In one way or another, the pandemic has driven most parts of the world online: for socializing, work, exercise, and everything in between. As a result, people are spending a record amount of time online, including 36% more time on social media.
Over 1 billion people now use Instagram every month, spending an average of 30 minutes a day on the platform. Through 2020, Instagram saw 17% user growth across Western Europe.
Consider that 64% of Instagram users are between 18 and 34 years old and with an engaged audience at this age; you can continue building your fitness studio brand for years to come.
Although building an audience of loyal followers can bring long-term benefits to your brand, it’s no easy task. More than 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile daily, so why shouldn’t yours be one of them? When it comes to your target audience, there’s definitely a strategy to ensure you’re maximizing your followers, reach, and engagement.
Here, we’ll look at 6 ways to build your fitness community on Instagram. We’ll start by looking at why you need one and 3 studios that are an excellent example of community building in action. Skip ahead to:
- Why Build an Instagram Community?
- 3 Fitness Studios With a Loyal and Engaged Community on Instagram
- How to Build a Community on Instagram
Why Build an Instagram Community?
Building an online community is one of the most valuable assets a fitness business can have. Many gyms and studios are already using Instagram for their business. But just because you’re on Instagram, it doesn’t mean that people will automatically discover your brand. With its continuous growth, the social media platform is hugely saturated. Plus, instagram’s algorithm is constantly changing; building an engaged base of followers means a better chance at maintaining engagement and discovery when these changes are happening.
Ultimately, with the right approach, you’ll be interacting with your audience and encouraging them to interact with each other. As a result, you’ll see boosted post reach, engagement, and audience loyalty.
A community is something that your audience will feel a part of; it’s meaningful connections and shared interests coming together in one place. An Instagram follower needs to feel connected to you, your members, and your brand. It’s a given that Instagram needs to factor as part of your content strategy. So how are some of the best gyms and studios building online communities?
3 Fitness Studios With a Loyal and Engaged Community on Instagram
With thousands of followers, the examples below have, in their own unique ways, managed to build a cult-like following with a highly engaged audience.
1. F45 Training
F45 is a brand built on community; trainers and members alike support one another. In their classes, you’ll find coaches giving you words of encouragement, pushing you to go further and ready with a sweaty high-five at the end. The brand captures this spirit perfectly in its Instagram with content that promotes both its members and trainers. The style of the brand’s content is what drives engagement and encourages followers to get involved.
All of 1Rebel’s Instagram content, including photos and videos, competitions, and campaigns, are conveyed through highly stylized graphics, photos, and videos. Speaking about the brand on social, Co-founder Giles Dean says, “At the heart of 1Rebel is a focus on brand and lifestyle, and social media has been key in bringing this to life.” 1Rebel’s trainers are glamorized in the posts they share, making the content appeal to its audience through aspiration. The brand also cleverly utilizes the followers that their staff have. Trainers promote 1Rebel on their personal accounts, which extends reach and drives engagement even further.
Gymbox positions itself as the alternative to ‘boring’ gyms, and this comes across clearly throughout its marketing strategy. The brand uses Instagram to promote its unique classes and events and to appeal to its target audience. With quirky images, including text-based posts and videos, Gymbox uses a fun, quirky tone of voice to make its content relevant to users.
How to Build a Community on Instagram
So, how do you attract more followers? And once you have the followers, how do you create a community? All of the brands above have one key thing in common: They’ve created something that people want to be a part of. Whether your angle is encouraging and motivating like F45, aspirational like 1Rebel, or relateable like Gymbox: to build a community on Instagram, you need to identify what niche best suits your brand and target audience, then keep this tone consistent to attract more like-minded people. Here are 6 ideas you can implement to build an Instagram community for your fitness studio.
The Top 10 Barriers Slowing Your Fitness Business Growth
1. Don’t Wait For Your Audience to Find You
Social media isn’t a one-sided monologue. While obviously, you should be running paid ads on social and sharing posts that specifically promote your business, social media is all about having a conversation, and someone needs to make the first move. So why wait for people to find you?
One of Instagram’s greatest benefits is that it’s highly likely that your potential audience is already using the platform. And maybe, they’re already posting fitness-related content – which is relevant to you and creates an opportunity for interaction.
You can find relevant users by searching for popular hashtags related to fitness, or by searching using the same hashtags that your competitors use. You can also follow hashtags, so you’re always up to date on the latest relevant content. Like and comment on related users’ fitness photos, send them a friendly direct message; anything to begin building a rapport with like-minded people who could be potential customers.
