Social media can’t give you six-pack abs… Or can it?

On a Tuesday evening, after a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is go workout. I would much rather sit on the couch and mindlessly scroll through my social media feeds to catch up on all of the latest gossip, news, and events I missed today. Except when you follow as many fitness and health food accounts as I do, you really can’t avoid feeling bad about sitting on the couch all night. Before you know it, I’m tying my tennis shoes and literally running out the door.

With the American cultural health kick still roundhouse kicking us all into shape, social media has become a virtual gym for the health crazed on a budget. Before social media revolutionized the way fitness experts communicated with potential and current clients, people who wanted to get in shape had to pay big bucks to either join a gym, hire a personal trainer, or buy the latest fad workout video. None of which were 100% guaranteed to sculpt your body into the perfect beach bod you dreamed of. For those of us not looking to spend every last dollar of our disposable income on the latest annual spring break fit fad, working out on our own had become a giant game of guess and check. Now with the help of social media users can easily access fitness and nutrition advice via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WordPress.

Instagram in particular has become a resource for both fitness and nutrition advice. Many of the industry’s top personal trainers have accounts that they use to promote their own products and offer free advice to their followers. For example, famous Transformation Specialists on Extreme Weight Loss, Chris and Heidi Powell have instagramed a combined 4,000 posts to more than 400,000 followers. Instagram, and other social media platforms, allow clients to ask questions directly to personal trainers in either a public or person setting, by commenting on a post or sending a direct message, respectively. Now the famous personal trainers we see on shows like Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss are available to connect with potential clients on a more personal level via social media.

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Instagram offers personal trainers a platform on which to give the public a taste of their workout regimen before they financially invest in their products. Many personal trainers have begun posting mini workout videos and quick tips and tricks to healthy eating on their social media sites daily. These snippets of the trainer’s full product line helps followers decipher which products might be the most useful for them to reach their fitness goals, and then directs them to their full fledged website for further information. Personal trainers who use these posts effectively, ultimately entice potential clients to buy their full line of products by demonstrating its value before they even buy it. In this way, Instagram has become a venue for a sort of trial run of a trainer’s product offering. This especially benefits the consumers who are unsure which type of fitness regimen will work best for them. They can basically try them all before making a financial commitment.

Likewise many amateur personal trainers use social media to raise awareness about their fitness philosophy and workout regimen. For example, Karena and Katrina of @ToneItUp have posted almost 2,000 instagrams to their 512,000 followers. Instagram allows them to gain a following by posting the visual effects their workout program has had on either themselves or their current group of clients. Many of them use “before” and “after” photos paired with client quotes about their product experience to entice potential clients to try their products.

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Both professional and amateur trainers alike use their social media to entice customers to buy their products. They also post various inspirational quotes or photos to encourage clients to get off the couch even when they would rather call it quits. Finally, they engage followers in discussions about the fitness and nutrition choices they are making in order to set them on a path towards reaching their ultimate fitness goals.

9 comments

  1. Hi Taylor,

    I also follow a few food and fitness advocates on social media and have found these platforms to be motivating in maintaining healthy and active lifestyle – so I could definitely relate to this blog topic!

    The role social media plays in fitness often crosses my mind when I use the Nike Fitness application. Nike has always been on the forefront of social strategy (they started experimenting with social media and networking as early as 2004) and are constantly finding ways to “connect the physical world of sport with the social elements of digital to create a better sport experience for every athlete.” Nike’s social media experience allows me to compete against my friends and family, and then share my personal accomplishments. While Nike is a leader in the fitness world, I notice many lesser known fitness aficionados using similar strategies as Nike to motivate and engage with their community. For example, @kayla_itsines (http://bit.ly/1G2h23n) generates workout content but then is also very active in providing personal support and motivation.

    Social media is a powerful tool to encourage a healthy lifestyle and it will be exciting to see how this space transforms over the next few years – especially with the growth of wearable technology in the fitness world.

  2. Hi Taylor, I really like your post. I am really into exercising and trying to eat healthy, and as an Instagram addict, I follow a lot of accounts that are all about a healthy life style. One of the things that impress me the most, is how people are using social media to create a name for themselves and build a business. Back in my country, many nutritionist are using social media as a way to get patients and fame. One in particular is called @saschafitness, she is a fitness and nutrition coach, that started to use instagram and snapchat to show recipes and workout routines. She became instantly famous, accomplishing more than 1.6M followers. The most impressive part of her story is that because of her social media fame, she got a book deal, and her recipes book is now selling in all Latin America and Florida. This story represents how social media can be a great tool not only for brands to advertise but also for people to get their own business out in the world.

