How fitness brands use Instagram to build a motivated community

Instagram can be a very effective social network and the fitness industry in particular seems to have found the sweet spot here in terms of social strategy.

A closer look at the most popular hashtags on Instagram indicates that fitness is in high demand among the platform’s users, with #fitness, #fitnessmotivation and #fitspo counting millions of posts among users.

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There was a time when fitness motivation was not easily achieved through promotional content, as it seemed distant from the audience’s actual needs and goals.

However, Instagram changed this approach and fitness brands reached a wider audience with a keen interest in staying fit and healthy.

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Why fitness brands flock to Instagram

People want to see interesting, appealing, motivational content from the brands they are following and this is even more important for fitness brands.

In order to make the users feel part of a community, they are creating (and also curating) visual content that speaks directly to their audience, whether it’s about running gear, weight loss, or a healthier lifestyle.

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Real-life examples and motivational posts help the community get attached to the content and this encourages them to stay engaged and use the appropriate hashtags even more.

Instagram VS Facebook

In case you’re wondering why the fitness industry thrived on Instagram and not on Facebook, the answer lies in the different purposes each platform serves.

Facebook might be the most popular social network, but users still primarily use it to keep in touch with family and friends and check the most important news, according to their interests.

As fitness-related content decided to rely mostly on visual content, Instagram’s creativity, along with the audience’s willingness to be part of a community, made it an ideal platform to increase engagement and brand awareness.

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It’s the feeling of belonging to a community that is strongly encouraged on Instagram and this is favoured by the fact that users are more willing to engage with brands on Instagram. More specifically, 68% of Instagram users embrace with brands regularly, with the percentage of dropping at just 32% for Facebook users. 

What’s more, the drop on Facebook’s organic reach led many brands to Instagram, where the chronological feed made it easier for them to display their content to their followers. This will not last long though, as Instagram is considering switching to an algorithmic timeline, which may gradually affect the organic reach of a post.

Since then, Instagram content has the advantage of reaching a wider audience and the right use of hashtags extends this reach even more.

It’s not difficult to understand how fitness brands prefer Instagram over Facebook and these two examples of posts from Saucony and SoulCycle prove the difference in engagement between the two social networks.  

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And the second example:

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11 ways fitness brands stand out on Instagram

Focus on quality 

It’s not always the quantity that makes a difference, as quality usually wins.

High quality images are more appreciated by users, as they look more professional (but also more appealing).

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As Instagram is visually driven, most of the successful fitness brands focus on quality to increase their brand awareness and encourage users to engage with them.

And it’s not just the big brands like Adidas that focus on quality, as even the smallest brand may stand out from the rest with its content.

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Consistency

Consistency is the proof that there is a plan followed for every post a brand publishes. Users can tell whether a brand focuses on specific themes, colours, or creative directions and it brings an additional layer of professionalism to the brand.

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Posting user-generated content

There’s no better way to make your audience feel included than posting (or re-posting) their original content. User-generated content is very popular on Instagram and it may be found from custom hashtags that reward the best photos or even from posts created directly from users, tagging a fitness brand while showing their fitness progress.

Even if the photos are not always of high quality, users appreciate the fact that their efforts are highlighted, serving as a motivation for more people.

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Motivate your community 

Motivational posts are extremely popular from fitness brands, as they aim to inspire people to improve themselves.

Not everyone needs the same level of motivation, but this doesn’t mean that a powerful message isn’t appreciated.

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All the major fitness brands (but even the individual health addicts) share (and curate) motivational posts, which may range from quotes to inspiring captions. Once again, the quality of the picture boosts the motivation (and thus, the level of engagement).

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Use videos 

Videos are becoming popular on Instagram lately and many fitness brands embrace their trend as a way to increase the brand awareness in the most visual way.

Instagram announced just a few days ago that it will increase the flexibility of the videos in the next months, increasing their length to 60 seconds, in order to inspire even more users to be as creative as possible. Imagine what this means for brands!

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Include storytelling

Longer captions that include a story allow brands to go beyond their branded message, in an authentic and inspiring way. Whether it’s a user’s photo, or a story coming directly from the brand, it’s still a great opportunity to expand the brand’s image.

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Share your values 

Consistency is not just about the themes, or the colours, but also about the brand’s values.

Equinox for example, makes clear that it focuses on commitment and dedication and that’s how it shapes the content strategy for its Instagram feed.

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Promote your hashtag 

Instagram hashtags can be very effective, especially when they are original and memorable. Most brands create their own hashtags, encouraging followers to use them, boosting the community, but also increasing the brand’s reach.

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There may be several custom hashtags used by each brand, depending on the campaign, or the message of the post.

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Collaborate with influencers 

Celebrities, bloggers, or athletes who are capable of affecting their followers’ opinion over a brand or a product are known as influencers and they tend to be highly chased from fitness brands that try to establish their presence, or even prove their authority in the field.

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Don’t be too promotional 

As followers prefer to feel part of a wider community, brands turn to different types of content, focusing on lifestyle photography, diverse topics and anything that could be broadly relevant to the brand, without “imposing” the promotional element.

This helps improve the bonding between a brand and a follower, as it builds trust and increases the chances of having the follower engaged for a longer period.

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Don’t forget your audience

Authentic engagement is the result of great listening skills. A brand needs to understand its audience before it seeks for engagement, as this facilitates further conversation and makes the building of the community even easier.

How can you build a community if you don’t learn everything about your target audience first?

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Most of all, fitness brands know how to follow the latest trends and go where their audience is, listening to their needs and producing the content that they expect they’ll enjoy.

As it seems, creativity, authenticity, genuine interest and impressive visual content do not go unnoticed.

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