As industries like fitness find ways to be more accessible in online spaces, it’s important for marketing strategies to adapt as well. And while radio and TV spots have been popular for gyms and fitness professionals in the past, digital marketing is the new norm.
To help online fitness businesses hit the ground running, we’ve put together this guide to digital marketing with all of the platforms, tactics, and tips you need to be successful.
Follow along as we walk you through the basics of digital marketing as well as each platform’s demographics and the types of content you should be creating.
Before we get into how you can utilize digital marketing to help scale your fitness business, let’s first get into the basics of digital marketing with a 101-level overview.
Digital marketing is a broad term that refers to any form of marketing that happens online. It encompasses everything you do to connect with customers and grow your business on the web and mobile. For example:
Digital marketing is often broken down into a range of different disciplines, including:
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. And any successful marketing strategy starts out with a laser focus on customers and their needs.
The first question to ask yourself is: Who are my customers?
Once you know the answer to this question, you can begin to understand their needs. To find the answer, go as niche as you can. The more defined your audience is, the better you can market to them.
So, let’s say you’re a personal trainer running online classes… You don’t want to try and be everything to everyone. Look at your existing customers to see what they have in common:
For example, a busy businessperson who works out once a week will have very different needs and goals from someone who wants to join classes three times per week as part of triathlon training.
Nicole Bunyan is a great example of a fitness entrepreneur who really understands her audience. Bunyan is a professional squash player and personal trainer and creates products specifically for an audience of people who want to get in better shape for squash.
Whether you’re a solo trainer, online group coach, or running your own fitness studio, you need a great brand story.
Stories help to build emotional connections between a brand or fitness professional and customers. And great stories are how your fitness business can stand out from your competitors.
For example, Joe Wicks (AKA The Body Coach) is an uber-popular online fitness trainer, and his brand story is all about getting started on your fitness journey. On his website, the copy speaks to that:
And on his Instagram, Wicks posts workouts and content aimed to help beginners to take their first steps in fitness:
No matter where you might interact with Wicks, his content is focused on telling the same story and helping people to take their first steps towards a healthier lifestyle.
So, once you understand who your customers are and what they need (step one above), think about the stories you can tell them that will help you connect with them.
Here’s a scenario: If your target audience is busy twenty-somethings who are building careers in a big city, you could build a brand story around how you can get fit through 15-minute workouts and quick-to-make healthy meals. This story is more likely to resonate with your target audience than a generic message.
A great example of this is London Fitness Guy, who focuses his story around workouts that fit around your schedule:
Knowing what success looks like helps to… well, measure if your digital marketing strategy is actually successful.
Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people rush into digital marketing without any clear goals and understanding of how to frame success.
So, once you know your customers and have a clear brand story, think about what success means for you. For instance, if you run in-person personal training sessions, success might be having 10 clients per week. But if you’re an online coach selling a digital subscription, you might want 100 subscribers.
It often helps to give yourself a clear goal. So, if you want to generate 100 new subscribers to your online coaching each month, you might want to generate 1,000 new leads per month (based on a 10% conversion rate).
And sometimes it’s okay to not focus on how many new customers your marketing generates (though, that’s always the end goal, right?). That means you could instead choose to focus on growth on a specific channel, such as:
Now with your goals in mind, think about the channels you should use to achieve your goal.
It’s super important that this step comes after you’ve set your goals because it can be easy to rush in and focus on channels that won’t actually help you grow your business.
For example, if your goal is to generate 250 new email subscribers, then you might not want to spend too much time creating a podcast. But without the constraints of a clear goal, you could easily decide to focus on podcasting or growing a YouTube channel.
(Learn more about digital marketing channels in Part 2.)
A great strategy is nothing without execution, and with everything else in place, now is the time to make it happen.
One of the most important parts of executing any marketing strategy is consistency. So, try to break down your strategy into small actions you can do repeatedly.
Whatever your goal, focus on how you can make it happen.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of digital marketing strategy, let’s switch gears and focus on digital marketing channels.
