Outdoor Trade Shows

Social media mania: IHRSA seminar discusses successful social media strategies

Many of your customers use social media. At an IHRSA seminar last month, Amanda Vogel and Steve Groves offered information on how to appeal successfully to customers via Facebook and Twitter. SNEWS brings you the breakdown.

SNEWS is on Facebook and Twitter. Your customers are on Facebook and Twitter. Are you?

Amanda Vogel, owner of Active Voice, said you should be, given that Facebook has more than 845 million members — a number projected to shoot up to 1 billion by summer 2012. About 425 million of them currently are using mobile devices to access the site. And it would behoove both gyms and specialty fitness retailers to get those social media users through their doors.

According to Vogel, people who use social media websites are more likely to go to the gym, and as SNEWS reported a few months ago, gym-goers are more likely to own home fitness equipment. So simple deduction will tell you that people who use social media are more likely to visit your stores — and spread the word if they enjoy the experience.

“What is your goal for marketing and promoting yourself using social media? That’s where it all starts in terms of helping you understand what your strategies are going to be,” Vogel said. Before determining goals, consider the top reasons business owners turn to Facebook:

  • To create greater awareness of the business
  • To get people to talk about the business
  • To find out what customers (fans and followers) are talking about and what resonates with them
  • To build customer loyalty

Customers and brands used to engage in one-sided interactions online. Customers would search for a product, go to its manufacturer’s or a retailer’s website and read content developed by a particular brand. Though customers still do that, Vogel said, social media brings the conversation to a new level.

Communication now tends to be customer- or member-driven. It’s not just the brand disseminating their message, now consumers are sharing their experience with your company.

“One of the great things about Facebook is it tends to facilitate things like recommendations, comments, shares … and liking things,” Vogel said. “People like sharing what they like.”

Maximize Facebook Time

Vogel explained that there are three types of pages on Facebook: personal profiles (which are private), group pages (private or public) and fan pages (public). For your business to get a fan page, which Vogel recommends, someone at your establishment must set it up through a personal profile.

Vogel said many businesses have both group and fan pages. She suggests using group pages to advertise specific events like charity events. Or, she said, one could have a private group page for staff to communicate with one another.

Fan pages, on the other hand, are for business branding, marketing and engaging with your customers. When in doubt, she said, go for a fan page. 

How to make the most of it? Vogel’s tips:

  • Comment and “like” other pages from your account.
  • “Pin” things you post, so they stay at the top of the fan page for a certain period of time.
  • Use your page to gauge growth and the demographics of your fans.
  • Ask questions and use photos in your posts to engage fans.
  • Put Facebook Social Plug-ins on your website, or promote it in newsletters or on your business cards. 
  • Give people a reason to like your page, i.e. offer specials driven specifically through Facebook, exclusive exercise tips and discounts fans will only know about if they like your page.
  • Check your EdgeRank score, which Facebook uses to decide which items will get exposure in user’s Newsfeeds. EdgeRank has three components: affinity (how often fans interact with you), weight (the weight of your posts; photos with links have more weight, for example) and time (shelf life of most posts is 24 hours).

Vogel said it’s up to you to experiment with exactly works best. Most of these principles work with Twitter as well.

Twitter Tips

Steve Groves, vice president and CIO of Good Life Fitness Clubs in Canada, also known as “Twitter Boy,” gave attendees tips on how to maximize Twitter time.

Groves said many people think Twitter is tougher to navigate than Facebook, but claimed it’s actually simpler. Twitter, he noted, is public (unless you protect your tweets).

“In its simplest form, [it] is nothing more than a way for people to share information in 140 characters or less,” Groves said, adding that the character limit exists because the program originally was designed to be used on cell phones.

Groves explained that business owners should monitor what is being said about them on Twitter and promptly respond to it in the Twitterverse, then resolve the issue in private.

Plus, Groves said, companies would benefit from encouraging customers to play FourSquare, a game in which users check in on their phones and earn points when they arrive at a location. They connect with friends and keep up running competitions for points. Claim your location on FourSquare to create “specials” for the game, which let you design incentives to encourage customers to stop by.

–Ana Trujillo