2. Engage Your Audience as Soon as Possible
An engaged follower is a happy follower: The most important part of building a strong Instagram community is engaging and interacting with your followers from the get-go. What if they’re exploring a few different online classes on Instagram by following them? Who are they more likely to feel an affinity towards – the studio that does nothing, or the studio that invites them in? Your Instagram account could be someone’s first interaction with your brand, so make it count!
3. Use Stories to Drive Engagement
A third of the most viewed stories are from businesses, and 1 in 5 organic stories receive direct messages.
Stories are a great way to engage with your audience and to show that you appreciate them taking the time to interact with you. If a member tags your studio in their Instagram story, send them a direct message, or, better yet, repost it to your own account.
Get inspired by the examples pictured above:
- F45 is engaging their audience with the ‘questions’ feature on stories, asking followers to share the goals they’ve set for their signature 8-week challenge.
- 1Rebel is promoting an offer, and the story is linked so users can swipe up straight to the checkout.
- GymBox is spreading some excitement about the latest DJ they’ll be showcasing at classes.
Make the most of stories and use them to interact with your audience, but also to provide helpful information – pin useful categories to the top of your profile as a ‘highlight.’ Think about your classes, team, virtual events, nutrition tips, and showcasing your members.
4. Work With an Instagram Influencer in Your Community
Influencers have a great deal of power when it comes to building communities. Take Gymshark, for example; the brands’ success is built entirely on influencer marketing, and it’s a strategy that every fitness business can utilize. The overwhelming popularity of Gymshark grew from using aspirational athletes, and the sense of community the brand created with them.
Finding and working with well-known fitness influencers might seem like the way forward. But when it comes to building a genuinely engaged community, there’s a more natural, authentic approach you can take.
Your existing members have the potential to be your brand ambassadors on Instagram, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking them in person. Speaking about building a network of local fitness influencers on The Fitness Founders Podcast, Stuart Brauer, founder of WTF Gym Talk has some insightful tips on keeping your influencer strategy close to home:
“Who follows Sally, who’s been a member of your gym for two years? Sally’s friends, family, and co-workers. So why don’t you make your clients your influencer? You don’t have to strike up a contract, not a deal. You invite them in for a photoshoot, give them a free shirt with your brand on it, take some amazing photos of them, give it to them for free. Give them the photos and ask that they share them whenever they want.”
5. Champion Your Community
Making your members a part of your posting strategy cis excellent for building community and making your Instagram account authentic. Plus it’s never been more important; while lockdowns are keeping people physically apart, seeing the familiar faces of other members is a great reminder that you’re all still in it together, and part of a community.
Encourage your followers to share pre and post class photos and tag your studio in them, so you can reshare them. For feed posts, it’s a good idea to have your own branded hashtag that members can use for their relevant photos. This will collect all of the user generated content associated with your studio in one place.Have trainers (with permission) round up members for a team screen shot at the end of a great live class – don’t forget to tag everyone in the post!
6. Give People a Cause to Get Behind
Nothing says community like a united cause. The above example is 1Rebel’s #RebelAgainstPlastic campaign, promoting their strict no plastics policy at all of their studios. As a part of the cause, all members can borrow refillable bottles at the beginning of their sessions and return them at the end. They’ve also partnered with @plastic_patrol to donate 10% of the profits made from selling their own bottles. Aside from the fact that this is for a great cause, there are a few key benefits for 1Rebel from this.
- Brand Image. Showing support for an issue that is relevant and important to people reflects well on the brand.
- Shareable. The cause, combined with the Instagrammable content they’ve created to reinforce the campaign, incentivizes people to share a post showing their support. Think about the neon sign at the taps, the water bottles members can purchase and the outdoor advert.
- Builds community. As we’ve already highlighted, nothing says community like a united cause.
While this is a pre-lockdown example of a fitness brand getting involved with a cause, it’s still an excellent example. The pandemic presents a new opportunity for you to bring your community together for a greater cause; think along the lines of a group fundraiser challenge.
You can easily set up a page, and link it to the charity of your choice, on a website like JustGiving. Get everyone involved with the experience from the beginning; use Instagram stories to ask for people’s suggestions on what kind of challenge they’d be up for getting involved with, and what causes they’d like to raise money for.
The key takeaway is that building a community on Instagram doesn’t happen by itself. It takes time and dedication but is very rewarding to your marketing efforts when it’s done right. As we can see from the examples highlighted, the key to success lies in the relationship you foster with your audience, how you encourage them to bond with each other, and the message you send out to prospects.
When someone joins your studio, it’s more than a place they go to workout. You’re inviting them to become a part of something bigger.