In this section, you’ll get a detailed breakdown of many of the key digital marketing channels and how you can use them, as well as examples to help you execute a winning strategy.
Let’s jump right in…
Owned channels are essentially aspects of your digital marketing that you fully own and have 100% control over. And owned channels are key to the growth of a successful fitness business.
So, what do we actually mean by “owned”?
Well, let’s say you have 20,000 followers on Instagram. The ONLY way you can reach that audience is through Instagram, and if Instagram decides to change its algorithm and remove organic (free) reach, there’s nothing you can do about it. So, while 20,000 people follow you, you are always tied to Instagram to reach those people.
On social media, you’re essentially renting an audience from the platform. Just like you rent an apartment from a landlord. Whereas owned channels are like owning your own home (mortgage-free).
With owned channels like blogs/websites and email, you’re fully in control of your audience. If you have 10,000 email subscribers, you can email them anytime you want, and if you decide to change your email service provider (e.g. Mailchimp on ConvertKIt), you can take that audience with you.
Every single business, public figure, or even personal brand should have a website with sales pages, lead generation tactics, educational blog content, and an SEO strategy.
This is going to be your home base online, so it’s important to have a website platform that you understand how to use so you can be in charge of basic changes until you have the budget for a website designer or developer.
Your website is key to a successful fitness business. This is where you’ll share all of the information about your products or services, and it’s likely the place where you’ll convert people into customers.
This means you need to have a visually appealing design and high-quality website copy. But you also need to have a good strategy surrounding your blog content and SEO.
Let’s dive deeper into the different ways you can use your fitness website for digital marketing.
Landing pages are like your sales pages. They’re informational web pages that share how your products/services work and what the features of your business are.
You want to create different landing pages for each major facet of your business. Your home page should have a good overview of everything you offer, but you should link to these other landing pages from your header and/or footer navigation to let potential customers learn even more about the specific services or features they’re most interested in.
Here’s a great example of a landing page from Glo.
Glo is a fitness business that offers online yoga classes for a monthly subscription. They have different levels and types of classes, so they’ve created landing pages that talk more about each of those different types.
Content marketing is an essential digital marketing strategy for online, ecommerce, or national/global businesses.
Writing long-form, educational blog content helps position you as an authority on a subject but also works well for increasing traffic to your website and awareness about your brand.
Here’s great execution of a fitness blog from Obé Fitness.
Your blog content should be a mix of product-focused content as well as organic, SEO-focused content. You want your blog posts to be shared online as well as show up in search results, so it’s important to do keyword research to find the best topics to write about.
Another important tactic in your digital marketing strategy will be creating an email list that you can send dedicated marketing and educational content to.
You’ll need to find the right email marketing software for your needs and put together a regular newsletter to send to your audience.
Growing an email list is a valuable asset for any business because these are individuals who have opted in and agreed to get more information specifically from you in their inboxes.
Even if they haven’t yet signed up for any services, the fact that they’ve willingly subscribed to your newsletter is a great sign that they’re interested and just need a little more nurturing.
We’re going to cover a few ways you can start growing your newsletter audience as well as the types of emails to send.
The first thing you need to do is put together a lead generation strategy so that you can start building an email list.
Once you sign up for an email marketing platform and create your first list, you should be able to create a signup form. The most basic place to start is by putting that signup form in your website’s footer or your blog’s sidebar to collect leads.
You can even put a signup form directly inside your blog posts, like this example from 8fit.
Other tactics include offering something in exchange for an email address. This is called a lead magnet. You can offer a workout challenge, a healthy recipe book, an ebook, a free trial to your service, and more.
In order to nurture those leads and keep your business top of mind, you need to create an email newsletter. It’s up to you to decide the frequency, but weekly newsletters tend to be most popular.
Your newsletter is the perfect place to share even more valuable information, links to blog posts, sales/promotions going on, motivation, and more.
Here’s a great example of what this could look like.
