You know what you’re talking about, you’re passionate about people, and you have something special to offer. Where should you put it? Instagram, of course.

Social media is a must-have when it comes to marketing yourself. But in a market that seems saturated by coaches and trainers, it can be discouraging. The good news: Every account starts with zero followers.

Use these do’s and don’ts to set yourself apart and bring in a captive audience.

Do find your niche.
What’s your niche? It could be who you train, what you’re passionate about, how you educate others, artistic image quality, or even lifestyle tips.

Maybe you specialize in youth training, a sought-after training market. Be the expert in that. The great thing about having your Instagram centered around youth training is that you have parents of youth athletes following you as well as athletes. A survey from NORC at the University of Chicago found that 76 percent of American teens age 13-17 use Instagram. Chances are if they follow you, they’re running to their parents begging them to let them train with you.

And you don’t have to be exclusively passionate about fitness. Zanna Vandijk, an adidas global ambassador and trainer with over 200,000 followers, talks a lot about sustainability. “I get messages on a daily basis from people who are making changes to their lifestyle to reduce plastic use, reduce animal product consumption, and more,” said Vandijk. These are some of her favorite messages. It’s like sports fans telling athletes to just “stick to sports” or “shut up and dribble.” Don’t listen. You’re more than just a coach. Feel free to explore that as a part of your social media strategy.

Engage with your followers. It’s called a social network for a reason.

It's important to market fitness as a lifestyle rather than a quick fix before a vacation.

Do engage with your followers authentically.
The days of posting content and letting your comments sit unanswered are over. It’s a great push for brands and businesses (gyms and coaches included) to keep on top of customer service. It’s called a social network for a reason.

And your strategy can be simple. For example, ask a question in your caption. This is a win-win. You can ask a question you genuinely want feedback on or to learn more about your followers, and they’ll feel like you want to hear from them. Or take a poll on your Instagram Story. It’s a fun, easy way to engage with your followers without having to do a lot of responding. Post the final results and clue them in on why you were asking the question.

Another great Instagram Story option: the new interactive questions sticker. This feature allows you to answer follower questions and repost them. The person who asks the question stays anonymous when you post it, and the hope is that your other followers are interested in your answers.

“Your followers could be following anyone under the sun, but they’re choosing to follow you. Treat them kindly, answer their questions, help them feel heard and understood, and be good to them and they’ll stick around forever,” says Molly Galbraith, owner of Girls Gone Strong, who has 60,000 followers on her brand page.

Do show how you live the lifestyle.
Lead by example. If you preach about nutrition and how crucial it is to living a healthy life, show recipes and meals that you’ve prepped. If you’re like Vandijk and you strive to reduce and clean up plastic waste, ask others to come join you at a beach cleanup.

Don’t collaborate with brands that don’t fit.
Let’s talk about posts for monetary value. This also falls under the category of not posting just to post, even if it’s for money. The goal is to collaborate with a loved brand of yours and get additional exposure. Ultimately, both parties will gain from this. You promote their brand, they have user-generated content, you’re posted to their page, and, depending on the agreement, you could also be paid for your contribution.

What’s most important in this partnership is believing in what you’re promoting. When you do that, the testimonial won’t feel forced and your followers won’t see #ad written all over it but rather just a hashtag at the end of a genuine caption. “Everything I do has to feel authentic to me or I won’t do it,” said Molly Galbraith. That’s a good mantra to live and post by.

Do focus on more than just aesthetics.
While aesthetics are a great perk to being active and living a healthy lifestyle, it’s far from the be-all and end-all. That’s why it’s important to market fitness as a lifestyle rather than a quick fix before a vacation.

“Ninety percent of our clients are females who feel safe training in our facility because we understand everyone has their own abilities, and our job is to help enhance their training experience safely and effectively every day.” said Vincent Wong, owner of ION Training. “We encourage this by using a dialogue, which is never based around aesthetics. Instead, we focus on what their body can do and the positive process associated with it.”

Don’t post just to post.
While consistency is crucial for staying top of mind, don’t post just because you feel like you’re behind a day. Quality over quantity, always. With the Instagram algorithms, content that receives the most likes and comments climbs to the top of the timeline because Instagram feels it has resonated with your audience.

If you preach about nutrition and how crucial it is to living a healthy life, show recipes and meals that you’ve prepped.
You’re more than just a coach. Feel free to explore that as a part of your social media strategy.
A blend of videos and images of clients in action can help keep your account from being all about you.

While consistency is crucial for staying top of mind, don’t post just because you feel like you’re behind a day. Quality over quantity, always.

Do target the right audience.
You don’t need just anybody following you. It’s engaged followers that matter most. So how can you target them? Start with hashtags. If you’re in the fitness industry, you’ve seen the hashtag #BBG, which is Kayla Itsines’ community hashtag that’s been used over 7 million times. Try creating one for your brand but also use popular hashtags that reach your target audience.

You can also use paid campaigns. The most common promotions are ads about services or products you offer, which can be very effective if you have an attention-grabbing creative asset and a caption to reel them in. Or you may want to “boost” a post from your page that just allows your audience to see who and what your brand is about. If you let that audience get to know you first, you could have a better chance at selling them on something down the road.

Don’t buy followers.
This isn’t just a don’t, it’s a don’t even think about it. It’s really obvious when people buy followers. You know the accounts: thousands of followers and very little engagement on their posts. As we mentioned above, you really only want followers that engage with you. Don’t get me wrong, there is value in creating a national (or even international) following outside of people who can directly come train with you. And this could bring more opportunities down the road or lead to collaborations with your favorite brand as an influencer. But don’t fake it. Earn those followers and collaborations.

Don’t make your page all about you.
You’re unique and your followers really like you, but if there’s one takeaway from Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” it’s that you can’t connect with others if you solely talk about yourself. As he says, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” It’s true in real life and translates to social media.

Mix up your content by posting videos and images of your clients in action (check out ION Training) or their transformations (see Kayla Itsines). Share quick, at-home workouts, especially with video, motivating quotes (love this post from Girls Gone Strong), and educational images or videos like this from our coach Joel Sanders.

Now that you know what to do and what not to do, embrace the challenge of social media and go show your potential and current clients all you have to offer.

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