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Social media has become one of the dominant communications platforms of the modern era.

More than 80 per cent of Australians and New Zealanders use at least one social media platform regularly to keep in touch with family and friends, for entertainment, and as a source of information – including about recreation and fitness facilities in their area.

The upshot is that if you want to get your message out there and engage with members and potential customers, you’ve got to be there.

It’s a case of “fish where the fish are”, but doing social media well requires some thought. The landscape is constantly changing, and what worked last year may not be quite as effective in 2022.

To help you make the most of your social media efforts, we’ve put our heads together and come up with a few tips to keep in mind in the year ahead.

Get your platform right

Choosing the social media platforms you will be active on is the first big decision you need to make. There are many options, each with subtle differences when it comes to the kinds of content they are best suited to and the primary audience they reach.

In Australia and New Zealand, the big three for any leisure centre or fitness club to consider are Facebook, Instagram and new kid on the block TikTok. These three are well used and ideal for reaching out to everyday members of the public. They are also highly visual, making them a good fit for an industry like leisure and fitness which generates plenty of engaging visual imagery that can be used for promotional purposes.

In some cases Pinterest may also be worth your time, but Twitter (text based with a larger following in the USA than in Australia or New Zealand) and LinkedIn (best suited for personal branding and business to business marketing rather than reaching members of the public looking for recreation and fitness opportunities) might not make the cut.

Keep in mind that whichever platforms you choose, you will want to make sure you have the resource in place to service them. There’s nothing worse than looking at a business’ social media accounts and seeing the last post was from a few months ago. You are better to pick one or two social media platforms, and do them well, then to open accounts on all social media platforms and spread yourself too thin.

Make sure you have permissions from customers

Remember how we said earlier that the leisure and fitness industry is fertile ground for high quality visuals that can be used for promotional purposes? It’s absolutely true, but it only works if you have the permission of those you are photographing or videoing.

After all, you don’t want to get your visitors and members offside by sharing a photo they aren’t comfortable with or weren’t expecting to see broadcast to the world.

Do make the most of those happy faces, brilliant visuals and amazing stories your leisure and fitness business creates, but make sure you have the permission of the people you have photographed or filmed before you use their images online.

For members, you can lay the groundwork for this when they sign up by adding a permission request or clause in their membership agreement relating to the use of images taken on site for promotional purposes.

It’s also a good idea to give people a heads-up at the time you are you photographing or video them to let them know what you are doing and how you are planning to use the imagery – especially if they are likely to be the primary focus of the image, rather than lost amongst the crowd of a group shot.

Know your brand, and make it shine

Your brand should shine through in the tone, imagery and messaging you use in your social media posts, just as it should in the way you do business day to day.

If your business is a premium health club, you will want to consider showcasing the high quality equipment, clean and aesthetically attractive setting, and professional service members can expect when enjoying your facility. If your facility competes on accessibility, inclusiveness and affordability, the images you post might reflect the range of people who visit your facility to demonstrate that everyone is welcome regardless of age, body shape, ethnicity, gender or wealth.

Ideally your brand and social media posts will also clearly articulate the points of difference your facility provides, whether it’s the way you do business, your location, the courses and equipment you offer, or something else. Make sure these key differentiators shine through.

Don’t forget the special offers and competitions

Two of the most powerful ways to build a social media following are special offers and competitions.

Special offers can be a great drawcard and a reason for people to keep checking back in with your page, especially if they are desirable (a 5% discount is unlikely to cut it). Likewise, competitions with a giveaway for lucky winners are popular and can provide an opportunity to get a whole lot of people following your page and tagging their friends, which is great for increasing your reach and raising awareness.

One word of warning. Social media platforms do have some rules when it comes to competitions and it’s important to stick to these to avoid getting a strike against your name (which can lead to a ban or account suspension down the track).

The past year has also seen an increase in the number of scammers approaching people who have entered competitions on social media and announcing they have won in an effort to obtain their private information or bank details.

Don’t let this discourage you from running competitions, but it’s worth adding a few words of advice on the posts you use to promote them to make it clear to entrants that any contact will be from your official account page and that you will never ask for their bank or card details.

Build a community

Last, but definitely not least, doing social media well will almost always involve building a community.

In the social sphere people often resonate with accounts that feel human, help them solve everyday problems, and that go out of their way to foster two-way conversation (the clue is in the name – social media).

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to mix posts about special deals or new products with posts asking questions, seeking engagement, or adding value for facility members. Why not share a weekly workout tips and advice post, or perhaps a bonus workout plan video – free of charge. How about profiles of members or shout-outs to teams doing well in your recreational leagues or people succeeding in their recreational goals.

If you want to connect members and keep the conversation going, the Groups functionality on Facebook can be set up for different courses you run, or for people making use of different parts of your facility.

You are only limited by your imagination.

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