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How to nail social media marketing for fitness centers
February 3, 2022 •

If you’re planning some paid social media marketing for your fitness center, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the biggest possible bang for every buck of your investment, maximizing results and ROI for your business.

That’s harder to do than it was when social media marketing first entered the picture, but there are ways to ensure your gym’s Facebook ads – we’ll focus on Facebook here as it’s the largest and most universal platform – hit the mark. We’ll go into the detail of our five social media tips for gyms in a moment.

Before we do that, though, it’s well worth setting the scene, looking at why you might consider paid Facebook ads as part of your gym’s marketing campaign in the first place.

The ‘why’ of social media marketing for fitness centers

With a very grand total of 4.55 billion active users globally, the reach of the social media platforms is truly vast – and still growing. As at October 2021, Facebook alone had 2.90 billion users. 

Then think about how much time we all spend on social media… Be honest. How many hours a day are you scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, Twitter? 

Globally, the average amount of time spent on social media each day – per internet user between the ages of 16 and 64 – is two hours and 27 minutes (compared to three hours 21 minutes watching broadcast or streamed TV, for example). And that’s the average. Just think what your kids’ daily usage is likely to be.

Indeed, data from We Are Social’s Digital 2021 report shows that social media is now the primary place younger generations look for information about the brands they’re interested in and the things they want to buy. Rather than doing a Google search, as older generations might do, young people go straight to their chosen social media platform(s) for a simultaneous hit of information and inspiration.

Even as an average across all global internet users aged 16–64, “finding inspiration for things to do and buy” and “finding products to purchase” come pretty high up the list of main reasons to use social media – as the chart below shows.

Meanwhile, 72 per cent of all global internet users aged 16–64 use social media to research brands. 

Quite simply, if you aren’t on social media, you aren’t on people’s radar.

Facebook marketing for gyms – the 5 things you need to know 

“But we are on social media,” we hear you say. 

What does that look like in practice, though? Because if social media marketing for your fitness center currently consists of a quick daily post on your Facebook and Instagram pages and a hope for the best… yeah, that isn’t going to work.  

Allow us to take you through five things you absolutely need to know when you’re planning social media campaigns for your gyms.

#1 – Organic reach is a thing of the past

Yes, we’re afraid it’s true. 

An organic approach used to work in the past: you were a brand with a good following, you’d post something on your Facebook page, your followers would see it. Simple.

Nowadays, however, the average organic reach is around 5 per cent for a Facebook page – i.e. if you post something on your page, only 5 per cent of your followers will actually see it. The figure is worse still for pages with large numbers of followers. 

This decline has been going on for a while, in fact, ever since Facebook started letting brands advertise on their platform in the noughties. People started to really notice in 2012, though, when the average reach for an organic post fell to 16 per cent. With that figure now at 5 per cent, it’s clearly only got worse since then as Facebook has continued to refine its algorithm, prioritising certain engagements over others, de-prioritising branded content so it doesn’t drown out posts by users’ friends and so on. It’s getting harder and harder for branded posts to be seen organically.

Facebook marketing is now, unavoidably, pay to play. 

In other words, you have to nail your social media ads, because that’s where customers are.

#2 – Even ‘pay to play’ is getting harder

So, you’ve now realized you have to put some money behind your gym’s Facebook ads. The first challenge is that the average Cost Per Impression has been rising over the past year, up 34 per cent between October 2020 and October 2021. (In the below slide, note that CPM is cost per 1,000 impressions.)

Yet in spite of the rising cost, your gym’s Facebook ad can still fail. Your ad might be shown to a lot of people, yet the click-through rate and/or conversion rate remains low. Perhaps the conversion rate is OK, but those who convert turn out to be poor quality members, leaving after a few months or after taking advantage of your limited time offer.

When this happens, people often assume there’s something wrong with their content. In reality, however, the greater issue tends to be targeting.

#3 – Targeting: The secret of successful gym Facebook ads 

Facebook allows any fitness business to specify the broad characteristics of its ideal customer – age, gender, interests and so on – to ensure the ads it’s paid for target the correct audience(s).

