// Is social media relevant to club marketing?

The 2010 Australian Fitness Industry Survey (AFIS), produced by Ezypay, provides club owners and managers with insights into club operations, staffing, sales, marketing and finance along with the thoughts, feelings and perceptions of their club members.

The 2010 AFIS expert panel included;

Grant Gamble (GG)
Owner, Bodywise

Justin Wilshaw (JW)
CEO, Contours

Gayle Brimble (GB)
Team Captain, Australian Institute Fitness

Jamie Hayes (JH)     
Managing Director, Healthy Inspirations

Edel Kilmartin (EK)
Director of Operations, Curves

Justin Tamsett (JT)  
Managing Director, Active Management

Simon Hall (SH)
Marketing Manager, Ezypay

Celeste Kirby-Brown (CKB)
Sales & Marketing Director, Ezypay

In this series of articles, a panel of leading industry professionals discuss some of the major outcomes from this year’s AFIS survey results.The survey outcomes showed that, despite so much twittering about social media, only 3.5 per cent of club owners and managers said it was a successful form of marketing last year.

How relevant is social media for marketing fitness clubs?

GB I question the use of social media as a marketing tool as it is still very new. It comes down to how businesses measure their marketing and how accurate that measurement is. Do people actually recognise where they first saw an advert about a club? Often traditional media comes to mind, ‘yeah I heard it on the radio’, but they could have heard about the club from a friend on Facebook. The accuracy of measuring marketing is really quite challenging and many business owners are still uneducated in the area of new social media.

SH How many people have actually joined through social media?

JT Well Dell Computers can attribute $6.5M to their twitter campaign. I think the biggest problem with social media for health clubs is that it’s so new and people tend to think it’s really hard, but once you get your head around how it works, it’s easy to use. I don’t think most clubs have a strategy. Social media is about having conversations with customers and once you have that connection you can use it as a marketing tool – you can’t have that conversation until you’ve got the trust.

GG You need to have an advocate in-house as well. We hired a social media marketing person whose goal is to expedite information across all social media. My team have to upload something each week; a photo, a video, a tweet, which we come up with in our weekly meeting. You need to keep it vibrant, new and fresh and you have to get people involved. It’s the way it’s going to go, the day of the postcard drop isn’t necessarily going to go away, but if you were going to check where new members were sourced from 10 years ago the internet wouldn’t have figured; now it’s typically in the top 4. If your sales team is not asking the right question about how they heard about the club you are not monitoring the marketing correctly. The question we should be asking is ‘what drove you in the door today?’ – that’s the catalyst. It may have been a Twitter conversation that pushed them. If we can more accurately check the source of our members or prospects we can drive more dollars into those areas.

GB Twitter hasn’t been involved in business for long, so it’s not front of mind, it’s not being measured and it probably hasn’t even made its way onto an enquiry card as a suggested source. But interestingly enough, one of our managers works with her students almost exclusively on Facebook as opposed to email. I can see it’s going to be the way that we’ll have to deal with students in the future.

JT Statistics show that Generation Y no longer uses email – they all talk via Facebook – and interestingly the older generations are also embracing it; the largest Facebook growth is among 45 to 55-year-old women. There are so many applications on Facebook now that you don’t need a website – you can build your site on Facebook. You can buy memberships through PayPal or sell tickets to events. It’s just a super powerful media that few in the fitness industry fully understand.

JW It’s another tool in your toolkit and it’s a very cheap one. Spending five minutes a day twittering is an inexpensive exercise.

JH We surveyed 14,000 women last year and 83 per cent of respondents said Facebook was their preferred communication choice and they used it at least three times a week – and these are women over 40. But I think there’s another issue here that is not just in social media but in the web strategy. Many business people are saying that their traditional marketing isn’t working like it used to. It’s my personal belief that if we fail with web strategy and social media then our traditional marketing will be less effective. Now, before putting themselves at ‘risk’ of having to make a purchasing decision in a club, consumers can Google them, visit their website or check out what people are saying on Facebook. If they don’t like what people are writing about the club, they won’t call – even if they like the flyer and the offer.

GG Successful marketing is also determined by visibility on web searches. Every week my general managers search our club name and find out in common terms or Google terms where we appear. We want to constantly drive up on that list.

JT Google recently said 90 per cent of people don’t go past the first page, and 75 per cent of people used Google rather than the yellow pages to search for something. Having a web presence is absolutely critical and to build up your Google presence you have got to use social media.

GG We also rate ourselves against all the other clubs. Fitness First for example get 97 per cent in our rating system on their web performance because they have 5,000 pages and Curves will do the same.

JT And that’s the beauty of social media – you can compete with the large chains.

GG It’s a worthwhile exercise to have your website graded using an online tool to see where you can improve and it can be done quite easily and quickly – you don’t need 5,000 pages to get your performance score up.

JT We know that around eight million Australians over the age of 18 use Facebook and most check it every single day – which is better than any TV show.

JH We know our members are already contacting each other through social media anyway, and one negative comment is going to spread like wildfire in that social space, so even if you don’t use any social media strategies yourself, it’s going to happen so it is relevant to the industry.


Australian Fitness Industry Survey
The 2010 AFIS discussion series covers critical fitness topics including staff quality, social media, membership fees, retention and growth and the concerns around membership contracts. To view the full video series go to www.fitnesssurvey.com.au

• PP 62-63