There is so much talk, hype and buzz around social media today. What does it mean for our industry? We all know that we should be on LinkedIn and have a FaceBook page, but do we really understand the power of social media.? Do we understand the power today’s technology holds for enhancing our industry? I can tell you in the beginning, I simply didn’t get it.
I thought why would I want to connect online with people that I didn’t stay in touch with on purpose, or that I would stay in touch with regardless of technology. Then I watched, listened and studied this revolutionary trend in how people and business communicate. I tried hard to understand the power of connecting on the internet. I opened my mind to using it in my personal and professional life… I found substantial enjoyment in connecting with lost “friends” on Facebook and the professional benefits of LinkedIn. But this was all as a user, not as a business person using these social media tools to enhance the performance of my company. How could this powerful social, technological trend aid in the physicality of a health club? Well, it turns out that all of this stuff is not only pretty cool, but extremely useful and impactful. Here are some interesting statistics about social media and the internet:
- About 90% of nonfood retail buying starts online…. Researching products, comparing prices, checking for deals. And 97% of Internet users find local businesses by going online. (June 3, 2011 – The Kiplinger Letter)
- As reported in the SF Chronicle on June 11, 2011. According to Bloomberg/YouGov survey, of 1166 consumers surveyed, 19% who had never purchased a coupon online from Groupon Inc. plan to try it in the next six months? 90% of respondents who bought a deal on Groupon in the past six months said they plan to do so again.
(*Of 83.1 million subscribers, 15.8 million purchased by the end of March this year 23% of subscribers said they plan to increase the number of deals they buy on Groupon in the next six months)
(*Only 16% of the survey respondents who had never used Groupon said they were unfamiliar with it)
- Did you know that 80% of management and director level employees in major metropolitan markets are using Linked In?
- Did you know that 40-50 year old demographic is among the fastest growing segment on FaceBook?
- Did you know that young people like to “check in” and become known and thereby reap rewards for being the “Mayor” of locations where they live? (FourSquare)
- I’m sure you realized that your members and prospects are talking about us online with or without our participation. Shouldn’t we actively participate to round out the conversation and share our story?
In our industry, identifying those that love us (advocates/promoters) and those that don’t (detractors) has an immeasurable financial benefit. If you know who loves you and who hates you, you can do a lot to leverage both of those relationships. Even those members that are neutral to you offer can provide immense benefit if converted to advocates. Yet, we often over complicate this new phenomenon. We don’t think about it like we traditionally think about marketing, PR, service and sales. Traditionally, in marketing… you put out a message that you hope is compelling and wait for the participants to act; In PR, you put your spin on a story and hope it gives you exposure and credibility; in Service, you make people find you and tell you what their issue may be so you can respond; In sales, you wait for them to call or come in and then you show them how great you are…. All are easy concepts to understand. Well this new stuff is just as easy to get. Let’s look at some of the most popular ones:
Facebook – members become your fan (they publicly state they love you). Now what? Well you have to engage them in a three-way conversation that is relevant. If you aren’t relevant, well then you are…. irrelevant. If you are going to have a FaceBook page, it cannot be simply an extension of your old website. It has to be a three-way conversation: You, a Member, other Members or Prospects. They have to emotionally invest and participate in the conversation. Video, Photos, Essay contests; Question and Answer; Online Seminars; Updates that matter…. And special perks just for them.
Here’s an actual recent story from Club One. We run a “Commit to get fit” program twice a year for members that have never bought personal training. It’s done at a 20% discount but they have to train consecutively each week for the program’s duration. Well, we had 10 plus existing Personal Training clients complain on FaceBook about excluding this type of program for our loyal existing PT clients. We responded but it was not to the mass’s satisfaction. Bottom line, “regardless of your desire to introduce new clients to PT on this promotion, we feel slighted!” So, we immediately explained in further detail AND offered a coupon to our FaceBook fans to get 20% off their next 10 pack of Personal Training…. Very happy members resulted and 8 of them purchased a new package with the coupon right away. We listened, responded and rectified. This is the power of FaceBook. Without our involvement in that conversation, we simply would have had unhappy members complaining about our practices. Now we have happy members that know we want to grow personal training with those not yet believing in its benefits and we appreciate them and their voice, not to mention we accelerated or motivated further purchases by our loyalists. We listen and we respond. This is simply one of the many powerful applications of social medial. Real time dialogue, correction, service, sales, engagement…. And brand advocacy. Utilizing your members to tell your story to prospects and other members is by far more impactful than you telling and promoting.
With regard to advocacy, we use a platform called Zuberance (Disclosure: After being a long term customer, I joined the Zuberance advisory board). The way Zuberance works, it “bolts in” to your web site and allows for advocate identification, testimonials and sharing (referral). It works the Net Promoter question. “On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, How likely would you be to refer someone to this business?” Your members will score you… 9s and 10s are net promoters or advocates; 7s and 8s are neutral; 6s and below are detractors. This data in and of itself is very powerful to know on a unique member basis. You can do a lot with each group to improve or maximize your relationship with them. The Net Promoters are then asked, “What do you like most about Club X?”… This testimonial is then allowed to be shared on various online channels (Facebook, Yelp, CitySearch). These published testimonials increase your organic online search presence allowing more people to discover you and what you are famous for. Then all the members responding are given an offer to share to all those in their networks (Facebook, Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)… So your member survey now is a member knowledge tool (identifying how unique members feel about you), a testimonial tool building your online reputation and a referral engine. I think it’s pretty exciting to learn about the personal perceptions of members, have positive testimonials posted online, and generate new business all at the same time. At Club One our results have been excellent. This tool represents yet another avenue for leveraging new technology and social marketing/communications.
I’ve touched on a few social marketing concepts, but we’ve only scratched the surface here as there are so many more components to a complete, integrated marketing strategy involving direct marketing, segmentation, lead/source tracking, positioning, group “daily deals”, call recordings, secret shopping, focus groups, member knowledge… and the list goes on.
There is a lot of misconception around how to use social media and new technologies for growing our businesses. While sales is the “go to” focus for many of us. These tools have as much if not greater power in member connection, results and ultimately retention. Let us not forget that the best way to grow our businesses is to deliver beyond what our members expect and then make sure they tell everyone they know and we make their successes available to others that want it too.
What I will leave you with is simply an idea to consider a new world around how people consume information and determine which brands they emotionally want to be a part of. Physical, traditional, virtual, online and technology are not separate circumstances, they are all a part of a new reality in consumer behavior, and our industry is positioned like few others to fully benefit from this exciting new world of connection, service, sales, marketing, positioning and public relations. I say explore, try, be open and keep learning.
Here’s to new frontiers in growing our industry!