Who doesn’t love a good podcast? This type of digital content is all the rage these days, which is why you should strongly consider creating a podcast for your fitness business.
There are so many unique perspectives to fitness, business, health/nutrition, and more that there’s an endless opportunity for podcast success.
There are so many niches in the fitness industry for your podcast to fit in perfectly, so don’t worry about running out of topic ideas or the podcasting world being oversaturated. It’s not; people still want to hear from you.
If you’re not sure where to start with looking for a podcast theme, the following are a few ideas.
Focus on educating people about proper fitness, workout styles, and exercise. 20-Minute Fitness Podcast is great showcase of how this can be done.
They cover topics like recovery, how to stretch, injury prevention, and more. This kind of podcast can be the perfect addition to your online fitness business and help you generate even more awareness.
Another way you can complement your fitness business with a podcast is by talking about nutrition and healthy living, similar to the popular podcast Diet Starts Tomorrow.
With episodes about diet and exercise, interviews with professionals, and a lot of personality, this podcast can be great inspiration for your own idea.
And if you want to simply talk about fitness businesses, that’s an option as well. Give tips on how you’ve seen success in your own business that can potentially help others.
The podcast Fitt Insider is one example you can look to for inspiration.
These episodes interview successful business owners on their experiences in the industry and share startup spotlights showcasing some newer brands.
Facebook is the largest social media platform, with nearly 2.8 billion monthly active users across the world. This means that pretty much any business or public figure is going to want to have a presence on this app.
With over a quarter of the world’s population on Facebook, you’re likely to find at least one segment of your audience.
Out of Facebook’s massive 2.8 billion monthly active users, the majority of those are in India (320 million), the United States (190 million), Indonesia (140 million), and Brazil (130 million).
Of US internet users, 75% of women are on Facebook compared to 63% men. Additionally, 79% of 18–49 year-olds are on Facebook, making millennials and older Gen Zers the most popular generations on the app.
Every industry has their own best practices for seeing the most results from social media and digital marketing, and it’s no different for fitness businesses.
To maximize your Facebook reach, engagement, and conversions, these are the tactics you should be utilizing.
You’re going to see us talk about this on most platforms because organic content is the bread and butter of social media platforms. This is how you appease algorithms and ensure your profile has enough content for your audience to regularly interact with.
On Facebook, you should share new organic content to your feed around 3x each week. You can stick to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule or you can jump around based on the days that perform best on your page. (We’ll talk shortly about how to find out what the best days and times are for sharing new content.)
The kinds of organic posts you’ll want to share are:
To envision what this might look like on your own Facebook Page, check out this post from Blogilates:
You absolutely do not want to discount the ability that Facebook Live gives you to connect with your audience. Going live every so often to do studio tours or give behind-the-scenes peeks is a great idea, but you should also consider offering free, live workouts every so often.
When you offer free value to both existing and potential customers, it gives you credibility and increases the chances that people who happen upon your free content will subscribe to your paid content.
Take a look at this example below.
Your live workouts don’t even have to go for a month straight. You could do a one-week live workout challenge. You could share a free, live workout once a month. Do whatever works for you and your business.
Every brand or professional needs to take advantage of Facebook advertising if they’re going to have a presence on the platform promoting products and/or services.
Here’s a great example of an ad by Yoga With Adriene promoting merchandise she sells as a part of her yoga business.
Create ads to promote products, tease online classes, send users to sales pages, boost blog posts, increase brand awareness, and more.
There are so many types of Facebook ad objectives for you to explore.
Our last major strategy recommendation for fitness professionals on Facebook covers Facebook groups. This is a great way to build a community around your subscribers and customers as well as provide a place to announce changes to offerings and product launches.
The snapshot below might be the type of content to post in your Facebook group to share new online class times or even new types of classes.
Facebook groups are incredibly valuable for online businesses because they allow you to have conversations with your customers the way you previously would in an in-person gym.
