// How do PTs use social media to grow their business?

Business consultant Heather Smith talks to Jen Brown of Sparta Personal Training in Penrith, NSW to discover how online and social media have benefited her fitness business.

Can you tell me a little about your personal training business?

I am the owner of Sparta Personal Training based in Penrith, NSW. I have been a lawyer for 13 years, but established Sparta at the end of 2010 as part of a career change. Sparta’s focus on sports performance and injury prevention comes from my own experience participating in endurance events as well as bush walking and mountaineering.

When did you start using social media platforms?

I commenced trading in January 2011. Given the extent to which social media is used these days and the nature of my target market, I decided to make it an integral part of my business and to focus all my sales and marketing through social media. So, in early February 2011, I launched a website for the business as well as a Facebook page and Twitter account.

More recently I have started using my personal LinkedIn profile that I established some time ago but never fully utilised, as well as a LinkedIn company profile for Sparta.

How do you use social media?

As a start-up business, creating brand awareness – getting my name out into my target market – and developing a reputation as someone who is trustworthy, reliable and knowledgeable is critical. In fact, these things are critical for all personal trainers, regardless of how long you have been operating, as prospective clients need to form a positive opinion of you before they trust you enough to train with you. I have found social media to be a very effective means of achieving this.

My website contains information about my business and the services I offer. In addition, I regularly post new articles (every seven to 10 days) about topics that are relevant to my target market and their interests. I feel that article marketing is a fantastic way to build a reputation as a trustworthy and knowledgeable source of useful and practical information that can help people achieve their goals.

My Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts have a 'broader' purpose. I use them to promote the articles I publish on my blog. I also distribute other interesting information, articles or videos I source from elsewhere on the internet, and ask questions to engage readers in discussion. Being in business is essentially about having conversations, creating relationships and being trusted. Social media allows me to achieve all these things in a timely and very cost effective manner.

What opportunities have arisen from using social media?

Although I have only been using social media in my business for a short period of time, it has presented the opportunity to write for overseas websites, and I’ve made some great contacts who have assisted me with everything from business planning and website design to sales and marketing for the business. My business would not be where it is today without the assistance of the people I have met through social media.

How do you measure the success of social media?

As my business is still in a 'start-up' phase, my primary goals are to build awareness within my target market, start conversations and engage with people as well as build a reputation as a reliable source of valuable information.

For this reason, I measure the success of social media not through the number of new clients I obtain but through the number of conversations and connections I have with people. For example, on a weekly basis I measure the number of:

  • people commenting on the website (first time vs regulars)
  • unique visitors to the website
  • returning visitors to the website
  • new 'likes' on the Facebook page
  • new commentators on the Facebook page.

Doing this also gives me feedback about how well received the material I post on my social media accounts has been to those reading it.

What top social media tip do you have for other personal trainers?

My top social media tips for other personal trainers would be;

  • ‘Just do it'. The sooner you start, the sooner you can start spreading the word about your business.
  • Get a website for your business – and don't wait until it is perfect before publishing it. It will never be perfect. My website is very much a work in progress, but the sooner it is published, the sooner you can start using your other social media channels to promote your business.
  • Ensure that what you post on your social media accounts is relevant to your target market. It is very easy to get distracted by the amount of information available and post information which, although of interest to you, may not be interesting for your target market. The challenge is to keep your clients engaged and interested in you and your business.

Have you had any social media disasters?

Is LinkedIn useful for PTs?

LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is the number one social media platform for white collared professionals today. So what exactly is it? In very simple terms, LinkedIn is an online resume, though scratch a bit deeper and it is a platform for demonstrating expertise, connecting with an online network and a source of raw possibilities. As of March 2011, LinkedIn reported more than 100 million registered users. Whether you are a business owner or employee, LinkedIn should be a part of your digital real estate and your online social presence.

As a certified personal trainer, you can use your LinkedIn profile as a point of difference from other trainers. In the ‘Education and Certification’ area you can list all your qualifications and explain how they will help clients.

Personal trainers with extensive experience can use the Summary and Experience areas of their LinkedIn profile to demonstrate how their experience will help clients achieve their goals.

Seeking recommendations via LinkedIn is a really easy way to collect testimonials from clients that can be used across all marketing material.

Fortunately I have had no disasters, but my advice to other trainers would be;

  • Be conscious of the fact that social media can blur the line between what is business and what is personal. Have a policy about whether you are going to personally 'friend' your clients on Facebook. If you do, be conscious of what you post on your personal page and/or what comments you leave on other’s pages. I have seen ‘professional’ people (and not just personal trainers) post personal opinions and photographs which may be considered offensive or inappropriate by prospective clients.
  • Avoid the 'it's all about me' effect. Don't just talk about your business and your services – it can get boring very quickly. Engage your readers by having a conversation with them rather than just talking at them.
  • If you are going to set social media accounts for your business, use them! Setting them up and then not keeping them up-to-
  • date looks lazy and unprofessional. The same goes for your website.

To connect with Jen Brown of Sparta Personal Training
W: www.sparta-pt.com
E: jen@sparta-pt.com
T: http://twitter.com/sparta_PT
F: www.facebook.com/SpartaPT
L: www.linkedin.com/company/sparta-personal-training


Heather Smith
Heather is on a mission to improve the financial literacy of business by empowering business owners to produce accurate and meaningful management reports in a timely manner. She is a commerce graduate, an ambassador and fellow of the ACCA, a MYOB Certified Consultant, a writer and keen advocate of technology and social media. For more information, visit www.aniseconsulting.com, email info@aniseconsulting.com or tweet T:@MYOBTrainer