  3. Nice post. The fitness industry is really taking advantage of social media to develop and motivate its following. In fact, I’m currently taking a “weight loss challenge” over Facebook, that I doubt I would have done otherwise. Not really trying to win, but its the accountability I need to keep me going.

  4. I liked how you transitioned within the post from feeling nagged by social media to workout, to recognizing and elaborating upon some of the positive aspects that can be gained from all of this. It is interesting to see how something as active as working out is able to utilize the digital sphere…effectively! That really speaks to knowing your target audience. Today, social media is used heavily by millennials and you professionals alike. Many of these users are active, on-the-go individuals looking to get the most out of their days. As I rush from place to place, I’ll pull out my smartphone and go through the routine; a Facebook scroll, perusal of Twitter, and a look at the Instagram feed. It’s not uncommon to see a post from one of my favorite athletes, or a fit friend finishing some sort of competition. I admit, this usually serves as some good motivation to get active myself. This topic on the whole is a good example of how social media content becomes increasingly catered toward the user at hand. For those with interests outside of physical activity, that’s okay, because chances are the content you are immersed within is pulling you into other areas of interest.

  5. I can really relate to this post. I follow about a dozen #fitfam members on Instagram and am constantly checking up on them to find new exercises, gym gear, and supplements.

    There’s a guy at my gym (https://instagram.com/gymbullys/) who has found a niche in posting “unconventional” exercises that require a lot of agility, balance, and strength. He told me that when he first decided to create this page, he realized the market was saturated with the same content. So, he decided to do something different and has been really successful. He’s now been able to break into personal training and hosts group sessions with other Instagrammers in various cities.

    Before social media, you had to depend on finding a trainer who was local. Today, I can train with a woman on the other side of the country by connecting with her via Instagram. It’s been amazing to see the uptick in fitness accounts and interest in the health industry as a result of social media.

  6. It is interesting that while social media is something we think of as a distraction and could cause us to be lazy, it actually has the potential to push us to workout and promote a healthy lifestyle. I personally have found social media to be a useful tool in discovering healthy places to eat, such as Sweetgreen. You bring up an interesting point that social media, by providing free access to a large amount of content, can give more people the opportunity to become healthy. This could help address the obesity epidemic we are facing. Apps such as Nike+ Running (which Laura referred to) and Runkeeper have social a aspect that people can choose to partake in if they want, which can be used by friends to encourage one another to exercise. However, this raises concerns how much personal health data we want to store on our devices and share with others. This topic is a great example of how social media empowers individuals. Instagram allows people to further their career or hobby, whether it be as a fitness buff or food photographer.

  7. Really great article and topic! Instagram has definitely become more of a research, search, and community tool for me. It’s interesting to think about how these followers are self-selecting– they follow these accounts themselves. So the relationship is mutually beneficial, the trainers and nutritional experts *know they have access to an engaged audience and the followers have free access to content they want. In the context of the marketing and advertising industry, it underlines how having a two-sided relationship with a brand is becoming more and more powerful.

    Additionally, like YouTube, Instagram has been creating “celebrities” who have access to millions of followers without need of capital~ essentially continuing the democratization trend.

    This article also made me examine my own behavior and made me think about how social media platforms have different types of content consumers and producers. I actually rarely post on Instagram and use it almost exclusively to follow friends and accounts, while others only post and interact with friends, use it to promote something (i.e. the fitness trainers) or combination somewhere between. Looking at Instagram’s features it has been adding, it’s interesting to see how they are addressing the needs of all stakeholders.

  8. Great job on this post! I love it not only because of how interesting and engaging it is, but also because I can fully relate. A lot of my friends pay crazy amounts of money for gym memberships, soul cycle classes, personal trainers, diet plans, etc. and I just think it’s crazy. I’ve recently started using blogs and instagram as my workout motivation and tips and I think it’s awesome. The “fit” industry is becoming more and more popular and I see so many more people turning to these social platforms for advice. I think it’s brilliant, well done!

  9. Social media seems to be the perfect outlet for the fitness world. I also follow some fitness accounts for the very same reason of seeking motivation to work out often. The amount of fitness profiles and followers on Instagram is crazy to me and it seems to be constantly growing. The sense of connectivity that online communities like this create can make for many positive effects on various peoples’ health. It has potential to reach audiences that might not have reached out for workout advice otherwise. Overall, awesome post!

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