In general, traffic is lower on the weekends, so you typically want to keep your Facebook posts to the weekdays. For Facebook as a whole, Wednesdays tend to see the most engagement, but Tuesday through Thursday is a good time period to aim to schedule the majority of your posts.
However, you also want to make sure you’re paying attention to your own data and analytics as well.
Head over to your Facebook Page’s Insights and click the Posts tab to access information on when the people who follow your Page are most likely to be online. You’ll find a chart like this one below.
According to this chart, it looks like Monday is ever so slightly the most popular day of the week, and the peak time to publish content is around noon.
Because your specific followers won’t always have the same schedules as the Facebook user base as a whole, it’s always best to check your own insights to understand when you should post on Facebook.
Instagram is an inherently visual platform, making it the perfect place to showcase yoga poses, workout ideas, fitness tips, and more.
Learning more about Instagram, and its differences from Facebook, can prove useful for your fitness business.
Instagram has about 1 billion monthly active users, giving this platform nearly one-third of the reach that Facebook has.
Of these 1 billion, nearly 30% are aged 18–24, and 33% are aged 25–34. 16% of its user base are 35–44 years old, so older millennials and younger Gen Xers are also pretty regular users.
Instagram has 140 million users in both the US and India, with Brazil and Indonesia following behind as the second and third most popular countries on Instagram.
The one key thing to remember about Instagram is that this platform is all about sharing stunning visuals, whether they’re photos, graphics, or videos. So, each of our strategies will be surrounding visual content.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire a professional photography or graphic designer, though. While this can be helpful, brands just starting out can absolutely create gorgeous photos and graphics with apps like StoriesEdit, Canva and Visme.
The organic content you share on your Instagram feed should always have a cohesive look and feel to it, whether you create graphics with a similar template or use the same filter on your photos.
Here’s an example from MadFit, who’s utilizing similar text and photo styles throughout her Instagram feed.
Another idea is to create a pattern on your feed like we see here on Amanda Bisk’s feed. Every third post has a label showcasing what kind of workout it is, helping to pull the entire profile together.
If you plan to create graphics, like we see below in this post from Charlee Atkins’ feed, be sure they all use similar colors, fonts, and designs.
The types of content you’ll want to share on your Instagram feed include:
Another type of content you’ll want to focus on when it comes to your Instagram strategy is Stories. Instagram introduced Stories in 2016 as a way to encourage more behind-the-scenes and less-scripted content.
Stories are full-screen photos, graphics, or videos that stay on your feed for 24 hours unless you highlight them.
Highlights appear on your Instagram profile in the various categories that you set, as you see in this example below.
Create highlights based on the different types of content you plan to share, whether it’s healthy recipes, virtual classes, workout routines, inspiration, outfit ideas, and more.
It’s a good idea to brand your highlights—as we see above—with graphics that match your brand.
There are several types of content you’ll want to share on your Instagram stories:
Instagram Reels are Instagram’s version of TikTok videos. These are 15–30-second videos set to music or other sound clips and are easy to consume.
For fitness professionals, this is the perfect way to share a quick workout routine for your followers to try out.
Take a look at how Simone De La Rue uses her Instagram Reels below.
These can be informational, funny, or motivational. The whole point is to create fun, bite-sized video content for your audience to enjoy and engage with.
Instagram TV is another type of video content you can create and share on Instagram. These are meant to be more long-form videos, similar to the type of content you see on YouTube.
An idea for this medium could be to interview an authoritative figure in your industry and share it with your audience.
IGTV gives you another platform to cross-promote your educational video content. We’ll talk about YouTube a bit later in this post, but creating the same content in both vertical and horizontal formats is a great idea for maximizing your reach.
Having an active Instagram presence is essential. This doesn’t just mean posting regularly but also interacting with other users on the platform.
Following relevant hashtags and liking/commenting on the content is the best way to increase reach and engagement on your own content.
You should consider sharing content on Instagram 3–5x each week, focusing mostly on weekdays. In fact, Sunday is considered the worst day to post on Instagram.
