Content sponsored by The Retention People
If done correctly, social media can have a strong influence on whether or not your members stay a part of your gym community. This social engagement can build fun, camaraderie and feelings of belonging among members as well as build awareness of your products and services. Facilities that have high retention rates can leverage social media to help reinforce many attributes that foster long-term memberships. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association's (IHRSA) "Guide to Membership Retention" outlines the characteristics of these high-retention clubs and why they succeed. Furthermore, your social media efforts can go a long way in bolstering some of these key elements and create stronger ties with your facility.
Here are five characteristics of high-retention clubs:
1. Strong member-to-member connections. High-retention clubs know how to build strong member connections. Programs and events that encourage members to participate with or compete against each other build a sense of community and camaraderie. Social media platforms are an excellent vehicle for you to share and tweet with your members about all the fun that members are having with your programs, contests or fitness challenges. Doing so builds a connection to your facility outside of their time spent in the gym and reaches beyond the member into their social network.
2. Members who frequently use products and services. Members who use their clubs twice a week or more and those who use multiple services are more likely to stay, according to IHRSA's report. Promotion of these additional services via your social media channels is an excellent way to ensure your members are aware they exist. Be careful though with the over promotion of fee-based activities. You don't want to start losing members on social media if they feel you are constantly trying to sell something.
3. Knowledge of member demographics. Member age, family status and proximity of a health club to work or home all play into membership retention. Older members who also have family who are members increase their likelihood of staying. Additionally, members who live or work close to the club are more likely to maintain their membership. Get to know the demographics of your current members. This can give some insight into which social media platforms you should use.
4. An updated facility. New clubs and those that continue to improve their facility hold on to their members longer, the IHRSA report states. Social media is a highly effective way to announce new developments, keep members up-to-date and publicize the positive changes in the club. This allows you to set members' expectations for what they will experience, build excitement and field any customer service issues by making information accessible.
5. Engaging new member experiences. The chances that a member will leave decreases with every year of membership. IHRSA found that members who signed one- or two-year agreements had higher retention rates than club-goers with no contracts. The key is to get members engaged early in their membership cycle and continue giving them reasons to return. Getting them to follow the club's social media channels gives you additional opportunities to keep your messaging in front of them outside the facility.
How to Use Social Media Effectively
In addition to adding value to these high-retention characteristics, engagement with your social media efforts can contribute to adherence in other positive ways. Use your social channels to create an online presence that keeps your products and services top-of-mind even when they are not working out.
Here are four ways that social media can help reinforce retention:
1. Continue to build community outside the gym. The strength of social media lies in its ability to connect people and promote individual emotional investment beyond day-to-day physical interactions. Highlighting members and employees gives your facility humanity. Posting participation in philanthropic efforts such as sponsoring community events or team efforts that raise money for charity shows that your facility gives back. You can add to this sense of community by promoting members engaging in facility events, and participation and successes in club fitness challenges.
2. Foster online engagement. Active online participation by way of likes, shares, pins, retweets and comments not only broadens the audience your messaging reaches, but it also reinforces your engaged members' choice to follow you. Fitness tips, recipes, health-related articles and motivational images are easily sharable. So if your members see value in your content, they'll participate online and share with their networks.
3. Deliver transparent customer service. For club owners, social media is a great channel to quickly get information out to members regarding events, news or schedule changes. It is also a quick and convenient resource for customers to ask questions or seek resolution to customer service inquiries and grievances. Your first instinct may be to delete or hide disparaging comments, but it's best to resist that urge. Instead, use it as an opportunity to turn an unhappy member into a raving fan by responding quickly, courteously and with a fair resolution.
4. Get more eyes on your content. Not all content performs the same way across different social media channels. Native video (i.e. video you created) that is hosted and shared via Facebook has the highest organic reach. Quote images are also highly shareable and perform well. When choosing images for Instagram, use those that are member-generated or ones that are member- or employee-centric. Use of multiple hashtags on Instagram broadens reach. Infographic pins and images that illustrate recipes and DIY content get the most activity on Pinterest. Incidentally, images of humans that don't show their faces perform better on Pinterest than those that do. By nature, content is consumed quickly on Twitter so humorous images and text quotes perform well. Links to how-to and list-based articles will also get more Twitter engagement.
Ultimately, social media platforms are additional channels of communication. Each has their unique strengths and potential to bring you closer to your members. Keeping members happy and engaged online outside the gym certainly can bolster their commitment to your facility. Use your social media channels to reinforce those facility attributes that promote retention and make sure their online experience is as great as the one they have in your club.
Seven Social Media Pitfalls to Avoid
- Censorship. It's OK to have passionate discussion around a topic or complaint. Unless comments are disparaging individuals in an abusive way, let them stand. Your members can be your best advocate.
- Ignoring questions. A current or potential member obviously wants to know more about your facility. Don't leave them hanging because they probably won't come back.
- Taking too long to respond. Much like ignoring their question, taking too long to answer could lead to them abandoning their question and ultimately their membership.
- Posting too often or not enough. The optimum frequency of posting varies by channel—you can post multiple times a day with Twitter or Pinterest, less with Facebook and Instagram. Monitor your channel's analytics to find the sweet spot for each platform.
- Having a profile on every platform. Unless you have the capacity to fully optimize each social media channel, pick the top platforms that members have expressed they use and you have the bandwidth to support. It doesn't leave a good impression when a member discovers a shell of a profile with old, infrequent posts.
- Not including a "call to action." If you want members to do something specific, make it obvious and easy to click to what you want them to engage with.