Facebook as an effective marketing tool

Almost no business venture can get away with not having a Facebook fan page these days, and the health and fitness sector is predestined to adopt this important tool


In today’s world a Facebook (FB) page is a vital and critical marketing tool that can make a difference in the very competitive world around us and the cut- throat competition that we face in any business. A good and a well planned FB page gives a positive first impression about the company to potential members and  is an ideal and low cost platform for new customer acquisition .

It is also a useful tool to feed your members with useful information, and also  interact with them. A crucial factor for success is that the fan page is continually maintained, and filled with valuable content. This takes time and energy, but is worth it.

In general, the following principle applies: better no Facebook page than a bad one! Some of the basic rules and guidelines to keep in mind when setting up and maintaining your fan page are

  • Adhere to the basics: Be authentic, friendly and courteous. Always treat your fans with respect – even in the case of critical comments and posts. Try and ensure a dialogue instead of a monologue, and react promptly to comments – preferably within four hours. Do not overload your page with advertising campaigns!
  • Not rarely or too often: If your content is exciting and valuable for your fans, you can easily post five times a week. However, it should not be more often than that, and the minimum is one post per week! An editorial plan with a rough annual overview and a detailed plan for posts for the next four weeks will create a structure. In practice it is a good idea for one person in the gym to be responsible for implementing the plan!
  • Ideal time: The social media week very clearly begins on Thursday. The most comments and likes are given from Thursday to Sunday. The majority of users are online in the evening. So, it is better to post between 7-9 pm. Then, your news will appear at the top of your fans newsfeeds, and will be read.
  • Schedule posts: A good idea would be to post scheduled posts. Using the clock symbol bottom left in the post window, you can easily plan your posts in advance. Simply select the desired publication date and time.
  • Add value: Only post content that is really of interest to your target groups, and something that brings them a benefit. Your users will thank you for this content with interactions such as likes and comments, or share your post; this increases the reach of your post.

For a gym, especially, there are countless possibilities for interesting posts. Post all kinds of tips on fitness, health, figure, weight loss and relaxation. Give seasonal tips depending on your campaign (“Good intentions”, “tips against spring tiredness”, “the best tips for the perfect six pack in summer”), or post interesting news from your gym like a short portrait of a new employee, etc.


Be Creative

It is particularly well received if you refer to current events. If, for example, the open air swimming pool in your area is opening next Sunday, invite members to train for the perfect bikini body. Or give away a virtual bouquet of flowers for world women’s day.

Apart from your own content, you can also post external content. This brings variation, and makes your gym look authentic and “less corporate”. It could, for example, be posts from the Facebook page of your service providers.

Regularly visit the fan pages and websites that post write ups on subjects of interest. Here you can often find specialist articles on fitness and health training. Simply share these with a short comment or a view.

Your fans want to identify with your company. This is easier if you allow an occasional look behind the scenes on your fan page. Publish anecdotes to make readers smile, and situations taken from life at the gym. Simply take a snapshot with your mobile or post a short film of the training.

Some information about the latest aerobics training course, or the last team outing can also be interesting to readers. Even something like a team member injuring himself gives a positive image because it is human.


Videos over Words

Images provide significantly more interactions, and are more viral than pure text posts. For instance, your training tips as just dry text may not be as interesting as pictures of exercises. A little humour never hurts either!

Restrict your messages to 80 characters. The subject line is always crucial as it ensures the viewer continues reading. So raise as much interest as possible in the first few lines, and ensure your text is crisp and to the point.

Beware of posting pictures from an external website on your own Facebook page: this can be dangerous as most pictures on the web are protected by copyright, and simply must not be posted on your fan page.

So, it is best to obtain the rights first. Even with pictures of members and even employees you should obtain written permission beforehand.

Since mid 2014, FB has introduced the auto-start function for videos, which ensures that the wall looks more dynamic. This optimises the dwell time, and makes it even more interesting for advertising customers.

Place your company logo at the bottom left of the video ensures you a branding effect that is unbeatable!


Making Stars

Use your satisfied customers as testimonials, and regularly post a successful result with a picture, perhaps a before/after, or a short video. Tag these customers, if they have a Facebook profile. This often means that their Facebook friends react to this, and your fan community will rapidly grow.

Many fans are incredibly proud of being mentioned on your fan page, and are happy to consent to it being published. But this doesn’t guarantee everyone will. But do not be put off from continually trying it.

This is the only way that you can publish a multitude of success stories.

Just like we reward ourselves after reaching a goal you can do exactly that with your users. Ideas like “When we have reached 1,000 likes, there will be a party,” are fun and some fans are sure to know someone that they would introduce to your page.