In general, the best day to post is on Wednesdays, but just like Facebook, Instagram business accounts are able to access their insights to see when their specific followers are most active.
Just head to your Professional Dashboard, click See All under Audience Insights and scroll to the bottom to find your best days/times to post.
Pinterest is a visual search engine and is the perfect platform for online-based businesses, as it works incredibly well for driving traffic. Because it’s so visual, Pinterest is another platform that makes having visually appealing graphics key to your success.
By the end of 2020, Pinterest had nearly half a billion monthly active users, with 98 million of those located in the US.
The largest age group on Pinterest is 18–24 year olds, with 38% of that age range having an active presence, followed by 35% of 30–49 year olds and 28% of 25–30 year olds.
As Pinterest is also well known for the amount of shopping that is done on the platform, it’s no surprise to learn that 41% of U.S. adults who make $75,000 or more are on Pinterest.
Pinterest is very much a search engine, so it’s important to understand how its SEO works so you make the most out of the platform.
We’re going to cover some Pinterest SEO basics as well as the types of content you should be creating to maximize your success.
The main way that people find content on Pinterest is through their search bar, thus proving that this platform isn’t just a social network—it is a search engine in its own right.
So, learning the basics of Pinterest SEO can help you reach more eyes with your content, sending more clicks to your website.
First things first, you need to start with your Pinterest profile. Include keywords in your brand name, bio, Pinterest boards, and Pinterest board descriptions. You also need to verify your website so you can access analytics about pins from your domain.
Your Pinterest boards should all be relevant to your niche and include keywords in their titles, like Quick Workouts, Cardio, Free Fitness Videos, Beginner Workouts, Stretching, and more.
On your pin, you also want to pay attention to the title and description. Ensure you have naturally placed keywords that are relevant to your industry in both to help increase their chances of appearing in search results.
Pinterest can easily become one of your top referring domains to your website if you have an active presence on the platform and share top-notch graphics leading to your content.
The first thing you need to focus on is putting together branded templates for your content, and whether you share links to videos, blog posts, landing pages, etc.
This way your audience starts to recognize when they see your content on the platform, making them more likely to click on your pins than anything else since you appear as a more trustworthy brand.
Here’s a depiction of what is meant by branded templates:
They use similar designs, fonts, and colors. Once you have a brand style guide, you’ll want to stick with it throughout your social media graphics—and that includes the graphics you create for Pinterest.
The optimal size for these graphics is 800x1200 pixels, and you should create them for each of your different types of content before sharing them to each of your most relevant Pinterest boards.
Every time you publish a new blog post or landing page, let creating and sharing a new Pinterest graphic be a part of your promotional routine.
Furthermore, you also need to save other relevant pins to your boards to show that you’re an active and authoritative voice in your niche. Find pins that are high-quality and that you would be proud to share with your followers and save them to your own pin boards.
While Pinterest SEO and organic pins are great strategies, they take time, just like any organic strategy will. If you’re looking for a faster ROI, promoted pins will be your best bet.
With promoted pins, you’re able to push certain pins in front of particular audiences based on their interests, behavior, and search queries.
These then show up in home feeds and search results appearing very similar to regular pins—the only difference is at the bottom they’ll say “Promoted by [Account Name].”
This is a great way to start sending new audience members to your website without waiting for the SEO strategy to kick in.
The best times to post on Pinterest are actually late night and very early morning. Peak times are 8pm to 11pm on weekends with a second peak between the hours of 2am and 4am.
Luckily, there are scheduling tools like Tailwind and Later that you can use to help you post content during these time frames, however you can also feel free to fill up a whole schedule with Pinterest content.
You should be sharing your website content regularly on Pinterest, even if you’ve saved it before. There are always new people to reach, and since Pinterest content has a long shelf life, you have a lot more flexibility with posting times than you do on other platforms.
TikTok was first launched in 2016 but started gaining popularity around 2019. The micro-video platform was the perfect app to fill the void left by Vine and has widely caught on with Gen Z users.
