their mind.
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