How Fitness Operators Can Leverage Social Media to Drive Engagement at Events
Social Media - the vast majority of us spend so much of our lives on these platforms whether it’s for business or for pleasure, they are unavoidable in today's digital landscape. Unavoidable as they are, knowing how to effectively leverage them to support and grow your business is key.
When it comes to fitness operators, you have the opportunity to turn said ‘unavoidable’ into the ‘indispensable’ particularly when it comes to harnessing the power of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter - that’s where your members hang out after all. Use them to inform members about new classes and services, promote a new facility or even create buzz around events that you may be hosting or attending.
Why host events?
There are a whole host of benefits to hosting ‘in house’ events at your fitness facility. Some of the main ones are highlighted below:
Fosters a Sense of Community
This allows members to share experiences, build bonds and ultimately strengthen their connection and loyalty to your facility, resulting in more predictable member retention.
Motivation & Engagement
Can create a sense of excitement among members, and reinvigorate members who were becoming inactive and at risk of churning. Do not underestimate the power of FOMO!
This allows you to set yourself apart from competitors by showcasing your unique knowledge or unique selling points. If you have a PT who is also a trained nutritionist, then host a ‘nutrition for fitness competition’ seminar, or if you have an in house physio, host a ‘injury prevention’ workshop.
Events are excellent marketing opportunities, promotion through various channels can attract both existing and potential new members. Well run events are a gold mine of opportunity when it comes to word-of-mouth promotion.
Not always the case, or the primary goal of your event, but more specialized, or larger events can be monetized. Charging an entry or participation fee and can act as another revenue generator for your facility.
Expanding on fostering a sense of community - hosting events that clearly benefit your members, paid participation or otherwise, shows your gym community that you are always thinking about them and how to impact their lifestyles for the better. If your event has been planned with NPS surveys results in mind, this also shows members that you are listening and you take their feedback seriously. Making your members feel valued and heard is absolutely critical if you want them to stick around. Retaining members is more cost effective than trying to acquire new ones after all!
In this article, we guide you through a step-by-step process of how you can efficiently leverage social media to drive interest and engagement with your events.
Step 1: Establish a Strong Social Media Presence
Before diving into event promotion, it's essential to have a strong social media presence on the platforms most relevant to your gym’s current community and prospect audience. Find a high level overview of the most popular platforms below, and assess which might work best for you:
Facebook key features: Diverse user base, ability to run targeted ads with excellent targeting capabilities, can create ‘Facebook Events’ to promote any events your facility is hosting, Facebook Reviews can strengthen your brand credibility
Instagram key features: Younger user base, visual platform which is good for engagement, functionality includes grid, stories, lives catering for a range of content types, opportunity for collaborations with industry influencers
YouTube key features: Huge diverse user base, hunger for fitness content, ability to showcase facilities and demonstrate expertise in video form, can collaborate with other fitness accounts, ability to monetize through paid ads
X (Twitter) key features: Diverse user base, good for sharing news updates and keeping track of trending topics, ability to repost and engage in public chats on relevant content, Twitter polls functionality which is good for engagement with audience
TikTok key features: Young user base, ability to take part in popular ‘Tik Tok Challenges’ and trends, can ‘go viral’ relatively easily, large appetite for fitness content, ability to ‘duet’ with industry content creators
Create profiles on the platforms that are popular among your target audience, ensuring that your brand speaks to your audience where they frequent. This will allow your brand voice to shine and show your audience that you understand them at a social level. Be informative, smart, and educational in your content, providing value without asking for anything in return will build credibility and trust in your brand.
Step 2: Create Compelling Content
Engaging content is the key to grabbing and retaining the attention of your social media followers. Depending on your audience and the platform you are posting to, this could take the form of:
Educational articles and relevant blog posts (Facebook)
Relevant company or industry news (X)
Informative videos on how to use equipment or facility tours (YouTube)
Inspirational quotes (Instagram)
Customer Testimonials (Facebook/Instagram)
Engaging short videos & collaborations with industry influencers and experts (Instagram/Tik Tok)
Live content from events (Instagram)
Remember to incorporate relevant keywords such as "new gym facilities", "Chicago gym event" or “free family day pass” to optimize your content for search engines. An AI powered content generator can be a real time saver when it comes to this side of things.
Step 3: Set Your Event Objectives
Setting objectives before organizing an event at your gym is a crucial step that helps provide direction, focus, and a clear purpose for what you want to achieve from the event. Is it more new members? More engaged current members? More awareness of your facility in your local area?
Above all, you need to ensure that the event will be of benefit to the people who will be attending. Persona based sequencing can be a helpful tool here, especially if there is a particular demographic you are hoping to attract to a specific event.
Defining what you hope to achieve will help inform every decision you make going forward and more importantly, will ensure that every decision is taking you in the direction you want to go. Make sure your objectives are SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Step 4: Plan Event-Specific Content
To build anticipation and generate excitement, create event-specific content in the weeks leading up to the event. This could include a promotional video of a last year's event (if an annual occurrence), sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with members and personal trainers, or even testimonials from past attendees.
