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Columns: Business Edge

The Four Social Media Apps That Rule Digital Fitness Marketing and How Best to Use Them

Kolbeck, Catherine

Author Information
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000357
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Ask anyone staring at their phone right now what they’re looking at, and chances are they’ll say they’re on social media. The social media marketing revolution continues to shape-shift as new platforms and apps mature. In the world of fitness marketing, that means a fast-paced race to recruit new members and keep the ones you have. All this can be done using some forward-thinking tactics that are dependent on the social media platform, its user demographic, and your target audiences. Here are the top four social media apps, why they are relevant to fitness membership acquisition, and how you can use them:


User Stats: Despite photo-heavy young upstarts like Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook is still king of the social media realm in the United States. More than 71% of the online population uses Facebook, and yet, the fastest-growing demographic on that platform is seniors age 55 and older.

Strategy: Because seniors exercise the majority of American purchasing power, it stands to reason that Facebook is just coming into its own in terms of brand marketing value. Keep your Facebook page current, respond quickly to interactions, schedule daily posts, and update your cover photo and profile image monthly. Posting daily is best achieved by developing a month-long content calendar and scheduling all posts once a week using a tool such as Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Buffer, or MeetEdgar. Content should strike a balance between engagement content (member highlights, staff features, group exercise additions, nutrition tips, or healthy recipes) and acquisition content (special offers, complimentary guest passes, etc.).

Best Bets: Facebook offers strong paid and organic marketing options. Recruit new members with paid carousel ads, which feature several eye-catching images to scroll through within one ad post. These direct people to a dedicated landing page on your website to measure which ads perform the best. Boost specific posts that seem to be performing well, and more people in your target audience will see them over a period you determine based on your budget. Retain current members by promoting community engagement, plus weather alerts, when appropriate.


User Stats: Instagram’s photo sharing platform is one of the best ways fitness centers can engage younger members. According to Statista, Instagram is expected to reach more than 111 million active monthly users in the United States by 2019. Worldwide, Instagram has 700 million active monthly users (compared with Facebook’s 1.33 billion).

Strategy: Because more than half of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 29 years, having an Instagram profile for your fitness center is one of the most visual ways to engage teens and millennials with your brand. Regular photo and video postings, such as sharing member testimonials or uploading a video of a well-attended group exercise class, will improve engagement with your younger members and prospects. Add club alerts to communicate with members when facilities or machines are unavailable, and post inspirational fitness quotes members can share for motivation.

Best Bets: Instagram has video capabilities your center should be using whenever possible. Cross-post to YouTube and Facebook for the greatest exposure, and share a 1-minute tour of your facility (or an exciting new feature) with your followers. Quick fitness tips with trainers also make great videos, as do before and after photos and member testimonials. Use popular hashtag campaigns such as #health, #wellness or time-based hashtags (#4thofJuly, #weekend), to reach and engage your target audience. Make sure to also provide staff incentives to encourage frequent posting.


User Stats: Twitter boasts voracious consumers of information and influencers in its ranks, but of 328 million worldwide monthly users, 79% are outside the United States. The average Twitter user is 18 to 29 years old and college educated. Although 82% of Twitter users are mobile, tweets with embedded links still get 1 billion unique site visits every month.

Strategy: Twitter is all about interactions and immediacy. There’s a whole world of Twitter etiquette you’ll need to use to best understand the Twitterverse, including characters, hashtags, and following.

Best Bets: Stay consistent with postings by using a daily content calendar, and respond quickly to mentions, follows, and retweets. Use hashtags and multimedia to get tweets in front of more users.


User Stats: Another social hub for millennials, Snapchat is a photo sharing platform with fun, interesting filters and instantaneous sharing. More than 40% of ALL 18 to 34 year olds in the United States use Snapchat or see Snaps every day, and a growing number of users are age 25 years and older.

Strategy: Depending on what the user specifies, Snaps can disappear after 1 to 10 seconds or stay in a story for up to 24 hours. Stories garner lots of replies, and with an audience of 160 million users per day viewing 10 billion videos, your fitness center needs a Snapchat presence. App developers keep coming up with new ways to enhance the platform, and a new advertising feature will insert ads into stories. Use Paperclip to allow followers to swipe and visit your web page and create custom geofilters, creative picture frames that only appear in a snap when a user is at your fitness center. Geofilters don’t need to include your logo but could incorporate your logo colors and should be fitness-themed. Consider something like a border of free weights with a caption that reads, “Getting stronger.”

Best Bets: Encourage members to share Snaps and stories of their workouts, and get trainers on board and commenting on the posts to build community. Those same tours and quick video tips your trainers produce for Instagram and YouTube can be leveraged on Snapchat.

Although all four digital marketing platforms are important, here are the three primary areas of focus:

  1. Stay in front of your audience. Digital marketing requires frequent adjustments to paid and organic campaigns. Put the right message on the right platform (at the right time of day) to reach your intended audience. Test which ads and content garner the greatest reach, response, and engagement. Frequent posting and replying to comments quickly are key to building relationships on social media.
  2. Demand action. A strong call to action is imperative. For paid Facebook carousel ads, static digital advertising, and videos, use active verbs that empower the user such as “learn more” (versus “sign up,” which indicates a commitment your target member may not be ready to make). Strong calls to action will increase the number of leads your efforts will generate.
  3. Create consistently positive experiences across all digital media. Ensure your website content, images, schedules, etc. are all up to date before you funnel sales traffic to your site. Ask others for objective feedback on your site and continually optimize so it’s as engaging as your social media content.

Whether your fitness center is a small operation handling marketing in-house or you’ve hired a team to handle your digital efforts, it’s essential to have a plan of attack before you start posting. A consistent online presence is key to a successful digital campaign. Remember to set goals that are trackable, set a budget that’s realistic, and create a content calendar to help you stay efficient and organized. Most importantly, evaluate how your current mix is helping you to meet membership goals at least monthly, and adjust as needed.

© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine.