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Health and fitness content marketing: The Instagram effect

Instagram gives brands up to 400% more engagement than Facebook. Here's how to win.

According to a recent study, Instagram gives brands and celebrities up to 400% more engagement than Facebook. That’s an incredible opportunity for health and fitness companies to produce content for their prospects and followers. Here’s how some of the best are winning big on their own social media strategy.

In the fitness world, the past few years have been defined by the rise of the celebrity personal trainer – that #inspo-driven ilk, who are using the platform to build social media empires, some tens of thousands strong. Through carefully curated, aspirational and compelling content, these huge followings seem almost a cult. How do they do it? Here’s a few pro tips from brands who are killing it.

Define your visual identity and create a point of difference

It’s the same with any content strategy: before you publish anything, you have to know who you are. And working out who you are is a question of what you can offer as a business, what your business can authentically talk about, and what your target audience wants.

Get the squad together and hold a brainstorming session. Who are your current followers on Instagram? Which new audiences, if any, do you want to tap into? What are their goals, their values, their aspirations, their tastes? How can you best express them through a strong visual identity? Look at the analytics, and have a poke around as to what kind of content they’re following and posting about. If possible, carve out a niche.

Who: @mynameisjessamyn

Followers: 304k

Why she’s kicking butt: Fitness celebrities are, for the most, white, at most a size 10, and beautiful. Jessamyn is only the last of this standard trifecta. Mastering yoga poses impossible to most, her account champions the body positive movement, making fitness more accessible to those who don’t necessarily fit the female beauty mould.

Jessamyn - social media strategy

Be a lifestyle, not a product

Going down on one knee. Going up on one knee. Down. And up. And down again. And up! What a dull, painful way to spend Thursday night. Why would you actively choose to do such a thing? Wouldn’t you rather be on the couch watching Game of Thrones and eating tin spaghetti instead?

Successful fitness brands are never just about a product or activity. Instead, they define themselves as a way of living, with an attitude that promotes health, positivity and empowerment. Many accounts will therefore shake up their Instagram feed every now and again by posting healthy eating choices, pop references, or people just celebrating how their exercise regime has given them a way to experience the world better.

Who: @toneitup

Followers: 1m

Why they’re kicking butt: Alongside sun-kissed photos of Karena and Katrina’s ultra-toned bods, there are also laid-back lifestyle insights and tips. For instance: how to make ‘frosé’ (frozen rosé) while you’re watching The Bachelorette with your girls.

toneitup - social media strategy

Curate beautiful content

Random pictures are almost as bad as stock photography. If you’re out to inspire (and get those membership sign-ups), hire a professional photographer. Build up a library of quality images to have ready in advance, from which you can coordinate a strategic editorial calendar. If you’re launching a business or want to revamp, get a professional designer involved in the early stages. They can give you expert, independent advice on how to maximise your reach and optimise your brand’s flex.

Who: @sjanaelise

Followers: 1.3m

Why she’s kicking butt: You will find Sjana handstanding in various exotic, white-sanded beaches throughout the world, or eating raspberries and muesli with a puppy on her lap. Hers is the impossible luxury adventure lifestyle brand (perhaps too transcendent to be aspirational – who dreams that big? Not I). There’s no question she’s got her followers lapping it up though – her last post got over 18k hits.

sjanaelise - social media strategy

Curate useful content

A few other pro tips.

  • Rather than just snapping ‘Buff Gary’ on the power rack from different angles, change up your subjects and backgrounds so that your content is always visually appealing.
  • Use #shareable hashtags that won’t just be meaningless shared around by similar companies.
  • Alongside inspirational content, provide useful content – short videos that demonstrate the right way to do a complex new yoga pose for instance, or Instagram stories that guide audiences through an ab-tacular workout routine.

Who: @blogilates

Followers: 1.4m

Why she’s kicking butt: Syncing her Instagram up with her YouTube series of workout videos, Cassie Ho is a force of incredible positivity. The creator of POP Pilates and PIIT28, she mixes up her feed with event photos, memes, behind the scenes images, healthy food tips, exercise videos and glamour shots. For this, the people love her: currently, she holds title as the world’s third most influential health and fitness influencer.

Blogilates - social media strategy

Be consistent

To build up any brand presence and to attract new followers, consistency is key. This nugget of advice encompasses both your posting rate and your aesthetic. For instance, if they find you in the ‘Discover’ section of Instagram or through one of your ads, and click through to see more of the beautiful same, they’re far more likely to hit that ‘follow’ button. A consistent output of content will be incredibly useful in itself to your audiences, who hunger for daily motivation to keep them on track and out of bed for early morning runs or crow poses in the morning cold. Fitness is, after all, something you can never just ‘achieve’ – it’s something you have to work at every day just to maintain. By keeping strong on social media, you’re helping your followers keep strong too.

Who: @Lululemon

Followers: 2m

Why they’re kicking butt: Lululemon is a yoga company and veritable philosophy, owning its own #thisisyoga hashtag. The brand is great at keeping the conversation going with millions of followers and, significantly, maintains a tight, almost daily posting calendar to become a familiar and recognisable feature in the feed.

Lululemon - social media strategy

Motivate and inspire

#inspo. It’s what unites all health and fitness brands. Your target audiences are committing to a way of life that demands discipline, but can produce some pretty great results, from self-empowerment to incredible pecs. To keep them going (to your gym, or app, or YouTube channel) keep up the positivity, and show what can be accomplished and what success takes. It’s a no-brainer, really.

Who: @soulcycle

Followers: 256k

Why they’re kicking butt: SoulCycle is a NY-based company offering indoor cycling workout companies at studios all over the United States. It’s become something of a phenomenon with their high-octane energy and values-driven approach. Earlier in 2017, it launched its Army of Love campaign: “a movement about not just embracing each other’s differences — our varying experiences, ethnicities, beliefs and more — but celebrating them.”

soul cycle - social media strategy

Build your community

Instagram is a social media space kind to brands. According to a recent Socialbakers study, the platform gives brands and celebrities up to 400% more engagement than Facebook. It’s rare that users are actually open to striking up a relationship with you via digital – capitalise on that goodwill, show you’re there for them and, to the best of your ability, engage back.

This can mean hosting competitions, responding to comments, or inviting users to send in progress pics so that the whole community can celebrate their success. Whatever form this takes, ensure your followers don’t feel like they’re doing it alone on their personal fitness journeys.

Who: @kayla_itsines

Followers: 6.9m

Why they’re kicking butt: With her 6.9m followers in tow, ‘sweat trainer’ Kayla is known for the giver of props to her fitness-focused audience. As a routine fixture of her social media strategy, she’ll post before/after pics sent in from customers who’ve seen the benefits of her Bikini Body Guides program. It kills at least four birds with one stone:

  1. It furnishes image-based testimonials that her product works.
  2. It drenches the customer with feel-good vibes and momentary Instagram fame, making them more likely to continue the program, and to share on their own account (reaching new audiences).
  3. It cultivates a feeling of community between remote followers – that, in other words, they’re all in this together.
  4. It means that Kayla doesn’t have to expend time and effort creating a new piece of content – it’s served up to her by her follower base for free.

Kayla - social media strategy

Harness influencers

Influencers are an incredibly powerful force on Instagram, and brands know it. Increasingly, they are leveraging these organically powerful icons to reach new audiences, elevate awareness, enhance credibility, and circumvent the terrible chimera that is adblocking. What’s more, in a 2017 report by Hashoff gathering feedback from world influencers, nearly 100% of respondents said that Instagram was their “no. 1 platform for influencer work”.

Who: @Reebok

Followers: 1m

Why they’re kicking butt: In September last year, Reebok signed on Australian fitness trainer Emily Skye to be an ambassador of the brand. The footwear giant saw in Skye a natural compatibility with their ‘Be Human’ philosophy, which sees good health as a composite of mind, body and outlook. Skye will be collaborating with Reebok to crowdsource a functional training shoe through her fans, which is expected to hit retail shelves sometime later this year.

reebok - social media strategy

Collaborate with brands and athletes

Okay, so your department might not have the budget to sign up LeBron. That doesn’t mean you can’t tap into the host of other personalities and products that orbit your industry – protein shakes, gym shoes, workout gear, kitchen items for making carb-free spaghetti, you name it. Reach out to companies within your radius with  audiences and personalities that overlap your own, and work something out. Needless to say, always avoid creating partnerships that don’t provide value to your customers. Start doing that, and your integrity is pretty much shot.

Who: @nike

Followers: 72.2m

Why they’re kicking butt: Hail, Nike, king of branded sports. So big, Frank Ocean named a song after them. Last year, they launched the Breaking2 project, a campaign centred on beating not only your personal best, but the ‘impossible’ too. Using frontier scientific thinking and biochemical analysis, the brand fitted up three premier athletes with their new Vaporfly Elite shoes and poured millions into a training program to get them to smash the 2-hour marathon mark. Sure, none of them broke it (though Eliud Kipchoge came agonisingly close). But the hype paid off – no onlooker or commentator cast the project as a failure. Neither did Kipchoge. “The world is only 25 seconds away,” he said after finishing the race.

nike - social media strategy

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