Start planning 4 - 6 weeks ahead of the event, and get a robust plan in place detailing what kind of content you want going out over each channel. Ensure that you have adequate time to prepare any visual assets, copy, and member interviews. Trust us, when it comes time for ‘boots on the ground’ prep of your facility, you will want to ensure that the social media promotion side of things has been covered!
Using targeted keywords in your event-specific content will help potential attendees find your event when searching online. This is particularly useful if your event is part of your acquisition strategy and you want more than just your current social media followers to discover that a) it is happening and b) what’s in it for them.
Step 5: Utilize Tagging, Event-Specific Hashtags & Encourage UGC
Tag, tag and tag some more. The impact of tagging individuals, organizations, and venues cannot be understated when it comes to social media. This will considerably widen your reach and improve your engagement. Make sure that your page is set to public so tagged individuals can share with their own network.
Tagging is a great opportunity to big up your most loyal members. It serves not only to give them some recognition for their continued support, but also enables them to act as ambassadors or champions for your club. Influential members are more likely to spread the word about your event if you’ve done the hard work for them - tagging them alerts them to the post’s presence and gives them a promotional asset they can easily share with their own networks.
Creating event-specific hashtags is a great way to track and aggregate social media posts related to your event. Promote these hashtags across all your platforms and encourage attendees and participants to use them when posting about the event. This not only helps with social media engagement but also allows you to easily find and engage with attendees before, during, and after the event.
User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool for boosting engagement around events, and also has the added benefit of building a sense of community among members/attendees. Encourage event attendees to share their experiences on social media using specific event hashtags and tagging your facility e.g. #GirlsWhoLiftEvent2024 #SpartanMembersDay24
Showcase the best UGC on your own platforms, tagging and crediting the contributors. This will not only foster a sense of belonging among members,making them feel valued. Better yet, shining a spotlight on your valued members is a type of social proof you can use to attract new tours and trials for your gym, driving up those all important gym sales and new member sign ups.
Step 6: Leverage Influencers and Partnerships
Collaborating with influencers and forming partnerships with relevant organizations can greatly amplify the reach of your event. It is well worth your time identifying any fitness influencers and local businesses or organizations that align with your brand's values and target audience.
Micro - influencers (10k - 100k followers) in particular can be a great asset to get involved with your event, as micro-influencers tend to have a more engaged, niche following (Sprout Social, 2023), and generally their fees are a lot less than Celebrity or ‘Mega’ influencers - allowing you to keep an eye on the event budget for other important things (like an ice cream van).
Engage them in the promotion of your event through sponsored posts, giveaways, or content collaborations. This will help you tap into their loyal follower base and expand your event's exposure. Invite them along to the event itself, and get them to post live content from your facility. You kill two birds with one stone as you get to showcase your facility to anyone who hasn’t managed to attend, and you have the endorsement of someone who has the attention of your target audience.
Step 7: Run Social Media Contests and Giveaways
Everyone loves a freebie! Running social media contests and giveaways can create a buzz around your event and elevate engagement. Potential prizes might be:
Your club or gym’s merch
A free event pass
A free month’s membership
A free PT session
A free wearable device (such as a Myzone or a Whoop)
Whatever you decide to go with, make it easy for participants to enter the contest or giveaway by following, liking, sharing, or commenting on your social media posts. Make sure the instructions are clear when detailing what is required to enter. You also need to ensure your competition is inline with the competition rules of your chosen platform - Facebook competition rules, X (Twitter) competition rules, Instagram competition rules.
This doesn’t have to be a pre-event activity. You can also run a competition during the event that encourages social media activity. This could be a ‘spin the wheel’ and if attendees post a video of themselves spinning the wheel and tag your facility, they could double their prize. Or a ‘best action shot’ picture competition (works well for a competition-style event) where again, attendees post to their own social media and tag your facility to enter.
The options here only end where your imagination does, so get creative and don’t be afraid to try something completely off the wall! If it is something people haven’t seen or done before, they will be more likely to participate. This will not only increase engagement around the event, but also help expand your social media following.
Step 8: Go Live on Social Media
Streaming live footage of the event on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can create a sense of urgency and exclusivity.
Share snippets of what is going on, interviews, and highlights of your event. This allows people who couldn't attend in person to experience the event virtually while generating FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) for future events. This feeds into the psychological phenomenon of ‘loss aversion’
If you have a grand finale or a particularly funny element planned for your event, make sure you save the ‘go live’ until then! You want everyone who didn’t make it to wish they were there with you!
Step 9: Monitor and Analyze Results
Lastly, it's important to continuously monitor and analyze your social media efforts to determine what works and what doesn't. Keep an eye on metrics like impressions, engagement rates, likes, social media reach, and website traffic originating from social media. This data will help you refine your future strategies and make informed decisions for maximizing engagement at your events. If something didn’t work well - that’s ok! You have learned to adapt that strategy going forward.
In conclusion, social media is an extremely powerful tool for fitness operators to drive engagement at events. If you fail to utilize these channels, then you are not giving your event its best chance at success. Remember to give yourself that 4 - 6 week planning window in order to achieve the best results, and stay true to your brand throughout.
Stay active, stay connected, and get ready to amplify your event by embracing social media!