Promote interaction and dialogue; it is very important as not every fan will see all of your posts in their newsfeed. FB works with an algorithm, which no one knows in detail. The fact is that the importance and therefore the reach (visibility) of your posts will increase, if they receive lots of likes and comments.

The more communication there is between you and your fans, the more successful your fan page will be. So get into discussion with your fans:

  • Comment on the comments and likes of your fans
  • Ask questions like “What do you do to overcome a lack of motivation?” or “Who knows some ideas for tasty dishes under 500 kcal?”
  • Do surveys like “We want to offer another box fit lesson. Would it be better on Monday at 19.00 or Thursday at 18.00? What do you feel?” or “What should our new children’s group be called?

Consistently encourage your fans to actively participate, so that it becomes clear in a few seconds, what is to be done. For example: “Click here” (if necessary with a link to your website) or “register now” or “vote now” or “join in and post a recipe,” etc.


Hold Contests

Contests and competitions are effective methods of ensuring interaction and traffic on your fan page. You could have a selfie contest with fitness pictures from people’s holidays, or a six pack contest with ‘before and after’ pictures. The post with the most ‘likes’ could win a small prize at the end.

This provides additional motivation, and ensures that your fans show your posts to their friends. This in turn increases the reach, and ensures optimum interaction on your page.

For larger scale campaigns, you should use special voting apps that protect your votes from unwanted trickery. Alongside a professional look, also give more chances to increase the reach using sharing functions.

Competitions can be organised on posts or comments like ‘the funniest comment’ or the one with the most ‘likes’ wins. However, it is not permitted to insist on members sharing a post and/or tag friends to participate in a competition.

In your description, you should point out that Facebook has nothing to do with the competition, and is not available as a contact person for your competition. In addition, your conditions of participation must be provided with the following information:

  • Who can participate (if you put restrictions in place)
  • Beginning and end of the competition
  • Exact description of what can be won (incl. any additional costs)
  • Details of when the prize will be drawn
  • Rules to determine the winner (randomly, jury)
  • Rules regarding how the winner gets his/her prize
  • Data protection information.


Reaching Out

Generally, it is understood that the advertising possibilities with FB are complex, and permanently changing. Hence, it is necessary to keep up to date. It also offers you many up-to-date tips and guidelines that you should read beforehand.

With these ads, you can achieve significantly higher reach for your “classic” page posts, amongst other things (advertising goal: “interaction with page posts”). However, this is just one of many possible advertising goals, which you will find in the Ads Manager.

Select the perfect target group. FB offers two different possibilities for marketing: adverts that refer to content in Facebook, and adverts that refer to external websites.

The advantage of adverts in FB is the opportunity to select the target group. Apart from geographic locations, users can be selected according to their age, gender, relationship status, language or school education, workplace and interests. In the interests one can find categories such as “fitness” and “health”.

Visuals are the most important element of an advert, and the prime reason why users decide to click on a post or advert. Choose simple, but meaningful pictures. The best pictures are those that convey longing and feelings.

One has to be careful that visuals or video miniature views in adverts must not contain more than 20% text. Here, FB offers a service to check your motif, using a grid function.

In addition, particular regulations apply to the motif. For example, no ‘before and after pictures’ will be accepted, or pictures with too much exposed skin.

At what Cost?

With most ad types on FB, there are two kinds of billing: CPC (cost per click) and CPM (cost per 1,000 pop-ups). With both types you can submit bids, as to how much you are willing to pay per click or 1,000 pop-ups. According to the bid, Facebook shows the adverts more, or less frequently – similar to an auction.

At the start of an advertising campaign, generally CPC billing is advised to understand the behaviour pattern of the intended target group. If the number of clicks increases later, it is advisable to change to CPM billing.

To have planning security with the showing of the adverts, you can choose between two budget types: daily budget (a max. sum X will be spent per day) or duration budget (a sum X will be spent during a pre-defined period). For both budget types the following applies: as soon as the sum is used up, FB automatically stops delivering the advert.

Keep a close eye on the click rate, and keep up to date with the progress of the campaign. Direct comparison of individual FB ad and focusing on the actual results, provides you with valuable insights throughout the whole duration. Based on this data you can plan your future budget in a more targeted and sensible way.

Whether an advertising campaign goes well depends on many factors: the text, the image and above all the right target group selection. Taking advice from the professionals will help you not only save time, but also money, and your nerves.

– Michael Heining

PO_Heining_MichaelThe writer, a qualified sports scientist, has worked in the fitness industry for over 20 years. Now with the Munich-based management consultancy, Greinwalder & Partner, he has been responsible for the development of advertising concepts and campaigns throughout Europe.

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