However, add AI and things immediately go up several gears in terms of accuracy. All of a sudden, your Facebook ads are targeted around an in-depth profile of your ideal customer, not merely a broad brushstroke description of ‘fitness enthusiasts aged 25–45’. 

Here’s how it works.

You introduce Keepme AI to your gym and from your database of existing members, it builds up a picture of your ideal customer: the customer who stays with you the longest, with the highest lifetime value. 

Underpinning this, Keepme will know the precise factors that characterise your ideal customer – everything from their demographics, to the classes they do, to the apparel they buy from you. It can then use this insight to create an avatar of that perfect customer, which forms the basis for your social media targeting. 

Let’s take Facebook ads as an example. You can use Keepme to export a list of every customer who matches your avatar and upload this to Facebook, to create what Facebook calls a Custom Audience. Facebook’s own highly advanced AI – Facebook knows a huge amount about every user based on what they do and the sort of things they interact with – can then generate ‘Lookalike’ audiences that contain Facebook users who fit the bill of your ‘ideal customer’ avatar. So when you target your Facebook ad to a Lookalike audience, you can ensure your ad is served only to those who look very similar to your best, highest LTV (lifetime value) customers. 

Your cost of acquisition will be reduced, too, because you only pay Facebook for a very specific type of person; in our experience, you might get fewer clicks, but your conversion rate will be higher and your conversion cost lower. In other words, you’ll sell more gym memberships per dollar invested – and your members will stick around for longer, too, driving higher LTV.

#4 – You still need to get the creative right

It’s important, in such a targeted campaign, that your ads are pitch perfect for your audience: at a very minimum, you should tailor them by age and gender. 

But you can go much, much further with the help of AI. Troy Morgan, managing director of Willows Health & Lifestyle Centre in Australia, explains: “With Keepme having established avatars of our ideal members, our advertising agency in New York can come to us for each new campaign and request we take specific photos that will resonate with our target audiences. That imagery is then used in our Facebook and Google ads, and the leads that come in are exactly the right demographics – exactly the right profile to give us high lifetime value members.”

Even then, you should regularly A/B test your creative, tweaking spend behind the different ads as needed. Our advice is to always go into your A/B testing with a clear hypothesis. Know exactly what you’re looking to test, and only test one variable at a time: a clear data point that you can learn from and apply to future Facebook marketing for your gym.

Use a large enough sample that the test is statistically significant: it’s easy for small data sets to be skewed by a few anomalous results, leading to conclusions you can’t actually rely on.

Finally, don’t feel you have to stop at one A/B test. Once you’ve determined whether your initial hypothesis is correct (or not), try testing another variable to refine your ads still further. 

#5 – Don’t forget remarketing

Few people convert on the first touchpoint you have with them, so it’s important to build ‘remarketing’ into any social media marketing you do for your fitness center. 

But why, and what even is remarketing?

Remarketing, also known as retargeting, is another tool to ensure your gym’s Facebook ads are served to a relevant, receptive audience – and it uses a tool called a pixel.

Facebook Pixel is a piece of code you install on your own website, where it sits quietly behind the scenes, capturing who has visited which pages in your website and what actions they have completed while there. 

Say, for example, you’re a health club and someone has come to your website and clicked the ‘Join Now’ button – but then they leave before entering their card details and completing the sign-up process. Facebook Pixel can see that. Next time this individual visits Facebook, your ad will be served to them, reminding them to take action on their half-completed sign-up.

Facebook Pixel is free, so it’s a no-brainer to install it on your key web pages – membership prices, for example – to continue to serve your targeted ads to those who have already shown an interest in your club.

Even if you don’t plan to do any paid social media marketing for your fitness center just yet, you should still install Facebook Pixel on your website now because it needs time to collect data. (N.B. it also works when running ads on Facebook’s sister platform, Instagram)

As we always say at Keepme, you’ll never wish you had less data. 

Find out more about using AI to cost-effectively attract more high-value customers. Book a Keepme demo now. 

Want to know more about social media usage around the world? Watch our video blog with Simon Kemp of Kepios and We Are Social, or check out the latest global stats and trends here.

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