TikTok has 689 million monthly active users, with 41% of those users aged 16–24. The majority of TikTok’s users are in China (where the parent company is located), but roughly 100 million monthly active users are located in the US.
While TikTok seems like it’s mostly just for fun little videos, many businesses have actually generated a lot of interest and revenue through the platform.
Here are a few tactics you should consider using on your own TikTok profile.
TikTok videos max out around a minute, so you can use this to showcase a quick workout that your viewer can then do multiple sets of, like we see in this example below.
Share fitness motivation, quick tips, how to use different machines at the gym, and more. You can even create fitness challenges and encourage your followers to create their own videos around the challenge like we see below.
TikTok videos are another great way to give tidbits of advice on how to eat better and live more fit and healthy lives. Before publishing your video, add a text box on the cover clip to let viewers scrolling through your feed know what your different posts are about.
Here’s a take on what this could look like for your brand.
Humor is definitely TikTok’s specialty, so be sure to add in some video content that shows off your personality.
See if you can jump on TikTok trends while still relating them back to your business or industry, or come up with creative ideas of your own.
Here’s an example from Blogilates relating Disney Princesses back to personal training.
If you have a Pro, Business, or Creator account with more than 100 followers, you can get access to TikTok analytics that tell you where most of your audience is located and when they’re online, which is a big help for knowing when to post content on TikTok.
You can also check out this research that Influencer Marketing Hub did to find the best global times to publish new content on TikTok:
YouTube is the world’s most popular video sharing platform and is also considered the second-largest search engine. This platform will be huge for hosting long-form video content for your fitness business.
YouTube has 2 billion monthly active users, with 73% of US adults actively utilizing this video platform. 77% of 15–35 year olds in the US watch video content on YouTube, and 37% of millennials binge-watch YouTube videos daily.
68% of US women are on YouTube versus 78% of US men, giving the platform a slight lean towards the male population.
YouTube content is different from most other social media video content in that people are actually on YouTube to watch longer videos rather than scrolling through a social media feed.
That being said, your YouTube videos should be at least 7 to 15 minutes in order to maximize performance. You want to fit all of your information in without small talk, but you have enough time to thoroughly cover a topic.
Let’s dive into a few ways to use YouTube as well as cover how to optimize your videos for search.
Because YouTube is also considered a search engine, you need to be intentional about YouTube SEO when you publish your videos.
There are four main things you need to pay attention to when publishing your videos: Title, Description, Hashtags and Tags.
You should include your main keyword in each of those areas as well as some secondary keywords.
This helps the algorithm understand what your video is about so it will show up in related search results as often as possible.
Use a Chrome Extension like TubeBuddy to help you find the best keywords and tags to use.
Record yourself doing a full workout and share it for free on your YouTube channel. It might be the start of a challenge you’re offering for a premium subscription or simply a way to showcase your value to potential customers.
Create a visually appealing thumbnail as well to help grab attention and show your viewers what your video is about, like we see on this channel.
Just like with your Pinterest graphics, you’ll want to give all of your YouTube video thumbnails a similar look and feel so they’re easily recognizable to your audience.
Videos where you record yourself talking about a fitness related topic—like a beginner’s guide to getting fit—can be just as valuable and helpful to your audience as an actual workout. Take a look at this example below that has nearly 100K views.
Brainstorm a list of topics that you’re knowledgeable on and consider creating videos that educate your audience a bit more. You can even repurpose blog posts into videos to help get the most out of your content as possible.
In general, studies show that the best time to publish new videos on YouTube is between 2pm and 4pm so they’re indexed by the time viewers are watching content around the hours of 7pm to 10pm.
You can also take a look at your analytics to see when your own viewers are online. Head over to your YouTube Studio, look at your analytics, and click the Audience tab to find this graph.
Ready to start scaling your business? Learn more about how Core can help you start and grow a successful fitness business. Then, start implementing these digital marketing strategies to reach your audience and generate new customers.