Social media marketing is the channel for connecting with your brand. Creating a strong profile on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube and blogs should be on the "must do" list for every health club.

A strategic social media marketing plan is an invaluable tool for driving brand awareness, customer loyalty and increased revenue. An added bonus to engaging in social media marketing is the positive effect this has on search engine optimization (SEO) efforts as well. Combining SEO strategies with a comprehensive social media campaign increases the success rate for both.

As a health club professional with more than 37 years of experience owning health clubs and consulting for health club owners and operators throughout the country and most recently starting a Baseball Instruction Academy, I have noticed that marketing in the past five years has turned upside down. Not only have the preferred mediums for advertising and marketing shifted, but the attitude towards marketability also has evolved with it.

You may already know that social media is an essential component to getting your club noticed. It is similar to the rush in the 1990s to creating a website. Unfortunately, many health clubs have stumbled and failed to see social media for what it truly is. They see it as a tool that may or may not allow them to achieve the goals of their marketing plan.

But social media is not a magic potion. The key to success in social media is buried right in the term itself: Be social. We have long understood the importance of getting people to interact in our fitness facilities. Social media marketing simply expands the four walls of the club and enables club operators to reach their entire trading market.

Before you do anything more with social media, I suggest that you analyze your current social media marketing plan to see if it allows you to accomplish your short- and long-term goals and if it includes the following points:

  1. Share first-rate subject matter often. Not only do you need to share great content, but you also need to become known for great content. Social media is the perfect platform for this.
  2. Connect, engage and associate. Everything depends on your presence on the social web. Join in on conversations in which you or your staff can share an opinion with your target market. Every conversation refreshes your health club in the consumer's mind.
  3. What goes around comes around. Create powerful bonds with other "like" social media users by retweeting, engaging and sharing their posts. Doing so is an unspoken expectation on social networks as the appeal is being social. When you do share, people will often reciprocate, which essentially promotes you to their followers. It is the ultimate compliment in social media.

Six Content Writing Tips for Your Social Media Strategy

What exactly should you write when it comes to social media? Here are six tips:

  1. Write about topics you are passionate about. Add as much personality and creative spice to your Facebook page as possible. Be sure to jazz things up with new content. If you do not, users will grow bored of your page, and their attention will turn off like a switch. When you write with passion, people will easily connect to your posts. Use photos and videos as much as possible. By attaching a relevant photo along with your post, you are more likely to catch the attention of your fans because visuals are attractive to people and help cut through the noise on Facebook. In-house YouTube clips are extra special additions. Members love to see themselves in videos, and new visitors to your site will share their enthusiasm.
  2. Offer a well-written and kind post or blog. Use proper grammar and spell check. Know your audience so you can speak to your membership profile. Speak kindly to your audience.
  3. Keep it simple. Keep on point. Pay attention to your favorite blogs that you read the entire way through. If you write lengthy paragraphs, no one will read them.
  4. Make sharing easy. Include share buttons on your blogs so that people can post your articles to their Facebook, Twitter accounts and all other popular social networks. If you say something inspiring or newsworthy, you want to make it as easy as possible for your readers to be able to share that content in less than three seconds. Comment on other people's pages and "like" others' posts and pictures.
  5. Respond to everyone's replies and comments on your wall. This tip is especially important with member questions, concerns and recommendations. Do not have a long, drawn-out conversation about class schedule on your Facebook page unless it is heading into a positive direction.
  6. End with a call to action. You can tell members that training with a certified trainer will increase chances of gaining desired results, but if the point of the message is to provoke action (purchase a personal training package), then give them a link to make a purchase online.

Social media marketing is growing, and it will continue to grow and be a part of the health and fitness business world with or without you. The competition is growing and with it the need to stay one step ahead.

Social media marketing should be an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. Don't ignore its power, and don't get left behind.

Some Social Media Links and Facts

  • Read about the social media approaches that Equinox, Under Armour, Lululemon, Zumba and Crunch Gym are using and what makes them successful.
  • Facebook links posted from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST result in the highest average click-through, according to Bitly.
  • Twitter posts from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST Monday through Thursday get the highest average click-throughs, according to Bitly.
  • Business to consumer Facebook interaction is 30 percent higher than average on Sundays, according to Mindjumpers, a community management company.
  • Facebook is the leading source of referred social media traffic to websites at 26 percent.
  • Facebook is the most important social media lead generation tool for B2C marketers (77 percent saying they had acquired a customer through Facebook, compared to 60 percent for a company blog). LinkedIn is the most effective for B2B marketers, with 65 percent having acquired a customer through the professional network, followed by company blogs (60 percent), Facebook (43 percent) and Twitter (40 percent), according to numbers on the website Marketingcharts.com.

Tony Santomauro is owner and president of The Santomauro Group, a health, fitness, martial arts, sports consulting and marketing company. Santomauro, a 37-year health and fitness veteran, was co-founder and former president of CAN DO Fitness Clubs in New Jersey for 12 years. He has extensive direct/corporate sales and marketing experience as well as expertise in advertising, public relations, social media marketing, special events, club brokerage and coaching. He is an internationally certified Kukkiwon black belt. He can be contacted at tonysantomauro@thesantomaurogroup.com or 973-396-2100.